Thursday, December 22, 2016

I'm getting too old for this...

I am beginning to see a theme on this blog. As I start to feel my age I am surprised by how surprised I am to experience the side effects of old age. I mentioned not so long ago (here), that I knew from observation what it was like to grow old, but I expected some sort of a flag that would signal to me that I am now old and should stop doing things that were perfectly manageable 30 years, or even 20 years, ago.

Recently I was very excited to sign up for a program that my employer offers every year coming up to Christmas. Santa's helpers. Our facilities become horribly busy and those of us in the office, particularly in engineering, are not so busy; so we can volunteer to help out at our local facility.

The newest facility in San Marcos is enormous. This photo taken before it was completed, gives a good idea of the size.

Thursday morning I set off at a ridiculously early hour; as is my normal habit no matter where I am going. Get ahead of the traffic and do not be late. That is my mantra. It was a seventy mile drive ten days before Christmas. Of course, I was going to give myself lots of time (I always do).

I left home at 6.30 a.m. and took the longer, less busy route. Traffic was heavy but not so heavy that it couldn't keep up a steady eighty miles per hour. Fifty miles of that, in the dark, was not fun. But I got to my destination safely and an hour early. As I waited for the rest of the team to arrive I had an opportunity to watch the facility at work.

Once my colleagues arrived we were given basic safety training, a tour of the facility and deposited on the loading dock. We were going to help load trucks. For some reason, I had expected to be doing something gentile, if somewhat boring, like Christmas wrapping. No, I was loading packages on to trucks. Seriously BIG containers approximately 40ft long x 8ft wide x 8ft 6in high, like this one:

Because I am not sure how much I can or cannot say about the inner workings of the facility, all I will say is that myself and one other of my fellow office workers spent the day with one of the facility workers. He showed us the correct way to stack packages to fit the most in, in the fastest possible time. Let me tell you, it was some sort of a workout! One thing for sure, I will be a lot more tolerant if I have a delayed delivery ever again.

Between the lifting and loading, and all the walking around that huge facility just to get anywhere, I was shattered by the end of the day. And before I could get to the end of the day I had that crazy long drive home.

The following day I was stiff and sore all over. I made a mental note to be very careful about volunteering in the future. On the other hand, I did have a feeling of satisfaction at a job very well done, despite my great age and I really did enjoy it. As I said goodbye to the nineteen year old facility worker who had so patiently tolerated my help, he told me that I was a very hard worker.

Someone please remind me, next time I think of doing something like this, I am no longer young. In fact, I am most definitely old - I will raise that flag myself, just as soon as my muscles stop aching.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

No Baggage Please

I came across this article and it started me thinking about the emotional baggage we all carry for varying reasons.

If you read my book, you will know that I was part of the online dating scene for a number of years. One of the things that I did pause and wonder about when reading the profiles and their requirements in a potential mate, was "no baggage please", this appeared over and over again.  As far as I am concerned, if you are on a dating website, you already have baggage. No one ends up there without having gone through some life experiences; most of which will have left bruises and scars - a.k.a baggage. So, how dare anyone set such a requirement? In fact, if you managed to reach adulthood, even if you are not on a dating website, you probably have some baggage.

Yes, I do agree that we should take steps to unpack our bags and try to travel light. Easier said than done. I think the important first step is to recognized that you have baggage, figure out why and be open about it, at least with those you are close to.

You will have baggage if you:
  • were raised in a strict home, as the article I mentioned above states.
  • were raised in a home where physical abuse was the norm.
  • were raised in a home where no one cared what you did, neglect.
  • have been married and divorced, no matter how 'easy' the break up was, there will be baggage to carry away from that experience.
  • have suffered abused of any sort, either as a child or an adult.
Even if you had a perfect family life growing up, there is a very good chance that school was not perfect. Either teaching staff or fellow students may have caused problems. I know that my school days were only slightly less traumatic than my home life as a child.

The common belief is that if you forgive and forget, you will let go and therefore not have baggage. There is a fine line between being smart enough to learn from experience and forgiving and forgetting. Even forgiving is a lot easier than forgetting. And my question is, is it smart to forget? All living creatures learn from experience, and the survival instinct is still strong; as it should be. A dog that has been abused will cringe if you raise your hand. Anyone who has been a victim of violence will have a similar reaction. Try it with me and you may well find yourself on the floor. It is survival. If you have been beaten or cheated on, is it really that smart to trust again?

Perhaps 'no baggage please' means you want someone who is naive enough to let you get away with whatever it is you want? But all you will get is either someone who has not even faced the fact that they have baggage and so have not tried to deal with it or someone who is prepared to lie, and in the latter case, more fool you to believe it could be possible. Of course, you are going to have baggage, and quite likely it is never going to get fully unpacked.

I found this article very disturbing. 'Violent homes have the same effect on brains of children as combat does on soldiers'.

In a domestic violence situation, the children and the battered adult will suffer not just physical damage, which hopefully will heal without scars, but also emotional damage, much more difficult to recover from. According to this article:
The long term effects of domestic violence have not begun to be fully documented. Battered women suffer physical and mental problems as a result of domestic violence. Battering is the single major cause of injury to women, more significant that auto accidents, rapes, or muggings. In fact, the emotional and psychological abuse inflicted by batterers may be more costly to treat in the short-run than physical injury.
That comes as no surprise, anyone who has watched even one episode of Cops surely has noticed the number of domestic violence calls there are.

