As I mentioned in July, we recently downsized and traded two cars for one (a Subaru). After about a week of driving the new car, I realized a major difference in it and my old Toyota: On the Toyota, the number right up top center on the speedometer was 60, and in the Subaru, the number in that same position in 80. As I drive mostly highway miles on my commute, I have always been used to seeing the arrow point straight up to 60; now if I go only by the arrow, I would be speeding at 80. I can't just look at the arrow for guidance anymore; I will have to watch the numbers until I get used to the new setup.
I have to continually remind myself the same lesson as I age. For many years, I have gotten relatively comfortable in my own skin. I have understood my limits and my capabilities. I knew how much weight I could lift, how flexible I could be, how fast and far I could walk. After a few years have gone by, though, as I've aged, the speedometer has changed. I'm so used to seeing the arrow at one point, and forget that a few more years on the calendar means trading in for a new, different speedometer, and the same rules no longer apply.
I think that's one of the hardest parts of aging. You get used to your body behaving and responding in a certain way, then one day it fails you. A joint will crunch painfully or your digestive system won't cooperate or your eyes aren't as sharp; even your hair won't behave like it used to. Yet, somehow we assume things will never change, and then when they inevitably do, we prefer to avoid reality and pretend everything is the same. After all, that arrow has been pointing straight up for a long time now; if it's still straight up, everything must be normal and familiar - in other words, nothing has changed. We may even panic. It can't have changed! How can we act/look so old when we still feel so young at heart? I've heard ER tales of baby boomers who were sedentary all week and then on the weekend, participated in a few too many basketball games or tennis matches, because, after all, that's what they used to be able to do, right? Well, their muscles or bones or heart or some other body part didn't think so. It can be disheartening when you realize your body and stamina have deteriorated. My husband Ed said he was totally deflated a few months ago when he caught a glimpse of his 63-year-old thin lower limbs in the mirror and thought, "Oh no! When did I get my Daddy's legs?!"
Alas, with aging, we know that change is inevitable. Just ask the billions of dollars we consumers spend on products which promise to turn back time. Experts tell us to embrace the change. I don't go that far; I think, however, realizing that change has occurred is paramount. You can't be driving 80 mph when you can only handle 60, and you need to be aware that the speedometer you have been used to seeing has shifted its landmarks. You can't assume things based on the past. Every day is a new day with new challenges, every birthday has more to teach us, and every year our bodies remind us that things, they are a'changin'.