Rage Against The Virus

OK, we’re all understandably a little scared. And anxious and nervous and needy. Not to mention concerned about having enough TP to last another week.

Stop a minute. COVID-19 is serious stuff. Whole newscasts consist of nothing but reporting on it, plus hour-long news specials filled with experts, numbers, data, statistics, and a daily dose “don’t worry, it will all blow over” from the orange-tinted mumbler-in-chief.

We’re racing from store to store, scouting out the chicken breasts, cheese snacks and sanitizing scrubs like no more will ever arrive. And don’t get me started on the paper towel police roaming the aisles.

Let’s be a little more rational about this. Stop listening to the Internet conspiracy kooks or the workplace wonks. I have two in my office; I call them the Doomsday Sisters. Their job seems to be convincing the rest of us we will be dead by either disease or lack of frozen vegetables by tomorrow.

I’m not suggesting we get over it. We may have a long way to go before the world is over this, and it will take science and compassion to get there. In the meantime, let’s find a little normal and do it every day:

Get outside and exercise (outdoor yoga while playing sitar music will annoy your neighbors stuck behind their miniblinded-windows). Ride a bike, walk, run, jump rope. Use weights, a medicine ball or stretch ropes inside.

Get outside and do all those projects you promised yourself: paint the garage, stain the deck, plant a garden, create a rock garden. If your elderly neighbors are housebound, offer to work in their yard.

Write real letters and read real books. In a digital world, we forget how much fun it is to be in touch with literature.

Read up on healthy living and eating and start doing it. If ever there was a need to keep the immune system at its peak, it’s now.

Write poetry, a novel or start a blog. Document your experiences at this time for later generations, so they know what to expect when the next pandemic arrives.

Mostly, don’t give up or give in to fear, especially if you’re older. A lot of people think that the corona virus is out to decimate the elders of the world because we are simply more vulnerable due to age and health issues. I say get mad, get even, and we will all get better.

Stuffed Into A Swimsuit

An older body packed into a bathing suit is sometimes not a pretty sight.

At worst, it’s environmentally unfriendly, depending on the size of the suit and what it (fails) to cover. Personally, I am fine with the idea of “let it all hang out” if what’s hanging out is yours. What’s mine, not so much.

I am a competitive swimmer, so the swimsuit situation is a little different. We have tech suits that offer varying degrees of compression. Of course, if you compress body parts, the compressed bits have to go somewhere. Usually, it means they crowd other bits or hang outside the back or side of the suit.

Tech suits are cool and they make you swim faster. But they come at a cost to your wallet (running up to $800 or more) and sometimes your breathing. I have seen swimmers unable to breathe normally after a race while wearing one of these suits.

And then there’s the issue of your excess protruding from various points. While it may look to the rest of the non-swimming world that the suit is too tight, we just tell them the tech suit is supposed to fit that way; it should be a size smaller than skin. Then we turn around and walk away with a waddle in our step, inching the material ever so delicately out of our butt.

I spent this weekend in just such a suit, competing with other (mostly) aging swimmers. We had a good meet, although it was cold. Nobody got hurt, everyone complained that their times could have been better (par for the course at every meet) and we’re all looking forward to the next one. Beats a weekend spent on the couch watching the latest political news or corona virus update.

Your Mission, Should You Decide To Accept It…

I have a short trip planned in April. Five days in Denver, and I am flying there.

I am already panicked. My airline of choice allows two carry on bags of very specific size, plus a purse. I have not been faced with the necessity of packing light in years. We’ve done most of our traveling by car, or nonstop flights and The Husband and I don’t/won’t/can’t seem to agree when it comes to sharing a suitcase. So we always over-pack. And while I don’t consider myself to be high maintenance, I consider my age sufficient reason to pack anything I conceivably need in the way of personal care. Clothes are less of an issue, though I admit I don’t like to wear something more than once. But I can adapt to multi-use when it comes to pulling on a pair of jeans two days in a row, or hand-washing a few things.

