I haven’t taken my picture in five years. At that point, the phenomenon of selfies reached a point of supersaturation. I decided to halt the habit unless inspiration hit me to take a true self-portrait (which hasn’t happened yet).
I figured that I am overdue to update my general profile picture online. Presenting a self from five years ago isn’t the most genuine window dressing on a blog.
I’m all about being candid with my appearance. This insistence borders on laziness I suppose, but long ago I decided that if a man can present his physical self to the world as he really is, then I could too. I do not wear makeup or color my hair (I think my hair is still exhausted from all the colors I forced on it between the ages of 16 and 35). My hair care regime is wash-and-wear.
Implied in this is an acceptance that I am no longer as young as I used to be. Wrinkles and gray hair have begun their slow takeover. My gray hairs must have been on break when I took this picture. They aren’t too apparent in this shot.
Over the past eight years, I’ve grown used to being well. This was not a natural condition for me, especially considering my lengthy history of depression. There were spans of physical wellness during those years, but I felt like these times free of illness were just eyes in the hurricane of faltering health. Then I was well for long enough, both in body and mind, that I embraced an identity that was not tainted with fragile health.
Fast forward to summer 2016, and I could no longer deny odd sensations from my left leg. I’d have alternating periods of moderate pain broken by numbness in the knee joint. I had a diagnosis of a sprained knee, but I had no accident that precipitated that injury. I figured the problem was strain due to overuse, and I did a month of physical therapy for the problem. Last week I was back to the doctor to report that therapy had resolved my pain but not the numb feeling in the joint. There are also times when it feels hot or cold, but not to the touch. Sometimes it feels like blood is rushing back to it to wake it up.
I haven’t the slightest idea of what is going on, but I do know it is disconcerting to have almost constant waking awareness of my left leg. Why can’t it just cooperate like the right leg, useful and hardly noticed? My doctor ordered an MRI, which revealed a perfectly normal knee joint.
This causes me to doubt my perceptions. If there was something physically wrong with this leg, surely there would be some evidence of damage on an MRI. I’ve been referred to an orthopedist solely as precautionary measure, and the likely result will be nothing amiss. This investigation will be over, the odd parethesia part of a “new normal” for me.
I did sprain this knee twenty six years ago, yet the scan reveals no legacy of damage. Is it possible for the brain to resurrect memory of an injury even after healing is complete?
Maybe this is one of those things about growing older that is kept secret from the young. Your body may start feeling different in unexpected ways, and answers can be so hard to find that they seem hardly worth pursuing.
One of the assisted living facilities in my area is airing a TV commercial that mentions workshops on successful aging. I won’t blame this local facility for coining the term, for it seems to be the invention of a shadowy Illuminati designed to make us feel inadequate and ready to buy remedies for our shortcomings. Perhaps the same folks who decided to oppress us with BMI goals are now suggesting that we could fail in our twilight years as well. The term successful aging implies that someone could fail at it. Everyone since the dawn of humanity has succeeded at aging for as long as their lives have lasted. Furthermore, no one who had a short life should be considered a failure based on their lifespan.
I recall watching Cheek to Cheek on TV last year, an impressive duet performance between Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. I remarked to my husband, who has aged successfully for sixteen more years than I have, “Tony Bennett has an amazing voice for his age. I don’t think most people his age can still sing.”
This evening I watched a recent NOVA documentary on Alzheimer’s research, and I suddenly recalled a blessing I said to my daughter in the hours after she was born. In my first moments alone with her, I skipped over introducing myself to her, for I figured that I was no stranger to her. I held her facing me and said, “may people feel as much pride and joy in caring for you when you are old as they did when you were so young.”
Can there be any better fortune than to be cherished at our end as much as we were at our beginning?