Write an anonymous letter to someone you’re jealous of.
Dear Younger Me,
I just got home from having yet another MRI. The first one showed two herniated disks, along with some stenosis, osteoporosis and osteopenia. In other words, my back is falling apart. The pain doc thinks he saw a third herniation between my lumbar and thoracic spine, so back I went today to have a better picture taken of that.
So why am I envious of Younger Me? I don’t know if you’d really want to call it envy. I think it’s more a sense of wishing I’d understood how blessed I was for so many years of my life. Maybe if I’d taken better care. . . .but the docs are all telling me this is arthritic degeneration, not really preventable over the long term. Still, maybe if I’d only understood how good I had it back when I was a kid, a college student, a young mom, a teacher–before things started to quit working quite so well.
So as I was lying in that tube today, I was thinking of two different things. One was music. Nothing new there. I almost always have music running in my head. Today I was replaying many of the hymns I loved years ago, and still love.
The second thing was to picture myself when I was little, and growing up. I’ve never been a star athlete, but I could run and play with the best of them. I was a pretty good rope-jumper. I had good rhythm, and that made me a really good tetherball player when I was about ten. I could take on most of my friends at hopscotch, and I was wicked good with a hula hoop 🙂
I loved to swim. I learned when I was about ten. The memories of that summer don’t fade. We’d walk a little over a mile to the municipal pool, swim all afternoon, walk back home. Strong, never tired, never knowing muscular or joint pain and never even thinking there may be a time when I would.
In junior high, I made the girls’ volleyball team. Amazing! I had already achieved my top height of only 5’1,” but I was still pretty good at the net, and I had a great serve.
I’ve never been a fast runner, but I could run. I loved to rollerskate. That was back in the day when your skates clamped on your shoes, and you needed a key to tighten them up.
Gym was not my favorite class, but I did pretty well at the calisthenics. I could smack a home run in softball, and if I didn’t trip over my own feet, I was a passable guard in basketball.
The point of all this, Dear Younger Me, is that it was effortless, and I envy you the freedom of movement. I envy you the strength in your back to bear four healthy babies and lug them around; to do laundry in a wringer washer, hang it out to dry, scrub the floor on hands and knees, change several beds without back pain, ride a bike, go for a long, long walk. I envy you the energy that you took for granted back then, even when you began to notice you were getting tired faster than you used to.
I don’t want to go back. Don’t misunderstand me. But I wish I had valued the energy it took to take care of four teenagers, teach 8-9 hours each day, care for a house and a husband, work in the church in a variety of positions.I was busy, active, and thought very little of the coming years when “This Old House” would start to show its age.
My knees went first. Arthritic degeneration. Do you remember, Younger Me, when you thought you could play tetherball up at school camp when you were a teacher? Came down pretty hard on that knee, and it was never the same. Both of them got replaced when I was still in my ’50’s.
Then the aching shoulders, and smaller joints like wrists and ankles began to show their age. I shrugged and kept on going, slowing down if and when I needed to.
But now, in my late ’60’s, this I can’t just shrug off. The pain is keeping me humble. I’m beyond thankful for the treatment that is available these days. I’m trying not to allow myself to walk like a crippled up little old lady, but sometimes I just get tired. Chronic pain is a demanding companion, leeching energy and motivation out of me.
You didn’t know how good you had it, Younger Me. Really, you didn’t.
But there are benefits. Grandchildren. Less responsibility to go along with less energy. Good health care. A good bed. A job I can still do to keep me sharp and involved with other people.
So, Younger Me, it’s not all downhill. Every stage of life has its ups and downs, and I choose to dwell on the ups. I’ll be fine. I always am.