But doing without my beauty routine? I’m like a well-loved and carefully conditioned vintage automobile. You don’t wash it with dish soap and shine her with cheap auto store polish, do you? No; you order a special soap that gently removes the dirt, expensive wax just for her color and fine cloths and polishers to preserve the finish. Then there’s the interior and exterior detail products, wheel cleaners, window and headlight cleaners…it’s no different for me. I’m not demanding, I’m just a high-end product in need of other high-end products. It’s the price you pay for trying to look this good as you get older.

This will be a challenge: meeting the airline security regulations while managing my personal glam squad looks as a party of one with limited resources. I’m thinking a lineup of small, smartly matched and neatly labeled bottles, making me look every inch the sophisticated traveler.

Or I will hit the “travel minis” bin at the drugstore and stock up. Not as thoughtful but at least I won’t be leaving my looks at home.

Life In A Bind(er)

It’s finally done.

Our wills, trusts and medical and healthcare directives, that is.

Three meetings with the attorney, a big chunk of money paid to said attorney and a blue binder with a lot of documents neatly hole-punched, sorted, divided and tidy. That is what our life looks like now.

It’s a very clean and clinical way to view life and what comes after it: death of one or both of you and what happens to your stuff when you’re no longer around to decide who gets what. Many people prefer to leave it to fate or their spouse or their kids to get it right. We don’t have kids who will fight over what happens to the dozens of cat toys in the cardboard box, or whether The Husband’s record collection is really worth anything (never mind that most of the singers are themselves deceased or unheard of in this age of digital superstars with single names) or why on earth any sane person would have three pasta machines, three coffee makers, three electric grinders and 20 wooden spoons in the kitchen. We each have family members who are either not interested in any of our business or should be removed from our business after we’re gone (and while we’re here, for that matter).

Putting it all in writing, from your bank accounts, passwords and insurance policies to who inherits the sparkly rings, necklaces and T-shirts, is something everyone needs. It keeps your business out of the probate court, prevents fighting among family and gives you a shot at some afterlife revenge: leaving relations you don’t relate to out of the will. Properly executed instructions mean your money and worldly goods can benefit others as cash or donations and live on after you’ve moved on to the next adventure, and not in a trash bin. This blog is about aging, but this subject shouldn’t be. We can be called away from this mortal world at any time, and those we love cannot honor our wishes if they don’t have directions. Take the time and spend the money to spell it out for those you presumably leave behind. Then work your ass off to outlive them.

Don’t Shout…I’m Not Listening

For some strange reason, younger people seem to think gray hair and diminishing hearing capacity go hand in hand. It never fails that at least once a day, someone speaks to me in at a decibel level that’s reminiscent of an airplane takeoff.

Mind you, the person never asks if I can hear them speak at a normal volume; they just assume I can’t. I have no idea why people assume this. For what it matters, I’ve had my hearing tested and it’s still perfect, despite the fact that I tend to listen to podcasted music in my car at a level loud enough for a warning to pop up on my smart phone. Like I need my smart phone to babysit my choices at this point. Then again, technology and our government are watching most of my other moves already, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that my phone wants in on the action, too.

I’m at the point in life where I can still enjoy face to face conversation, the sound of a waterfall, the challenge of intellectual debate or wind rushing through the trees just before the thunderstorm invades my backyard. I’m also at the point where selective hearing is the perfect excuse to “miss” the well-meant but unwelcome and unasked-for advice, opinions and directives of others. People who tell me what I couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t do, behave or believe deserve to be boxed up and booted off the proverbial island and back to the land of Findsomeonewhogivesacrap.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to prep my bike for a long practice ride tomorrow. I can hear what you’re saying about the weather and not riding in the cold and how it’s crazy to ride after a long run today…I’m just not listening.

Retire Is A Four-Letter Word

I know, I know…you’re thinking my math is a little fuzzy. It’s not the word itself that’s causing all this $!&* in my head. It’s the process of filling out forms and getting numbers and going to a notary to make it all legal.

