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Being Old is Time Consuming
Have you noticed how much more time it takes to be old than it did to be young?
One of the things I've done since beginning this blog is to monitor myself as I move through years of growing old (using myself as guinea pig, if you will) because one of the few lessons I've learned that I trust is that if it is happening to me, it is happening to thousands, maybe millions of other people.
So, from the start, I have been working to find out “what it's really like to get old” - as the subtitle of the banner above says – because hardly anyone notices or if they do, hardly anyone writes about the day-to-day things that change as the high-number birthdays pile up.
It's easy to find out more than you ever wanted to know about the big-five, most common diseases of age, the ones that will either kill you or be a pain in the ass to live with. It's the little stuff that no one talks about that steals my time.
I'm not there yet but an obvious example are common errands. Ten or twenty years ago, it was a short, brisk walk to meet friends and neighbors at a local coffee shop, pick up a newspaper or retrieve the postal mail from the box at the curb. No big deal then.
Now it's a slow trek for many elders, perhaps involving a cane or walker, taking care with curbs, watching for dips or cracks in the sidewalk, stopping to rest as needed. What was once five or 10 minutes has been transmuted into half an hour now and you still need to get back home when you're done.
Not all elder time thieves are as obvious. Here are some others I've been noticing:
ITEM: A couple of weeks ago, I was spending a good part of a day preparing dinner for a friend, cooking a couple of more elaborate dishes than I bother with for myself alone.
After an hour or so, my feet felt so achy I had to sit down to rest them. Then later, it happened again. This is new – undoubtedly connected to my impending 75th birthday. If you live long enough, this stuff will happen.
ITEM: There is, of course, the standard irritation of looking around a room wondering why you walked in there. Yes, I know that happened when I was younger but be honest now, it is much more frequent in old age. More time down the drain.
ITEM: A related issue involves leaving the shopping list at home. The intention was a quick trip for a handful of items but I wind up wandering the market aisles for half an hour hoping to jog my memory.
ITEM: Not long ago, we talked about how much more frequently we drop things now. Depending on what has slipped from my fingers, it requires nothing more than bending over to retrieve it all the way up to spending half an hour cleaning a gawdawful spill.
ITEM: Right now, I am grateful to be healthy; I'm lucky to see a doctor every other year or so. Believe me, I am enjoying this while it lasts.
But even those with good health have been there when plagued with medical issues: multiple trips to one kind of doctor, then another who sends you to a third and they all have one or more test facilities to keep you busy, not to mention the pharmacy and follow-up visits usually to figure out how many more visits to different places they can devise.
It's easy to lose days, even weeks that way. Sometimes I wonder how much worse our health problems get just from the time-consuming, travel hassle the medical professionals put us through.
ITEM: How easily thoughts slip from my mind. One moment I know exactly what I need to write next in this blog post but it disappears even as my fingers are trying to move forward with it.
So I sit. Or I pace. Until the Aha! moment arrives and I can get on with it. So far, I have always recovered the thought. But the time is gone.
ITEM: That is, of course, an issue related the hole in your brain you bump into when you're explaining something to a friend and a person's name or whatever the hell that thingie you've used every day of your life is called gets lost in a tangle of neurons somewhere. Gone, as you struggle for it, never to return until it's no longer relevant.
ITEM: Although math has never interested me much beyond being able to add, subtract, multiply and divide as needed, I'm competent at those functions. But recently I'm slower when I work with numbers because I no longer trust myself with them.
I feel the need to double check more frequently, to run a list of numbers through the calculator a second time in case I mis-entered one, even though none of that has happened. Yet. Time slipping away in many kinds of repetition.
ITEM: In a related issue, I know that for awhile now I have been thinking more slowly. I can almost watch thoughts meandering through my mind, dawdling here and there apparently without direction or intention from me.
ITEM: In addition, I lose my train of thought (at whatever speed it's going) when I'm interrupted and it takes much longer now to find the thread again.
Having been studying a variety of aspects of ageing pretty much full time for 20 years now, none of this is a surprise to me. I can't run for the bus like I once did, why shouldn't my intellectual functions change to.
And I do mean “change,” not “decline” (at least for the time being) because there are other changes that are positive, useful and gratifying - even some related to slowing down - that we'll talk about another day.
What ticks me off most about all this is how much valuable time it takes to be old especially when there's not all that much of it left. And further, no one warns you this will happen. I don't know what I would have done with the information but I would like to have known before now.
No doubt you can tell that one characteristic some people attribute to old age, serenity, has not made much of an appearance in my life. Oh well.
As I seem to be asking lately, does any of this sound familiar to you? And if so, does the the loss of time bother you?