At my age, sleeping is an extreme sport. I have woken up with neck pain, shoulder pain and, once, a literal pain in my butt. While I was sleeping, I must have been doing deadlifts.
Not too long ago, my arm and hand tingled when I awoke. As a side sleeper, I'd experienced that before, usually with sensation returning within minutes. (Which makes it OK, right?) This time, someone had hit my hand's "off" button: my hand stayed numb, with little pinpricks of sensation, for much of the day.
I did what everyone does when they face an odd malady: I Googled it. Through this stellar research, I discovered that I must be suffering a heart attack or about to lose my arm to diabetes. After panicking for a relatively short time (not being a champion panicker like I am now), I told myself it's usually a horse, not a zebra. And most definitely not a unicorn. I called my dad. As an osteopath, Dad used his expertise to ask me weed-out questions for the most serious diagnoses. He then surmised the most likely scenario: my sleep position had pinched a nerve. His recommendation was to look for a more supportive pillow.
The situation was soon resolved by buying an ergonomic pillow with its own carrying case, which goes everywhere with me now and probably should be given a name (feel free to offer suggestions in the comments). Foolishly, I forgot to write it off as a business expense, considering that it made it possible for me to type again. You don't get very far in the transcription business without being able to type.
If only my other age-related ailments could be solved so easily.
Hot flashes, for instance, feel like someone continually monkeying with my internal thermostat. I go to bed shivering in the chill night air, but then three hours later, I'm throwing off the covers, flushed and panting, like a dog on a summer sidewalk. Really, there's not much you can do about this except to dress in layers.
My hot flashes, however, turned out to be a hidden super power. The last time we met with my sister's family for a group activity, an eon ago in December 2019, we strolled through bitter cold to view the Christmas lights at Longwood Gardens. As we took in the fairyland of trees wrapped in brilliantly bright colors, my sister clapped her gloved hands together and the little ones complained about cold toes. I, on the other hand, had a spring in my step, buoyed by the toasty waves of menopausal hormones. I even unzipped my coat.
While carrying an unreliable furnace inside my chest may occasionally prove useful, I can't find the bright side to my new propensity for injury. Somehow, actions that, in younger years, would barely have left a bruise now lay me up for a week, or months, with debilitating pain. In my late 20s, I took a spill on ice-covered marble steps, my feet flying forward as I fell in a nearly perfect backfall, arms stretched out at my sides. After that outrageous mishap, I walked away with a slightly bruised hamstring and a bit of a stiff neck. I think I went jogging later.
Compare that to eighteen months ago, when I looked the wrong way while walking, stepped on uneven pavement, and twisted my knee with a "pop." Yes, you read that right. I actually injured myself by stepping on a sidewalk crack. (Perhaps all those years of avoiding them as a kid were not in vain.) While my knee has returned to full strength, these many months later it still twinges sometimes, to remind me how foolish I was to think that I can engage in such risky behavior as looking at things while walking.
I lifted a laundry basket wrong and tweaked an obscure muscle in my elbow more than a year ago, and the pain persists, like a boring guest who won't take a hint. Until I did that, I had no idea there was a wrong way to pick up a laundry basket.
The magic of aging is that you learn so much, like there is a wrong way to do everything. For heaven's sake, I threw out my back once by bending over to pick up my beloved ergonomic pillow. Turns out you can even do that wrong.
Or perhaps my hand was getting revenge, because now that I have feeling in it again, I make it do ridiculous things like writing more than 750 words of nonsense about growing older.
I don't often include an explanation of why I went a particular direction with the topic. This week, I sought ideas from friends on social media, and many of them talked about feeling numb in the face of all the stress and fear we're all facing these days. I thought about that, and I even contemplated going in that direction. Then I remembered what has helped me deal with stress throughout the pandemic, and that has been humor. I binged on "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and then flew through "Schitt's Creek," feeling carefree and even joyous. Watching those cheerful, ridiculous stories about other people, facing their own troubles with laughter and love, I felt better. So whether or not I succeeded in making you laugh out loud, hopefully, reading this piece helped you in some way. And I'm not just saying that to get you to vote for me. (Unless it worked.)