It’s the 21st century. Shouldn’t it be easier to claim a pension after years of labor? I guess that’s not the point. The money was promised to me. Ease of obtaining the money, not so much.

The truth is I am surprisingly grateful. Pensions are a small hedge against the world’s expenses. They don’t generally add up to much; my soon-to-be state pension is basically grocery money for The Better Half and I, with a little left over for a coffee date, when he can make time between motorsports-watching on TV. And when you consider how many people don’t retire with anything to count on except Social Security and whatever savings they have, it’s a blessing. And direct deposit means the money arrives safely and on time at the bank, rather than in my spendy little hands (or lost at the hands of our postal carrier, AKA Bad Santa, who does not understand that two houses in a development with the same number, can be located on different streets and NOT be the same place).

I don’t plan to retire from work entirely in the near future. I think there’s a future in the writing world for me, and as long as people pay me for freelance, I plan to keep going. I have bad habits to support, like gourmet food, needy pets, needy pets who like gourmet food, the whole triathlon gear addiction and competition fees and travel costs. Living the game of life means having to pay to use its toll roads and doing the maintenance and repairs when needed. The price you pay is worth the ability to play on.

Clothes Horsing Around

When you’re young, fashion and style matter. You constantly compare yourself and your wardrobe to what the other kids wear (“Mom, if you get me the bargain brand, I will totally get laughed out of school. Other kids wear the real thing!”) and feel sub-human when someone judges you by your logos and labels, rather than how you actually look on any given day. Advertising never helped. We were and are bombarded by reminders that regardless of expense, some names promoted by some celebrities are going to make you feel better about yourself.

Do tell.

As you age, you realize that little about fashion and style in the media matches real life. You’re not spending your time lounging on a yacht in tighty designer whities, perched on a Roman fountain resplendent in pricey resort wear or swooshing through the Swiss Alps attached to ski gear costing more than a month’s mortgage payment. You still need underwear, casual clothes and sporting equipment, but not an entire paycheck’s worth. You’ve (mostly) traded the opulent for the ordinary. You’ve moved into comfort mode.

There’s nothing wrong with splurges on the decadently expensive dark side if your budget can handle it. I have a “glam squad” to whom I turn to keep my hands and nails happily manicured, the hair on my head reasonably tamed and my body hair removed. And I do invest in expensive running shoes; these feet have been hitting pavement long enough to need good ones. But clothes shopping? I never did consider that retail therapy. It’s more like retail torture. I’ll shop if I need to replace items, or for a special occasion. But even idle window shopping is a wicked bore. I wait for sales, look for coupons and shop against the current season for the best deals. Aside from that, my clothes horse is more like well-used nag standing quietly in the barn, not bothering anybody and in need of nothing more than minimal feeding and occasional petting.

Food, Fattening Food (And Drink)

I am learning that aging and food are not necessarily good bedfellows, especially right before bed.

It used to be that I could eat whatever I wanted, enjoy caffeinated beverages and sleep soundly. Not anymore. Now I have to manage meals, limit liquids and avoid certain foods like they’re rugrats with unwashed hands during flu season.

Take raw garlic and onion. Actually, you have to take them away from me now. I cannot eat either one. I used to enjoy a slice of Bermuda or Georgia Sweet on a burger, or razor-thin sliced garlic flavoring olive oil and both topping a plate of pasta. Glorious dishes both gone, unless I saute the offenders until soft.

And tomato sauce-based foods are tough. A little of the red stuff is okay. Too much is an assault all the antacids I have won’t fix. And can anyone tell me why a slice of fresh, hot pizza hurts but the same slice stone-cold doesn’t?

And I’m almost a complete failure when it comes to alcohol. A half-glass of wine is a giggle fest at this point. More would put me to sleep faster than a dose of cold meds.

