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)