“Mrs. Lauderback at the Opera” Terra Cotta sculpture by KSR
It’s a fact that we grow older every day. I have had a great ambition not to be a cranky old battle-axe, but then I never wanted to be boring either. I’m trying to make a bigtime play at being old and interesting. If you’re going to be halfway interesting you can’t go around moaning abut your aches and pains. Do you think that’s easy?
You might tell yourself defensively that you aren’t boring you’re just focused. Pain can do that to you. When you develop a body part which doesn’t seem to work properly, it becomes the most interesting and important thing in the universe. Sort of like potty training when your kids were babies and it’s all you could talk about. I do understand that, we all did it.
Pain is different though. You begin listening to people discussing their aches and pains, and you think “Gosh, I have that too. What’s the big deal?” Do they think everyone wants to listen to that? On the other hand shared pain is a conversation starter. You meet all kinds of interesting people and begin to acquire illnesses you never heard of.
But there’s no denying that the discussion of pain is a real downer, and it’s contagious. You begin by feeling sorry for the other person, and end up feeling sorry for yourself. It leads to making excuses for poor performance.
On the other hand, it does absolutely no good for someone who feels like they’re ready to run a marathon to try to pep up the situation. In fact, it may lead to the end of a perfect friendship. Sometimes it feels good to just wallow in your own miserablness, but be forewarned—don’t do it.
Years ago my daughter was caught in a storm which ripped out the road in front of her mountain home. To get out, she had to scramble down a ravine with her two small boys before she could get to relative safety at our home. I was in bed with flu at the time, feeling like death warmed over, but my ever-cheerful husband took me in hand and told me not to make them feel any worse than they do. “No one wants to see your pitiful face.” And you know, he was right. They appeared at our door muddy and disheveled and hungry, and in trying to remedy their situation, I found that I forgot about the flu bug.
On another occasion when I was down with another flu bug, a second daughter in her “previous” life announced that she wanted to get married in a month.
That may be the fastest I ever jumped out of bed in my life. But again, thinking of someone else instead of yourself was the cure. There’s only so much room in your brain, and it’s truly uncreative to fill it with yourself.
Every month or so I have lunch with a group of my high school friends, all of whom claim to be 86 years old. There are a few canes in evidence, but they all live alone and drive to where we have decided to eat. I am the youngest by a year, and I am the only one fortunate to still have a husband. These are vibrant, interesting women with varied interests. We have made it a rule to begin each meeting by asking if there are any new health problems they need to discuss. If not, the rule is to forget them all for the duration of the lunch. It’s a good rule because everyone has something.