When You Stop Chasing the Wind
How's the Pandemic Going For You?

A TGB READER STORY: Following Doctor’s Orders – Unexpectedly and Reluctantly

By David Astley of xyzAsia

My heart specialist has a wicked sense of humor. Every six months when I visit her for my checkup, I walk through the door of her consulting room and she says: “Wow, you are still here. I thought you’d be dead by now.”

I’m 71 and I have severe atherosclerosis caused by a combination of high cholesterol, stress and 25 years of cigarette smoking (commenced in the years when there were no health warnings about the dangers of smoking).

Atherosclerosis is hardening of the arteries. Its severity is measured by the amount of calcium in the plaque deposited inside the arteries. This is determined by means of a CT scan and patients are given a “calcium score”. A score of 0-100 is good. Anything above 400 is bad. My calcium score is 1500 – or “off the scale” as my doctor calls it.

That puts me into the top five percent of candidates for a heart attack or stroke, but apart from one angina incident about 12 years ago, I’ve not felt like I have a serious health issue.

Sure, I can’t climb mountains like I used to, and anything more than about 50 steps uphill leaves me out of breath, but aside from that I still feel healthy.

My doctor keeps telling me that I need to slow down and take things easy but every time I’ve tried to do that, I get bored. So bored that I feel I’m going to die of boredom, not a heart attack.

So I’ve kept working because deep down I’m hoping my doctor has got it wrong about my risk of a heart attack. After all, my Dad is still alive and well at 97, and he smoked and had high cholesterol too.

I’m not working for anyone except myself now. The stress that contributed to my atherosclerosis came from 30 years of working in the television industry trying to manage on-air personalities with egos that often exceeded their talent, audiences that you could never satisfy and boards of directors and shareholders who wanted to squeeze more profits from the stations for which I worked.

So it was with some relief that I “retired” 10 years ago and left behind the world of endless meetings and office politics and set out on a new journey on my own. I had started my media career as a travel journalist and that was how I was going to end it.

I now travel, write and edit a blog for older travelers and contribute to travel magazines. And I enjoy every minute of it - that was, until three months ago when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Now with borders closed around the world, limited flights and quarantine lockdowns in many countries, my “new career” as a travel writer has come to an abrupt halt.

Like many others, I’m stuck in my home office nervous about venturing out for groceries, paranoid about getting a haircut, wondering about how long it will take to develop vaccines and most of all, missing the buzz of boarding a flight with my laptop and camera to visit a new destination.

There’s only so much that a travel writer can do from home. An article about virtual tours maybe, one about preparing for future trips perhaps and others about countries that have brought the pandemic under control and are planning to reopen their borders to socially distancing tourists.

After that, the boredom sets in. I tried venturing onto some Facebook travel groups the other day to relieve the boredom. I got involved in a debate about whether blocking middle seats on aircraft would help prevent the spread of the virus from asymptomatic carriers. I commented that any amount of social distancing would surely be a help.

The response was horrifying. A Facebook user from Indiana replied: “Crawl back into your cave old man” and suggested that the coronavirus was an ideal way to rid the world of old people who were a drain on social security systems.

We had to die to save the economy, he said. Many other forum members “liked” his comment.

Needless to say, my venturing onto the Facebook debating stage was short-lived. For the time being I will return to my cave and try to cope with boredom as best I can. My heart specialist will be pleased that I’ve slowed down, but this is not the way I had envisaged spending these precious years of my life.

DavidAstleyatTreasureMountain680B

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Comments

This is horrible. That FB user was so incredibly rude to you. I'm sorry that happened. Since flying sounds very dangerous right now, I'd focus on doing road trips to cool places in the USA and writing about that maybe.

Well, David, I'm with you! Wish I lived next door. We could conjure up some isolation adventures. Yes, suicide by boredom. Maybe? Maybe not. I traveled for a while while volunteering. It was great. Parkinson's cut that short BUT, I travel in my memory. Write about fantasy trip or review one you have done previously. Meanwhile, happy boredom.

I enjoyed your piece very much. There are all sorts on the Internet (and FB attracts plenty of trolls), so I'm hoping you can find a more sympatico travel-oriented site where you can share your deep experience— perhaps a blog like Rick Steves'?

