Boomer Unchained: Autumn Means it's Back to Reality
I am on my way to the orthopedic surgeon’s office because of pain in my right ankle, no doubt brought on by my 21-mile hike in Norway a few weeks ago. I figure it is tendonitis or something, with just enough discomfort to keep me soaking my foot in a bucket of ice water several times a day (My son’s advice. He played football in college).
My pending appointment to diagnose and treat a vacation injury seems to parallel my upcoming and routine medical visits that occur once summer is over: the six-month visit to the dentist, Medicare’s annual health exam, the six-month visit to the eye doctor, the annual body check with the dermatologist, the annual mammogram, and this year, the 10-year colonoscopy.
It’s as if we are vehicles that are either taken to the mechanic when something doesn’t work, or get scheduled for annual maintenance with hopes of catching problems in their early stages.
This time of year also signals getting back to our “off-season” lives, whether it’s keeping up with our health, our exercise regimens missed when traveling or entertaining house guests, or catching up with friends we haven’t seen over the summer for a variety of reasons.
We can actually drive on main roads (again) and not be obsessive about running over a bicycle, or ride our bikes and not worry about being run over.
We do still have to look both ways and follow the rules of the road.
My off-season calendar is brimming already – homeowner board meetings, committee meetings, a writing class, a movie date with friends, a couple of Sunday brunches, an open house, a crab fest, an Oktoberfest, book club meetings, dinners, concerts, a lunch with ‘the girls’ at Lavender Fields, the History Book Festival in Lewes, True Blue Jazz Festival (I don’t do the Sea Witch Festival), volunteering responsibilities, and writing assignments for my freelance writing business.
It’s as if the stress of so many people scurrying around southern Delaware has been replaced by the stress of so many things to do. I don’t mean stress in a negative sense when referring to off-season activity, but more of an energetic and inspired stress, feeling uplifted about being with friends or family, about helping someone, accomplishing something, and then relieved at the end of the day, feeling a good exhaustion.
In the 1980s when I was working full time and my father and step-mother were healthy and retired in Los Angeles, they seemed to have the busiest social life I could imagine. They never stopped (without a Google calendar accessible on their iPhones, I don’t know how they kept up). They had bridge games at their condo, couple’s dinner parties, theater and concert excursions, courses, museum events, and Mexican cruises that could be attained at a moment’s notice because last-minute reservations were cheap. Meanwhile, I was working 10-hour days as a newspaper reporter and raising two sons. My social life was zero and I was exhausted when my head fell onto the pillow.
Now, I understand where they, in their late 70s, got their energy. If we ‘baby-boomers and beyond’ are not working full time and/or raising children, and if our health is good enough to keep us going (Also thanks to modern medical medications, treatments, interventions and supportive spouses and friends) we are determined to enjoy life and happily available – to volunteer, to be with others, to help others, and to do activities we have never done before. From what I see around me, I know I am not the only one who feels this way.
I recently attended Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild ‘Art in the A.M’ event. There was a woman there who said she had retired to the area and needed some artwork to fill up the walls of her new house. So, she started making collages. Her work is so fantastic that now she sells it. Not the work hanging on her walls, but the new work she is constantly making. The creative bug ran wild once she had the opportunity to let it loose. I thought that was a delightful story that exemplifies what we can do when we have the time, the energy, and the will.
Talk about will. I am humbled by the people in the Parkinson’s group that meet at Rise, the gym off Route 1 in the Rehoboth Beach area. Those people are determined to enjoy life as much as they can. Good for Rise, which has made some financial concessions and offered specialized exercise classes for this group. I so respect these people determined to make the most of their lives as they face such considerable physical and emotional challenges. I also respect their loved ones who support them, who have to be available with love and understanding no matter what, and who have to keep their own spirits high as their loved ones face an incurable disease.
Update on my visit to the orthopedic surgeon – tendinitis confirmed in one of the tendons in my foot (around the ankle). Advice to me: Keep using alternating heat and ice, keep stretching the calf muscles, always stretch before exercising, take naproxen, and wear a brace when you hike. Oh, and yes, there is some arthritis in the joint – “Every ‘mature’ person over the age of 60 has at least some arthritis,” I was told in a gentle manner, and with a voice that hesitated at the word, “mature.”
I am so blessed. Tendonitis is such a small ailment for a baby-boomer.
The lesson in life I am learning every day: Be kind. Keep moving and exercising. Keep staying busy, fix any broken or damaged parts when possible, and enjoy every single moment.