And why do calories add up so much faster as you get older? The food isn’t more fattening, but the effect on the body is food consumed equals pounds added. Nothing’s being used for fuel, it seems. It’s all going (literally) to pot. I have to work four times harder to burn off the same serving of fries I ate as a 20-year old, but I am only three times older. This does not compute, as the Will Robinson’s robot friend said.

I am grateful to not only have access to good food, but also the will and ability to cook, and the ever-present assistance of the Internet and cooking shows (and my ridiculous cookbook collection) for inspiration. So many older people, almost nine million in the U.S. go hungry, because they lack the funds in retirement, cannot work, support other family members or must choose rent or medicine over food. Food insecurity hurts everyone anywhere, but especially so here, in one of the wealthiest nations on earth. If your food source is secure, and your biggest complaint is that you cannot eat as much or what you used to because your age is outpacing your appetite, help others who need it.

I’m Awake…$!&% Hurts!

Staying active during the day was never really a big deal for me. As long as I was groovin’ and movin’ nothing about my older self bothered me.

Getting up in the morning is another matter. That’s when I tend to notice the twinges, pinches, pulls and pains that accompany a life lived running, swimming, cycling, having incidents and accidents and just not getting a rest day now and then.

I have a pain relief collection that rivals anything at your local drugstore. Shelves in my closet, not to mention a medicine cabinet separate from The Husband, with pills, salves, patches, gels, swabs, wraps, and lotions. Plus the high-tech heating pad tucked into the living room couch (trust me, I never put that away) and a small TENS device that I actually bought for the better half, but he hated and I wound up using with some success.

I’ve added prescription steroid cream to the collection recently, thanks to a cranky elbow. My personal favorite is the super-effective, super-stinky known as Biofreeze.™ I met up with this product when it was a freebie sample packet in a race goodie bag, and I’ve been hooked from first squeeze. The odor is enough to make your honey hunker down in another room for the night, but the stuff is magic. And you need this kind of magic to make it to a (mostly) pain-free morning sometimes.

Age should never stop activity, though it may alter its course, speed and frequency. Age may necessitate the intervention of a good masseuse, chiropractor or sports medicine practitioner. Invest in the help of experts. Have a “go for the glam squad” on your side to keep you moving. We’ll all get older. But we want to do it while we reset our PRs and make the kids look tired and exhausted doing it. I can tell you there’s nothing more satisfying than being the oldest person in the office and the only one who can climb three flights of stairs every morning to get there.

It Takes A Village To Look This Good, People!

Decades ago, I could wake up, roll out of bed, use my fingers to comb my hair, dash on a little makeup, throw on some clothes and head out the door in about a half-hour. OK, 45 minutes if I allowed time for a shower.

Now, not so much. Not that it takes more time, just that the time must be used better to hide more flaws and play up what’s left of my charms.

There’s all kinds of products out there for the mature set. Specialized cosmetics, creams, potions, skin lotions, treatments. All of it to give you a healthy and youthful glow. And don’t get me started on the hair thing. From conditioners and coloring to straighteners and relaxers, you could try something new on any given part of your body every day and die still trying to get to them all.

Then toss in the pharmaceutical treatments, including injections, and outright plastic surgery, and it’s no longer a youth movement. More like a shove over the cliff.

I’m not against looking your best, whether you’re all in turning back the clock or taking a sledgehammer to Mother Time. It’s something we can all strive for every day. And I’m guilty of maintaining my own medicine cabinet full of products, plus the spares on the “beauty shelf” in the walk in closet (hey, they were on sale!). The Husband long ago figured out he needed a medicine cabinet of his own; sharing is out of the question. And as for our bathroom shower…I’ve pretty much taken over the window ledge and the shower caddy with my products.

The short version of this: it takes a lot to look like you’re doing nothing at all as you age. Think of yourself like a fine and expensive automobile. You don’t use cheap filters, fluids and cleaning products for maintenance. You wind up using too much too often. Go for the best, use less and look fabulous. It’s an investment, not an expenditure.