As for smoking, we're the same age. In the US, the first, damning Surgeon's General study was published when I was 16, and in the UK, landmark studies came out in the mid-'50s. I certainly knew, though the packs did not carry a warning and people smoked in crowded indoor settings like offices even in the '80s! Good for you for stopping whenever you did.

People can be awful; however, that photo of you in the mountains is breathtaking!

I love traveling but cancelled a trip to Alaska with Road Scholar. I figured Alaska would be safe but was concerned about the airports and long plane rides from Georgia. I've loved adventures all along. I took trapeze lessons when I turned 65. Now I'm 79. Because of Alpha-Gal Syndrome I don't walk in the woods now. Six concussions have slowed me down mentally. So my adventures now are closer to home. I took up the ukulele and started a band locally of mostly us old people. I've been using Acapella app to record us even though we have to be physically distant. I wrote a song for the first time in my life. And am entering my photography in local art shows. I've been taking OLLI classes. And cooking with recipes I make up myself -- a real adventure!

I'm sorry you were attacked by trolls. I'd love to see articles about road trips. That's the only way I can travel these days and was my favorite method anyway. Keep writing.

I had that experience on a blog site as well - being called a "drain on the retirement system. I replied as follows.

"Thank you for the comments they are appreciated. I suggest that you print out this thread and place it in a folder labeled "Things to do when I retire".
Add this to the todo list:

"Buy and a gun and bullets. Go out into my back yard or other suitable location and blow my brains out".

That way you can take your own advice and ensure that you will not get old enough to become a drain on the retirement system.

Interestingly enough I did not get a reply.

David, wow—you have a remarkable site. We couldn’t be more different (I can count on 2 hands—no, 7 fingers—the places I’ve been) but I do enjoy reading about such exotic far off places. What a career you’ve had (and my gosh, your dad is still here too).

I’m sorry you had to contend with that hateful nonsense on Facebook, I left that awful site in August 2018 and never looked back. I had to, to prevent myself from severing all ties with friends & family extolling the virtues of Donald Trump.

But the meanness you encountered there... is this a recent thing, or am I just noticing it more the older I get? A year or so ago I began noticing an “okay, Boomer” trend which soon escalated into “Boomer hate” on a few message boards & blogs I followed. I walked away from them all and went looking for a 55+ online crowd instead. That’s precisely how I found Ronni & Time Goes By (and several other senior blogs I now enjoy). Looks like I’ll be enjoying xyzAsia too.

I was shocked but not surprised by that hateful comment to you. Dislike of old people is widespread and insidious. I was watching a TV show recently and one woman said to another "You're ugly and you're old".

I can only hope that such people live to be really old. What a world we live in.

Glad you shared about your love of traveling here. Keep on looking for ways to share your interests.

Now that It is becoming clear that the detrimental effects of coronavirus are much less severe in the under 40 crowd, I fear we are going to be on our own for a while. The kids will continue to go out and party and spread the virus with minimal risk to themselves so it is up to us to protect ourselves.

I don’t intend to go down without a fight. Corona boredom will kill me before the virus does!

Thank you for a very interesting story. I too loved traveling when I traveled for work. Was able to see a lot of places that way. I miss that excitement of boarding the plane and then looking down through the clouds at the cities and rivers passing by. I still love it but all that is on hold for now.

If we can make it about a year I think there will be a safe vaccine for us. In the meantime fellow boomers and boomers-plus, be safe and take care of yourselves. Remember that “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.” Or something to that effect.

And of course, as Kathy Bates so wisely observed, “I’m old and I have more insurance!”


Yes David so many from the top down just don't think accurately about the pandemic. I'd hate to be the old folks at their circle of family.

One can tell that David is a writer--a good one, too. I totally agree with the general reaction, especially Bill's comment. That FB troll (and those who liked his "drain on the retirement system" comment) will likely be old someday, and I hope that observation is archived conveniently for him. Old age is what it is. At 83 I'm definitely old, so allow me to critique it myself, thank you very much! I don't need help with that.

Your comment about on-air personalities whose egos are bigger than their talents resonated with me. It must of been exhausting trying to manage them.

I would love to travel too and I'm still young and healthy enough to do it. I live on the east coast and my son moved to Portland, OR last year and I had plans to visit this year. On hold for now and hoping to get there next year. I love travel shows but every time I watch them, my travel bug kicks in and I'm ready to research and make a plan. Very frustrating.

