Staying healthy as I get older hasn’t gotten easier. It’s not that I’m prone to illness; I cannot remember the last time I was sick. I had no reaction from my two Pfizer shots, and the flu passed me by again, for the umpteenth year in a row. More than likely, I’m just the lucky beneficiary of virus- and disease-resistant genes and a pretty good immune system.
This isn’t about being sick. It’s about general health and feeling good and energetic all day. I guess I’m getting older, because my usual minimum effort approach to staying in shape isn’t paying off with the same dividends. I eat less and gain weight. I exercise more and get weaker and slower. Like my mother always said, “Getting old is a dirty trick.” I used to wonder what she meant by that, and now I know: just when you figure out what’s important in life and how you should be spending your time, the universe says, “Not so fast!” And suddenly, you have to work a lot harder to do all those things you want to do.
Another dirty trick that life plays on us aging women is menopause. Just when you really need more sleep, it does something crazy to your hormones that makes you wake up at four o’clock in the morning. Every single morning, like clockwork. Wide awake, like you just downed a whole Double Shot Espresso Grande. Thank goodness I’m past that point in life, but at least I made the most of it while it lasted: I wrote an entire book in the hours between 4 and 6 a.m. one year not so long ago. Then I was wiped out the rest of the day, every day, from a lack of sleep. If you’re in a similar situation, I don’t recommend this method for dealing with menopause. You should probably see a doctor instead.
So now I’m even older, and though I’m still struggling with the whole health-as-I-age thing, I do have the sleeping part down. I stopped setting an alarm clock years ago, which has done wonders for my mental health. Now I sleep until I’m ready to get up, which is seldom 4 in the morning. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I still sleep on a waterbed. I’ve slept on one since the 1980s, and though I’ve been tempted by the fancy new mattresses out there these days that do all sorts of cool things (I’m not kidding – they shake, rattle, roll, and charge your cell phone while you sleep), I’ll probably continue to sleep on a water mattress till the day I die. They’re always warm, and if you get bored, you can bounce on them and pretend you’re sleeping in a boat on the ocean. I don’t know why waterbeds went out of style. If I do wake up in the night, I turn on an audiobook and am out in minutes. I probably listened to the 30-hour-long audible “Blackwater: The Complete Caskey Family Saga” five times because I slept through so many chapters and had to keep rewinding them. But it does the trick, and I wake up rested.
Recently, I solved my other health issues too. Instead of worrying about my weight, I bought bigger pants and stopped getting on the scale. And instead of trying to keep up with the younger folks on the trail, I hike alone or with old people who are slower than I am. Because Mom was right; getting old is a dirty trick. But you can beat it at its own game. You just need a few tricks of your own.
This blog first appeared as a column in the May 10, 2021 Gazette North Springs Edition.