Often I have looked into the eyes of one of those wonderfully aged and craggy faces, that artist love to photograph and paint, and believed that I could read their lives, that it was all written there, clearly to read. I have often admired what I saw. I could believe with ease, that they were so clearly loved, admired and held as an elder of their family, respected for their wisdom, and admired for their strength. I too felt respect for them, regarded them as someone to emulate, an image that one day, in the oh, so far off future, I hoped that I would match. I never realised just how much of a hypocrite I could be, that most of us in this modern world could also be. If there is one thing, that most of us crave more than anything, it is youth, at least, in our appearance, if nothing else. We spend more money than is logical, on creams and potions to spread on our skin, in the hope of holding back those years, and in an even deeper hope, of removing those that already exist. We flout the words of the scientist, who tell us continually, that they do nothing, that these beautifully crafted container, created by marketing men, are the only beauty they provide, but we buy into the dream that they sell. If it were free, there are few who wouldn’t queue up to go under the surgeon’s knife, for that nip, tuck or gentle smoothing. Not one of us really wants to be old, no matter how we admire those who are.
Right by my desk, there is on the wall a photo board. It contains seven picture of myself when I was 32. They were taken by a friend as I needed some pictures for some publicity material when I was a DJ. Of all the pictures, ever taken of me, they are my favourites, the reason they are there. I see them daily and what I see, is still the person that I am, not just inside in an off the cuff fashion, honestly, my soul feels not a second older. Who and what I see there, is the pure essence of me, captured in a series of moments, but each and every single one, pure me. For all their perfection, they are a compounded of cruelty. Yes, I am 20 years older, but what my health has done to me, means my physical body, seems to have aged 3 times over for each of those years. So, OK, 92 might be a step too far. But what I see in the mirror, what I feel each time I move, breath or even think, doesn’t match anywhere near my true age. I am locked inside what I would have once thought of, as the ultimate nightmare, yet, here I am, somehow happy, somehow alive and somehow a person I recognise less, than the person in those photo’s. This is one of those missing symptoms, one of the things that is held as a secret, an unspoken truth of chronic illness. No matter what, there is no cream, no surgeon who can save us from it, our health ages us faster, well beyond our years, not just inside, but all too visible.
When we imagine a truly old person, without fail, we see someone who is unsteady in every movement, every word and even in every thought. Take away that snow white hair, those wrinkles and lines of distinction, but hold fast to everything else that age does, illness does it too. There is no element of old age, that isn’t found just a clearly in the lives of those whose’s health has left them. It isn’t age that makes people old, it’s their health. If you don’t believe me, think again, there are those wonderful few, who despite their years, their hair or their skin are as sprightly as some half their age. Why? Because they are fit and they are healthy. Most of those things we think of as age have little to do with it, they have far more to do with health. From the conventional layman’s version of the word through to the most scientific of the medics. If I had sat down 30 years ago and made a list of how I would expect an elderly person to be, from their movements to their lifestyle, I would have written an abbreviated version of my life and of me, as I am now. Take away my pain levels and my spasms, and the comparison is uncanny, and that, I don’t like. It is no great surprise that when you read the descriptions of different illnesses and their outcomes, that they don’t put it blankly and clearly in that way. If they did, the truth would be even harder to bare. As I said, no one, want to grow old, even fewer, want to do it, before their time.
Just as you will hear old people saying, “In my head, I’m still 20”, well in my head “I’m still 32”. Twenty, were a horrific years, 32, was glorious. So I will settle for 32, I’m not greedy, or wanting the totally impossible, I just want back what I have lost and never should have. If I had continued as I did then, weight conscious, body conscious and mind aware, I wouldn’t have prematurely aged, I would have stayed as I was, young for my years. But now, almost every movement is painful, every word is stuttered or forgotten and there is a tremor in my life that permutates every element of it. Although only clearly seen on the surface at times, for every tremor that’s see there is another deeper one, unseen but felt inside, that never goes away. I move slower, I move in an unsure way, that has grown out of pain, tiredness, uncertainty and weakness, what is there-there that an elderly person wouldn’t say. I get lost in my mind, memories hold me and I drift apart from the world, even when I should be here. My concentration often escapes me, just as my words do and the memories I actually needed. I wander around, unsure of where I was going, what I was meant to be doing and why I am even moving at all. My body fails me when I need it. I fear the next fall, as I’m too weak to be able to stop it happening or to find my feet again when it does. My bladder now has a mind of its own and occasionally so do my bowels. I am frequently left embarrassed and in need of assistance, just like I was when I was a child. Those bottles of pills and tinctures keep increasing, I rattled years ago, now the vibration of my tremors turn them to dust before any sound is heard. When my voice tremors, it tremors through pain, but the sound is no different to that I have heard so many times. My body isn’t mine, this isn’t me, I’m somewhere inside, still smiling, still young. Not one of those things have I not heard in the voice of someone as much as double my age. It isn’t our age, that taking our bodies, it’s our health and mine has proved it, just as others do too, but that doesn’t make it fair.
When I look in the mirror, I don’t see distinguished grey hair, there are far too many there, but I hide them with bright purple dye. I don’t see those deep lines of a skin that have seen too many years. Maybe, just maybe, those creams do have an effect, or maybe, just like right through my life, I don’t look my age. My health may mean that I will never in years make it to be truly old, but it is making sure that whether or not I like the fact, I’m not going to miss a second of just how I feel.
Please read my blog from 2 years ago today – 15/11/2013 – Take this away
I had my tablet there in front of me on the kitchen counter, there was as often, one thing missing that required to be found from the depths of my drugs cupboard. I was so glad that Adam was also in the kitchen as the…..