The Corner of Emergency Repair and Routine Maintenance

Ever since an orthopedic surgeon diagnosed my sore right shoulder as being arthritic, with a torn cartilage, I’ve felt sorry for myself.  Well, the torn cartilage had its merits; at least it showed I wasn’t deluded or a full-blown, whining hypochondriac.

But arthritis!  Does anything scream AGE! like arthritis?  It’s totally lacking in dignity or drama.

“It’s what I suspected,” the surgeon said, nodding his head.  “Arthritis.”  He didn’t add, you old bat — but it hung there in the air.  Like an aging bat.

He suggested a day surgery — a scope, he called it.  Great.  After agreeing to it and signing a bunch of papers about how I won’t sue even if they run over me with a tractor-trailer by mistake, I went to yoga.  There, every busybody in the room demanded to know whether I’d gotten a second opinion.  “You know, surgery can make it worse,” my yoga teacher said.  (Does that count as a second opinion?)

But anyway, aside from the proposed scope and the tractor-trailer and the second opinion I’m probably too lazy and shiftless to get, I’ve got real self-esteem issues going on.  This is one of my first experiences with the deterioration of aging — not counting every time I look in the mirror, I mean.

God.  I used to be like the rest of the world, convinced that self-improvement was just around the corner.  Just a little will and work and resolution — and I, too, would have the body beautiful, the mind well-educated, the personality charming.  I could resolve to be something different and better.  This time, experience to the contrary, it just might work.

Well, hell.  Here I am now, parked at the corner of emergency repair and routine maintenance.  Shut your mouth about self-improvement; I just want to delay the inevitable onslaught and keep what I have for as long as I can.  And I thought arthritis lacked dignity!  The corner of emergency repair and routine maintenance can be — let’s face it — a pretty bleak little dump.  From here you can see — oh! oh!  what’s that?  A funeral home?  No!  False alarm!  My mistake!  It’s just a hospital.  Or a nursing home.  Or some other place you really don’t want to go to, which is why you want to stay at the corner of ER & RM for as long as you possibly can and grin big so other people will think you have a great personality and, quite possibly, wisdom.

Still.  The corner of ER & RM has its rewards, as I need to remind myself.  Finally, I am getting it.  I’m at a point in life that’s altered, less glamorous, more challenging.  Time to grin big, suck it up, get on with it.  The era of self-improvement isn’t over till you’re dead.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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  • ((“You know, surgery can make it worse,” my yoga teacher said. (Does that count as a second opinion?)))


    I’ve had arthritis in my right foot for years. I turn 50 in a few weeks. (Gulp.)

    I remember a number of years ago an older friend saying, that when you’re young and something hurts, you figure that it will eventually stop hurting. When you’re old and something hurts, you know it might be like that for the rest of your life.

    Dammit, I think she was right.

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