I got quite a few e-mails, phone calls, and person-to-person commentaries about last week’s column detailing my carpal tunnel adventures.
I guess it struck a nerve.
Or, at the very least, struck a chord. It had everyone from medical people to friends to distant relation talking to me about a variety of areas: from questioning the medical system, to recognizing that they too have CTS, to advice on recovery, to how simple and rewarding I will find the surgery.
Not to mention quite a bit of empathy for my troubles.
As for me, I’ve been telling myself how lucky I am to get to the age of 67 never having had to undergo any kind of surgery … while at the same time thinking, “Oh crap, what if something goes wrong and I end up worse!!”
I’ve also been doing an inventory on some of the other parts of my body and mind that don’t work quite as well today as they did in the past, as well as contemplating what systems might lose function in years to come.
Which is to say, I’m feeling a tinge of both grief and dread. So I’ve been turning to some of my favorite authors for solace.
First of all to a book I mentioned a few week’s back, Edward Hays’ “The Great Escape Manual.” Specifically, a chapter titled “Old Age Prison.”
In it, Hays calls us baby boomers immigrants; a 78 million person strong immigration into old age. And, about this immigration, quotes writer Malcolm Cowlery, “To enter the country of old age is a new experience, different from what you suppose it to be. Nobody, man or woman, know the country until he has lived in it and taken out his citizen papers.”
Further, Hays says that the unavoidable entry into your senior years can either be an adventure of freely emigrating or one of being a victim of deportation — depending on your ability to escape “geriatricphobia,” the fear of old age.
Part of the way he addresses this is by pointing out some famous men who did not suffer from geriatricphobia. Or if they did, it didn’t slow them down much.
Michelangelo was 72 when he began work as the architect on St. Peter’s Basilica. Galileo published his masterpiece at 74. Stradivarius was still fashioning exquisite violins in in his 90s. And Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim in New York at age 91.
Which is to say, some our best work may come forth in our later years.
Another author I turned to was M. Scott Peck who says that until you value yourself, you won't value your time. And until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.
So how do you value yourself as you enter the golden years?
One of my students at PSU told me when she asked her grandpa why he was spending less time with her and more time with his new wife traveling, he responded by pulling out a tape measure.
“See here’s 80 inches. Instead of inches think of it as 80 years, about the average life expectancy in the United States. You’re at 19, which gives you all these years to do all things you’d like to do in life,” he said running his finger slowly along the numbers. “I’m at 72, which gives me only these eight.”
Pretty simple, visual answer. I like it. But aging, like everything else in life is both simple and complex. And there’s no owner’s manual, no certain formula.
Take retirement, for instance. The right road for one can be the wrong road for another.
And the only way to know if you’re on the right or wrong one is … to hit the road. Which is to say, even in old age, we must be willing to fail.
Another important thing, researchers have found, is to cultivate a sense of humor, which does everything from lower blood pressure to improve sleep to cure chigger bites (That’s a joke. The only thing that cures chigger bites is amputation).
With that in mind, I’ll end with few pithy observations about the subject.
“I’m like old wine. They don’t bring out very often, but I’m well preserved.” – Rose Kennedy
“Don’t worry about avoiding temptation, as you grow older, it starts avoiding you.” – Anonymous
“Middle age is when you’re sitting at home on a Saturday night and the telephone rings and you hope it isn’t for you.” – Ogden Nash
“You can live to be a hundred if you’re willing to give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.” – Woody Allen
— J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Consulting & Mindfulness Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or firstname.lastname@example.org.