In the past few months I have offered up quick accounts of my experience with mammograms, colonoscopy, and gastrostomy. Some might call that over-sharing. The fact is, I deliberately look for ways to either be funny or poignant about things that matter to people my own age, to try to humanize daunting milestones.
I figure if I can make fun of myself, or relate a positive ending to a scary scenario, perhaps others will be less afraid to tackle those things we all know we should be checking up on. Who in their right mind would voluntarily have tender bits squashed between glass plates or be probed with a medical Roto-Rooter? Up to this age, we have mostly just had the odd x-ray on creaky knees or aching backs, maybe a periodic pap smear.
Stuff is getting more real, and 50 years of wear and tear warrants a closer look.
Our generation, those born between 1950 and 1970, are the ones who feasted on convenience foods. Artificial flavorings, colors and sweeteners, along with a laundry-list of preservatives, were our newly-working mothers' saviors in the kitchen. We were the Tang Generation. We were Cheez Whiz, Twinkies and SpaghettiOs. TV dinners in partitioned tinfoil pans. Most of that stuff still exists to some degree, but for us then, they were new-fangled inventions, and we gobbled them up.
We have since learned we weren't maybe so forward-thinking after all, because our digestive and respiratory tissues have suffered. We have figured out that fructose and pesticides weren't wise. We are back to basic fresh foods responsibly-produced, but still need to keep apprised of our aging assumptions, which means doing all of those eeww-inducing and totally-humbling procedures.
I cannot tell you how many friends of mine, and their loved ones, have made themselves get screened and come back relieved. Some of them have come back with battle plans. A few of them waited too long and are now fighting for their lives.
Some of us are going to get sick no matter what we do; it's the crappiest part of getting older. We shore up one another as best we can, try to be understanding and helpful without intruding upon private pain and circle the wagons. Being as proactive as we can about our own bodies is the least we can do not just for ourselves but for those who love us even when we are in denial.
So, I figure I tell you about my colonoscopy and conquering a 30-year fear in the hands of compassionate professionals, maybe you'll think about booking your own Kodak Moments — thanks to my friend Gail for that nickname. Google the terms and understand what's at stake.
Time itself feels like it's stuck on 78 rpms and the needle skips. So get out there. Do the stuff that makes you feel all puppy-tail-wiggly and consciously enjoy it. Be present enough to forget your stresses for the duration of a belly-laugh. Hug somebody who doesn't get enough of them. Sing theme songs from sitcoms only your contemporaries will remember. If you forget a few of the words, just make them up and keep singing.
Have a dance party with a giggly little kid. Let them paint your toe nails. Boogie at the bus stop to keep warm on a wintry day. Wear your softest blue jeans and comfortable shoes and take a friend's dog for a walk; they get an hour's grace and you get a little fresh air with a happy canine companion in whose company it will be tough not to grin. Send an anonymous fan letter to a friend. Bake bread so your house smells like heaven for the day. Lose yourself in a favorite book. Try something you've always had a private yen for. (My Mum's was archery). Love yourself a little. It's all Good Medicine.
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