Monday, 16 March 2015

Things my mother taught me

Me (11), Mum (48), my sister Marian (7)

A friend with a twisted sense of humour rang this morning and asked, in a mock-sincere voice, "Tell me, how does it feel to be almost seventy?" My reply was a common two-word expletive!

When my mum was in her mid-sixties and I was a mere 28, I asked her what it felt like to be her age and she told me, "Like a young woman trapped in an old woman's body."

Now, I know exactly what she meant and she was so right. My personality, my spirit, my humour, my like and dislikes, even my ambitions, haven't changed one bit. What has changed is my energy level, my sex drive, my optimism and my ability to carry out certain tasks without pain and joint stiffness getting in the way.

I would say that three days out of seven, I wake up feeling so aching and exhausted that there seems little point in getting out of bed. I cancel a lot of arrangements because I just don't feel well enough to enjoy them. I can no longer play the guitar as my fingers won't bend sufficiently. I am now enduring the legacy of the severe whiplash I suffered when I was 40, in the form of a stiff, painful neck which produces frequent headaches, and permanent pain mid-back and in the lumbar region.

I take supplements. Vitamin D, zinc, fish oils. I have recently added Co-enzyme Q10 in the hope of increasing my energy and decreasing my blood pressure. I read up on herbal and homoeopathic remedies, I tinker, I experiment with this and that, which was why I started this blog in the first place. I still hope that my current exhaustion is just a passing phase and that I will wake one day full of the joys of spring. After all, it has happened once this year, about three weeks ago. I got up and started whistling and singing, then stopped in my tracks and thought, 'Wow, this is what normal must feel like!' But it didn't last. Next day, I was back to poor sleep and feeling tired out once again.

I know I shouldn't write myself off because of my advancing years, though it is tempting to think I've had it! Some 70-plus-year-olds are bouncing with vitality. My sister and her husband, for instance. He, poor man, has just broken his leg in two places while skiing. He's 75 but is looking forward to being back on the slopes next season. My sister, 67 this year, walks miles in the Lake District fells every day.

My mum was very wise. She was fascinated by health and the human mind and body and would have loved to have been a doctor, but was forced to leave school and start work at 14 to support her ailing parents, she being the only child. I have just remembered a dream I had once, involving her. In it, I was crippled and in a wheelchair and she stood in front of me, telling me to get out of it and run. So I did. I stumbled and swayed and suffered pain at first, but the more I ran and the faster I got, the better I felt, until all my aches vanished away.

I think the core message was exercise. Something I haven't done much of for a long time, since my gym kept having the lockers broken into and robbed so I stopped going. There are no parks around here, no places to walk. I do a few desultory stretches at home and have put on a stone in weight since this time last year. There is a council swimming pool, but it is two buses and a long walk away, if you don't have a car. Yes, I know; excuses, excuses. But who fancies shivering at two bus stops on a cold winter's day when they are still damp from their swim?

Last Saturday night, I was at a 40th birthday party. The band was great and nothing could keep me off the dance floor. I was the oldest guest and I danced the most. Yesterday, all the pain in my back and neck had gone. Today, it's creeping and creaking back again. But I know the answer: get off my typing chair and dance. As I wrote in an old song of mine:

I was not a model child. Sometimes I ran wild until they caught me.
Then at times I'd look around, hear the sounds the teachers hadn't taught:
Screams of a dollar hot in the hand,
Scenes I could not understand...

For life is a search after gold, they tell you.
If your life could be bought or be sold, they'd sell you -
Don't give them a chance, dance away, don't give them a chance, dance away.

So that's what I need to do: dance away. Watch this space, to the accompaniment of Absolute Radio '70s!

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