So I just had another birthday. How do I feel about that? Since you only stop having them after you’re dead, I guess I feel pretty good. In fact, I’ve recently made some serious investments in the future by electing to renew my car registration for two years instead of one, and my membership in AARP for another five. How’s that for a burst of optimism?
As with each New Year, birthdays are a good time for reassessment. So I begin with a physical inventory. All in all, I’m not doing too badly. My knees still bend and I am able to navigate a staircase. My hips remain, as always, too wide, but the joints are articulating. My back? I’d rather not discuss it. Let’s just say it’s no worse. Only one new infirmity to complain about – the chronic pain in my left elbow. This has impacted my life by curtailing my golf game. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
As I reflect, I’m reminded that six years ago this month, while engaged in my annual birthday retrospective, I concluded that, going forward, I needed to master the art of relaxation. To accomplish this, my plan was to go outside with a kitchen timer, and force myself to sit still and focus on reading material or simply day dream for incrementally increasing time periods. This was in lieu of my usual pattern, which was to pop out of my chair to pull a weed, water a plant, or pick up dog poop.
“So how’d that work out for you?” you might ask. And even if you don’t, (ask, that is) I will share. For the past half-dozen years, my grass has been devoid of weeds, my flowers sufficiently hydrated, and you can safely walk barefoot over every inch of my property. Oh, and, I’ve accumulated an impressive pile of back issues of The New Yorker magazine.
So in February of 2020, I have attempted to again tackle this issue with new insights. I have always prided myself on my stamina and ability to navigate through a hectic day, even though it’s no longer necessary that I do so. I’m retired, the children have flown, there’s a lot less laundry, and cooking dinner has become a quaint concept. Life could really slow down. If I let it.
But apparently, I have a bad case of OHDH syndrome. Don’t bother looking for this disorder in the Physician’s Desk Reference (or Dr. Google). You won’t find it. I just made it up.
So much of my adult life was spent as Wonder Woman, but without the skimpy outfit. Work, school, family, shopping, cooking, appointments, dates, dog, taking laundry out of the dryer at 11:00 PM. Living each day like a perpetual motion machine. I would walk into my apartment after a day of work and with my right hand throw down my handbag while my left hand retrieved the spaghetti pot. All accomplished in one smooth motion.
My personal feedback loop from all of this hyperactivity was adjectives such as capable, energetic, tireless, maybe just a little stressed, and youthful. It was a self-image I savored, one that is difficult to relinquish. Which leads to the current diagnosis: Old Habits Die Hard. Especially when it comes to one’s identity.
But now, six years after the last attempt, perhaps it’s time to try again for an image makeover. And I have a tiny piece of evidence that this time I just might be on the right path.
A few days ago, as is my wont, I overbooked. My calendar indicated that I had committed to appointments back-to-back that seriously overlapped with Sam the Dog’s dinner hour, and early evening walk. How could I let this happen? Silly question to ask of Wonder Woman.
So in the manner to which I was accustomed, I began to strategize. If I left appointment #1 a few minutes earlier, and the traffic lights were with me, I could rush home, take care of Dog, maybe even refresh my eye liner, change into non-sensible shoes, jump back in the car, and if the lights were with me, be on time for appointment #2.
But rather than push forward into the race, I suddenly stopped in my tracks, took a deep breath, and said No! I don’t want to do this. I’m tired. I was able to cancel appointment #1, and so I did. Laying down on my bed for a bit of respite, I felt a sense of what could only be described as relief. This was okay. I have earned this right. I can act my age, whatever that means. I have nothing more to prove.
So am I now on a new path which gives me permission to move over to the slower lane? I hope so. But to be sure, check back with me in six more years. How’s that for another burst of optimism?
About the Author
Susan is the author of two award-winning collections of humorous personal essays: “How Old Am I in Dog Years?” and “How to Complain When There’s Nothing to Complain About.” Check out her Author Page HERE.