As long as FB continues to be way too open for trolls and bots to enter into a conversation, I tend to avoid the groups. I did find an over 60 women's solo traveling group that I found a lot of interesting posts and camaraderie. It is administered very well and doesn't let sneaky travel agents in to promote their business. They still come but the administer will delete them when they come. I have encountered very few nasty comments or attacks and if it continues, again the administrator sends out a post with the rules of the group. A lot of FB groups have the rules set up but lack follow-up.

Keep us informed David. I would enjoy hearing from you and your continuing journey.

Horrible people say horrible things, whether they are young or old. So sorry for your encounter with one of those.
I'm wondering if you could do a deep study of one of the places where you traveled: correspond with a friend you made in that country, experiment with preparing food from that country, or making some of the arts or crafts from that country. You could take up weaving, or making a loom, then taking up weaving! Maybe you could meet someone local who came from that country and get their perspective on that country. What minerals are mined there, what archeological sites are being developed, etc. Writers and artists and philosophers, political history, etc.

I enjoyed your story. When one has the travel bug, it’s hard to just stay put and not start travel plans. I had planned to go and visit my family in Paris in September but covid happened. Still I am driving from Nashville to Atlanta tomorrow but I don’t call that traveling, just a long 4 hour commute.

I just read that the European Union is working on making a list of which foreign visitors will be authorized entry as of July 1st and a list of those that will be banned. Visitors from countries were the virus has been contained like Cuba, Vietnam, Uganda and China will be welcome but visitors from the US, Russia and Brazil will be banned to enter Europe. Considering that Dr. Fauci said we are still in the first wave of the virus and the second wave may be stronger, I don’t think Americans will be welcome anywhere for a while - so , armchair traveling it will have to be.

Great post, David. Sounds as though you and Ronni had similar careers. I look forward to reading the posts on your website. Re facebook: I recently posted a query, “Have you ever changed your politics or religion because of something you saw on facebook?” I got about half a dozen vehement “Never!” responses—all from those who post the most about religion and politics. I don’t think they saw the irony.

I'm sorry that life has changed so much so quickly for so many. And I'm really sorry that the world has become so increasingly hostile -- especially on FB.

I would love to have a really good virtual reality system that would allow authentic feeling travel experiences from the comfort and safety of home. I'd be all over that. As it is, I've loved watching some travel shows on PBS recently, including a terrific one on Canada hosted by Brandy Yanchyk. I never felt particularly attracted to that part of the world, and now I'm enthralled with it and would go in a heartbeat if I could.

I hope things change before too long and you can get back to the life you love. Thanks for the story.

Thank you all for your insightful comments and feedback. It is much appreciated. There are too many comments to respond to individually, but I do want to respond to one question that Doug M. asked ("But the meanness you encountered there... is this a recent thing, or am I just noticing it more the older I get?") because it's something I've been thinking about recently myself.

I think the answer to that question is that it's something that's been happening over the past 3-4 years, and I blame Donald Trump for a large part of that. Previous presidents - whether you liked them or not - always spoke in respectful terms, even when criticising people or other countries, thus setting an example to the general population. Of course, not everyone followed those examples, and there has long been disrespectful language used on internet forums and in more recent years on social media, but never to the extent that Trump insults his critics, political opponents, people with disabilities, women he deems to be 'ugly', and so on.

So suddenly you have the President of the United States insulting people on Twitter and in the news media, saying such outrageous things that they are reported all over the world and widely shared through social media. Aside from the rest of the world losing respect for the US, it's resulted in all of those people who would previously keep their degrading views to themselves feeling that it's okay to insult and abuse people online. Sort of "if it's okay for the President to do it, it's okay for me." And that's brought out the worst of society into the open - and it's going to be hard to shut them up in the future.

The other issue that's been touched on in a few on these commentaries that concerns me is the attitude of many younger people towards following rules that have been put into place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. That's not a criticism of all young people because many ARE complying with lockdown restrictions, wearing masks, physical distancing, etc. but those who are refusing because it's an infringement of their civil liberties are no better than those who feel that old people should be left to die to help the economy recover. They are putting not just old people at risk from the spread of the disease, but many young people too. Simply put, they are selfish. And to a large extent they are probably the same people who enjoy insulting and abusing people on social media.

Anyhow, it's a pleasure to have the opportunity to exchange thoughts like these on Ronni's blog - away from the sordidness and unkindness of those Facebook groups - and I thank you again for your feedback.

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