You. Look. MAH-VELOUS.


Happy Holidays everyone!

We’re on year 19 of this crew’s festive holiday lunch and for the first time ever, the subject of physical ailments came up.* Melissa begged us not to indulge in this taboo topic that would announce we had arrived over the hill with a thud. We are all hovering around the age of 50. Teresa, the baby of the bunch, is not far behind. We all know the well-worn trope that only old people talk about what hurts when they get together. Not us though. We are still young and hot. (I mean…right?)

Only I did want to talk about what’s going on for us physically…at this age. I had received an arthritis diagnosis I disagreed with and had an ortho appointment for a sprained hip. (Okay, fine. I do sound ancient.) But I have always been healthy and active and isn’t it a tad early for the wheels to fall off the bus? I wanted to know if anyone else had this stuff going on and what they were doing about it.

In my opinion, treating the topic as taboo bows to the ageist nonsense that everyone over 25 should feel decrepit and awful about ourselves. To limit our conversations accordingly would be to ignore one of the great things about being the other side of fifty—not giving a crap what anyone thinks (mostly). That said, I know there are limits to sharing this stuff. I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of a list of someone’s aches and pains so exhaustive I wanted to scoop my eyes out. Complaining for sport is a whole other thing. But avoiding certain topics only makes us feel more alone and dare I say…old. And we aren’t. In some ways, we are just getting started.

A growing body of research suggests that people over fifty can experience an exciting burst of intellectual and emotional growth. Great news for those of us who have noticed that our memory for minutiae has slipped. New studies show that our capacity for perseverance and determination (grit) rises through middle age and peaks in our seventies. I know some folks in their 70’s who are vibrant as hell—I’m sure you do too. The psychologist who discovered “flow” is still publishing at 86!

The one thing that separates people who continue to grow from those who stagnate is choice: seeking work we find compelling, maintaining physical fitness, and keeping accountable. Bottom line, it’s up to us. We can continue to expand our consciousness until the last day of our lives if we so desire.

As for our physical ability as we age, that’s a good deal up to us too. My friend and running partner Melanie was the first to introduce me to the concept that once you hit your fifties, there’s no more messing around.

Each week, we meet for semi-relaxed long runs which keep us trained up for a half-marathon. We decided to jump start our speed by signing up for some short races. For our first 5K, Melanie had just turned 50 but I was still 49. Unlike our Saturday pace, we gave it all we had. Melanie, who works out with a killer trainer, beat me pretty bad. Inexplicably, I placed and got a medal in my age group while Melanie did not. Why? Because the women in the 50 and over were BEASTS. You should have seen them. My age group looked like me, frayed running gear, messy pony tail, just out there to have fun. The 50+ women were jacked, fitness-fashion fabulous and ran like pros. I was intimidated. And excited for the future.

So, we popped some corks and discussed osteoporosis and arthritis. We concluded that some general practitioners can be alarmists but the specialists who actually know what they are talking about treat and medicate conservatively. I got a recommendation for collagen peptides for joint pain. As we spoke, I recalled that for me, mysterious ailments are often solved by acupuncture, so I texted my guy for an appointment. He told me it’s not arthritis but overuse. My writer’s left hand has taken a beating over Covid. After one acupuncture treatment, the throbbing stopped. Seems like he’ll probably fix it.

After confessing to my friends that I was worried the ortho might tell me I couldn’t run anymore, I felt a little better. That news would be tough to take—I process a lot on my runs. But with all the sports injuries I have had, I’ve been guided by one thing: pain. If it hurts, I back off. I mean, I do now. There was a time that I ran through illness and injury but I have wised up over my half century. Even though the MRI said I had small tears around my hips, it doesn’t hurt, so I have continued to run. The ortho said it all looks completely normal for an active person my age. He said I should run if I want to run. And if it hurts, come on back.

Frankly, I just feel lucky to be out there running, doing yoga, dancing, and roller skating. This age has brought so much beauty into my life. The only thing I am sure of is that being grateful for my healthy body, dear friends and family, and having all I need makes me happy. There will be change no matter what, but it’s all going to be okay.



Writing Prompt: Are there taboo subjects you don’t like to talk about? What would happen if you did?

*This year we had our lunch at night, outside, socially distanced and the photo came out blurry. This is 2019.

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