This article highlights the fact that emotional abuse is as bad, or worse than physical abuse:
Emotional abuse is often more psychologically harmful than physical abuse, as victims are more likely to blame themselves The road to recovery from emotional abuse is a long one, but the first step is to recognize an emotionally abusive relationship, and get out.
I have experienced both emotional and physical abuse in past relationships, and I support the view that emotional abuse is far more damaging to an adult. I believe that part of the reason may be that it takes a very long time to realize that it is not right and not a healthy relationship; therefore the behavior is experienced for a long period and the damage goes way deeper.

With physical abuse, there is no doubt that it is wrong and the only reason to not get out immediately is the very real fear of retaliation in the way of more extreme violence. For me, it didn't take long for even that to be an insufficient reason. And the baggage I now carry as a result is most definitely a survival mechanism.

So, yes I carry a certain amount of baggage. I am lucky that I found someone who is prepared to help me unpack, and is also prepared to accept his own baggage and accept my help unpacking that.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Getting older and getting better

There was I lot I thought I knew about being old as I was growing up. I used to carefully observe my grandmother. I knew that you developed a lot of aches and pains and these appeared to vary in intensity in direct relationship to weather conditions but were continuous no matter what the intensity. I knew your hair slowly turned gray and thinned. I knew you often repeated yourself. I knew that you started to move slower and sleep less.

I even knew that bones became brittle and breaks took longer to heal. I also knew that you lost height, in part due to becoming more stooped but also due to bone loss - though when I was a child I didn't know about bone loss. I also didn't relate my grandmother's decrease in height to my own increase in height; not that I grew very tall, but, between the ages of 7 and 13, I did gain some on my grandmother.

When I turned my attention to older people, other than my grandmother, I noticed that many grew fatter and crankier, some even became odd and distant, though not my grandmother. She was very careful of her weight, she was always cheerful and rarely complained (I knew about the pains because she took medication for arthritis and stopped knitting and sewing). She was also as witty, curious and sharp as she ever was, right up until the day before she died - and then only because she went into a coma.

I also didn't realize that it didn't only take bones longer to mend, it took simple things like cuts and bruises longer to heal - and easier to acquire as the skin becomes more fragile. The first chapter of my book is dedicated to my grandmother, she was a wonderful example to me and an amazing woman.

I am normally extremely healthy. I rarely get so much as a cold. I only have a few of the ailments that go along with aging. I don't have a problem with blood pressure, cholesterol, heart or lungs. I do have osteoporosis, (as did my mother and my grandmother) but these days that is easy enough to control. And so far I have not lost any height - a good thing as I don't have much to spare at a half of an inch above five foot. I also have an under active thyroid, but that is not exclusive to the elderly as so do many young people.

However, this year I have had two very stubborn sinus infections, both developed after I caught a cold while traveling - flying to be exact. Sitting for hours in recirculating air, carrying germs from all the other passenger, is a sure fire way to catch something. I have had sinus infections before, but this time I also got ear infections on the side. I don't ever remember have an ear infection in my life before. In fact, though I grew up in a time where tonsils and adenoids were removed like teeth or warts (and yes, in those days teeth were pulled without consideration or knowledge of how to save them) - in spite of the times, I still have my tonsils and adenoids.  This time it took two doses of antibiotics to clear up the first bout of sinus and when the second one occurred I made sure to get a good strong antibiotic first time, but it still took longer than I would have expected for the symptoms to lessen.

Not so long ago I got a paper cut. Very normal occurrence, not so normal that a full week later it was still not fully healed. I decided to do some research and was surprised to find this article, which states:
"As one ages, the capacity of an aging nose to produce mucus is reduced as the mucus membranes lining the nose (nasal mucosa) become thinner. 
Poorer blood circulation to the nasal lining also results in less humidification of the air passing through the nose, resulting in nasal dryness. 
Furthermore, in the elderly, the clearance of the mucus from the nose is less efficient. The combination of a thick mucus which the body is unable to clear efficiently together with the lower immunity results in a higher risk of sinusitis in the elderly,"
This article was halfway between downright scary and somewhat insulting (to the elderly).
"We worry so much about the way we look on the outside BUT … what about the inside? Have you ever thought about the skin inside your body getting older, getting damaged and getting thinner?"
And what about this one!? Now we know why witches are portrayed with long, drooping noses.
"With aging, the physiology and function of the nose changes. The nose lengthens, and the nasal tip begins to droop due to weakening of the supporting cartilage. This in turn causes a restriction of nasal airflow, particularly at the nasal valve region (where the upper and lower lateral cartilages meet). Narrowing in this area results in the complaint of nasal obstruction, often referred to as geriatric rhinitis. "
This is the only article I could find that came close to explaining why a paper cut should take longer to heal, and it makes a lot of sense - it is mainly because it will be deeper. It also explains why bruises occur more easily, look so much worse and take longer to heal.
"Skin becomes thinner with age and loses some of the moisture and connective tissue support that makes it strong. This means that a cut can may often be deeper than would be the case in a younger person. More importantly though is that the body’s repair mechanism is not as efficient with advancing age"
Here is a blog I wrote following my mother in law's injury and healing after a fall.

The problem is, we (the elderly) don't realize we are old, oh we know what age we are, and we understand that at a certain point, that is considered old; but inside we are the same person we were as a child, teenager, young adult.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror I think 'who the hell is that old woman'!? But at some point we need to accept the advancing years and be more aware of our fragile skin, mucus membranes and god alone knows what sagging is going on, on the inside! Probably just as well we do not know.