War and Peace and My Aging Female Body
A few months ago I went to the doctor for a routine check-up. I had with me a long laundry list of complaints: Hair loss, mood swings, weight gain, depression, insomnia, and a general pissed off attitude toward anyone and everyone.
“Well, then, it’s official,” she said with big a smile. “You’re in the club!”
“The pre-menopausal club.”
“Do I get special member discounts or benefits?” I asked.
She laughed and handed me a referral to the on-site imaging department. “Yep. You get a mammogram!”
In the weeks following that visit I noticed my moods plummeted, the depression deepened. It wasn’t so much, I decided, that I had physical, tangible evidence that my body was changing. I think what was really bothering me was I understood in a way I hadn’t before that I was truly immortal. I was aging. There was nothing I could do about that.
The poet T.S. Elliot wrote in his famous work The Four Quartets “In my beginning is my end.” That phrase haunts me. I feel in my body that my end has begun, albeit very very slowly. And this has been a hard thing for me to accept. We live in a culture that glorifies youth. What’s a middle-aged fart like me to do?
For starters, I decided that perhaps I could adjust my mental attitude. Rather than compare my middle-aged body to the body of my youth, that elusive physical self that no longer existed except in my memory (which frankly, shouldn’t be trusted) I decided to accept my body for what it is right now. I’ve also decided to accept my body for what it can do right now. My twenty year old self likes to remind me of the fabulous long distance runs we used to go on and how great we felt afterward: pain free and ready to tackle more hills with little to no recovery time. My middle aged self has to regard the younger self with a studied eye. That was then. This is now. I’ve decided to rejoice anytime I can finish a mile (maybe even two) while maintaining a steady, manageable pace. The twenty year old me would have been both alarmed and ashamed of the weight middle aged me has packed on around the mid-section. Middle aged me has discovered and embraced Lycra and Spandex for their forgiving nature and their powers of concealment. And middle aged me has decided not to give up, merely to readjust her goal. Whereas I have spent of my life at war with my body, my middle aged self has decided it’s time to call a truce. Life is short, fragile, and fleeting. I’ve decided to live in the present, accept myself for who and what I am right now and keep a hopeful eye on the future.
-Gina Ochsner, member since 2015
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