I blew out my rotator cuff a couple weeks ago. Actually, I think it had been disintegrating for some time, and I’d been in denial. I’d been scaling rock walls at a gym with my boyfriend and lifting heavier weights than I was used to. And one day, after several weeks of feeling a twinge in my shoulder when I shifted positions in bed, the twinge spiked to a sharp pain down my arm.
Fastening a bra or pulling a shirt over my head was excruciating. Sex became less athletic. My chiropractor confirmed that I’d pulled my rotator cuff and that it would take 2-3 months to heal. He told me not to lift my arm above my elbow, so yoga and certainly rock-climbing are verboten. I’m doing Theraband exercises and hoping that my injury will heal it self so I don’t have to have surgery.
When I posted the news on my Facebook page, and explained that rock-climbing was the culprit, friends responded with their condolences. One person included this hashtag that made me smile in a dark-humor kind of way: #not25anymore. The hashtag felt like a news flash. My reaction was: I’m not? You mean I can’t exercise like I did when I was in my 20s?
Yes, my body shows physical signs of five decades of living: dwindling periods, slackening skin, vertical lines around my mouth. My hands, certainly, give away my age.
But I don’t feel the way 52 sounds. I’m energetic. I weigh what I did when I got married 21 years ago. I’ve never felt the way the culture says I should feel at my age. When I read the majority of articles aimed at boomer women, or see commercials featuring middle-aged people looking weary, I don’t relate. At. All.
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My refusal to buy into society’s depressing messages about midlife, especially women in midlife, has kept me feeling young. But this injury has made me realize that living in total denial of my physical age is foolish. I need to get that colonoscopy I’ve been putting off. I need to get a bone density scan. I should moderate my sugar intake, be more diligent about taking calcium. But most of all, I want to be more mindful of the gifts of middle age, those things I often take for granted.
I’m grateful for my sharp mind, an intellect that has deepened over time.
I’m grateful that I no longer look to other people to give me answers. I learned this the hard way, when I woke up at 50 realizing that I’d been living someone else’s life, and it hadn’t worked out well.
I’m grateful that I have a clear self-concept, that I’m not the unformed young woman who clung to externals for her identity.
I’m grateful that I no longer waste copious amounts of time worrying what other people think.
I’m grateful about a lot things, but especially the awareness that fuels this blog: that one’s appeal, sexual or otherwise, comes in large part from confidence and maturity. And I wouldn’t trade that for youth. Ever.