A couple of months ago, I celebrated my 60th birthday.
[To answer the question everyone has been asking me:] No, it doesn’t feel any different than 59.
But I definitely don’t feel as good as I did the last time I hit a milestone birthday.
At 50, I felt so good about myself that I purchased my first-ever European car, which I jokingly referred to as my mid-life crisis. Ten years later, I still have that car and it’s no longer a joke: Even minor repairs cost a small fortune and my sleek little automobile has peeling paint and a creaky transmission.
We have a lot in common.
Last month, we took a trip to New York with a friend who also was celebrating her 60th, my sister (who was celebrating her 57th) and her husband, my brother-in-law (also 60 that week). I had a great time, but I found myself struggling physically – a problem I that first became noticeable last year, when we traveled together to the UK and Italy.
The only exercise I truly enjoy is walking, so I was looking forward to walking around London, Rome, Florence and Venice. But my feet had other ideas.
You see, I used to care a lot about fashion – and I especially loved wearing pretty shoes. From the time I was 16 until my mid-30s, I wore 4″-heels to work five days a week. And then the pain started.
Or rather, the pains – because there’s more than one issue here: corns from wearing shoes with pointy toes. Callouses on my soles. The loss of padding on the bottom of the feet that occurs naturally with age. A weakness in my ankles that flares up if I dare to wear anything but flats.
I stopped buying pretty shoes a long time ago. In recent years, I started spending good money at places that specialize in shoes that are made for comfort, but even those cause me problems.
When my daughter was a baby, I noticed that kneeling a certain way hurt my knees. As the years have passed, the pain in my knees has become constant. I’m pretty sure it’s just arthritis. No, I have not seen a doctor for it yet (because I HATE doctors). But I did get a referral to a rheumatologist and will be making the call soon – because I don’t LIKE the way I feel.
It doesn’t help that I’m once again overweight. In fact, losing weight would likely solve some of the problems with my feet and my knees. I know I need to move more. Every night, I go to bed telling myself I’m going to get up early and put on workout clothes and get some exercise before I shower and start work… and every morning, the alarm goes off and I drag myself out of bed two hours later.
I’m working on that – mainly, by trying to get used to a CPAP machine my doctor swears will result in better slumber and infinitely better energy. So far, all it’s done is stop my apnea-induced snoring enough that my husband can sleep – so that’s something.
I think part of my problem lies in an inability to get to sleep in the first place, something I’ve struggled with since I was a kid and has become worse since I’ve had to deal with the joy of hot flashes. My husband seems to fall asleep the moment his head hits the pillow, while I toss and turn and think about all the things I should have done better and fret about all the things I need to face the following day. I am getting better about turning in earlier, but there are nights when my allergies kick in and I can’t breathe into the machine – and other nights when I simply cannot sleep. When that happens, I stop trying and move to the extra bedroom so I don’t wake my husband. After that, I wake up feeling sleepier than I do when I manage a full night on the machine – so I guess the CPAP is doing something.
“Of course, it’s doing something,” my doctor insists. “It’s preventing you from having a stroke or a heart attack.” These are not things I worried about when I was 40. But it’s at the top of my mind now at 60.
I could go on yet another diet. In fact, I do that nearly every single day – And by evening, I’m done. That’s if I’m lucky. You see, after 45 years of restricting what I eat in some form or another, I have trouble remembering what it is I’ve decided I’m going to forego THIS TIME. The truth is, after I went through the extremely low-calorie, low-fat, low-carb regimen that helped me shed 60 pounds nine years ago, my body doesn’t seem to respond to diets any longer. Believe me, I tried. But I think decades of on-again, off-again dieting have given me the same result that’s happened to all those Biggest Loser contestants who gained everything back.
And the truth is: I’m TIRED. I’m tired of feeling guilty every time I eat a piece of bread. I’m tired of being sober when everyone around me is enjoying a glass of wine. I’m tired of saying “no thank you” to dessert. I actually do prefer to eat a nice salad at lunch with just a teeny bit of dressing – but if I am craving a sandwich, by golly, I’m going to have one. Because I’m tired.
That doesn’t mean I’ve given up. I’m just trying to navigate the highway to hell – I mean, senior citizenship. As Auntie Mame said, “Life is a banquet, and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death.” Especially if they’re on a diet.