The wisdom of Stephen King
I turn 60 this year. And like plenty of folks my age (and most of my friends), my body is doing its best to betray me by falling apart and attempting to cripple me with various maladies.
The first warning of this—well, “decline” is the only word that fits—was when I was 36, the same year my dad died (at only 63, of prostate cancer). I have read that many people of a physical/athletic bent experience an injury sometime in their 30s that marks the changeover from young to “guess I’m starting to get old.” For me, it was when I was skeet-shooting with my Pop (my father-in-law, this is), and I blew out a disk in my neck. The subsequent massive pain was almost unbelievable, and forced me to get the disk removed and two vertebrae clamped in place.
And consigned me to chronic neck pain for the rest of my life. Not to mention robbing me of feeling in two of my left fingers.
When your doctor tells you, “You shouldn’t lift anything heavier than a half-gallon of milk” (thought the doctor in Texas changed this to “a six pack of beer”), it gets your attention. When you ask if you can continue to ski and are told, “Well, sure, if you don’t mind risking permanent paralysis,” it focuses the mind. Yup.
And of course that accelerated in my 40s and 50s, as it tends to do. My neck is curving under the influence of gravity and my injury. I have “essential tremors”. Almost exactly two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. A year ago I had bilateral pulmonary embolisms (“blood clots in the lungs” to you, my friend). Late last year, my eye doctor notified me I have cataracts (“But not bad enough for insurance to pay for surgery,” she said helpfully). My knees have been a tragic wreck since a soccer injury at 17. And so it goes.
And you know what? Fuck it. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
It would be spectacularly easy to give in to these various maladies and setbacks and just declare defeat, as my ex seemingly has done after her stroke. But that is just not me. I hurt. I fucking ache all the time, to be perfectly frank. AND I DON’T CARE. Ima live life anyway.
I mean, of course I “care”. I see my doctors; I get scans; I take blood pressure meds, and blood thinning meds, and cholesterol meds, and god knows what else is in my pill organizer. I try to follow my doctors’ advice (which is hard, because sometimes it conflicts). I go in for regular appointments and checkups and get the tests they say I need—at least to the point where insurance and money won’t pay. I’m not stupid.
But Ima live my life, dammit.
Time of your life, eh kid?
I can’t play soccer, or ultimate frisbee, or even swim or play frisbee golf? To heck with it; I’ll learn how to dance! I can’t see my besties regularly because they are scattered all over the durn place? To heck with it; I’ll schedule regular Zoom DnD sessions with them so we can hang like we used to in college!
Yes, I’m pushing 60 (quite hard), and yes my body can’t do what it used to, and yes, I face certain physical limitations.
I’m going to get busy living. What about you?