The Wisdom of the Ancients

“And gosh, I’m getting this cracking in my left knee which is really painful…”

I knew I had reached middle-age when my conversations would always open up with a smattering of health issues.  While I don’t have a walker or ride a Rascal, the inevitable creep towards senior citizenship marches on.  And it’s hard to believe because it comes out of nowhere.  You’re in your 20’s, you feel indestructible and then you get a major injury.  Five years later another injury.  You don’t feel as vigorous but it’s just hard to tell since it happens slowly over time.  And the young don’t understand, you know the saying the youth is wasted on the young?  Totally true, you don’t realize how good you have it.  I believe that the decade between 25 to 35 represents your physical and mental peak so anyone who’s in that age range, enjoy it!  Cause it ain’t gonna last forever.

As a youngster, I played soccer, basketball and ran track in high school.  I had a near 40″ vertical leap and would run myself into exhaustion, sometimes literally throwing up during practice.  You could say I loved my endorphins and they loved me.  At the ripe young age of 20 I had my first devastating knee injury, tearing up my ACL and MCL.  Three years later I tore it up again playing softball but it was never really never right after the first injury.

Around 27 I tore my shoulder up lifting.  It was so bad that I could barely turn the steering wheel of my car, one-handed.  Diagnosis was a torn rotator cuff or stretched capsule, I never got it checked out.  Years later reviewing an X-ray of my hand the doctor says your thumb is fine but your wrist, it’s broken!  Old injury, there’s a clean break right here and oh gosh, now my wrist is aching.  And I’m pretty sure my right wrist is also broken in the same fashion but thankfully you’ve got four bones in there.  So the gist is if you play hard, injuries happen.  And you typically don’t “un-injure” yourself over time. Rehab and PT is only for muscles and maybe tendons but when you tear and break things, they are never the same again.  Over the years those injuries and aches accumulate along with the scars but I see it as the price you pay for a life well-lived.  I mean what are you going to do?  Stay inside and play video games all day?!   I feel badly for those of you that do…

But to me those injuries and breaks are badges of honor.  Things you earn over time and manage because you got to live your life.  What they don’t tell you, young’un is the OTHER stuff that can happen over time.  Things that happen which aren’t as prominent and guess what?  They’re just as bad.  In my mid-30’s I developed allergies to dust-mites.  Was never allergic to pretty much anything but now, suddenly, I’m coughing a lot, wracked with sinus infections and more.  The allergies cause irritation and mucus which can overwhelm your sinuses.  Inflammation occurs, fluids build and the next thing you know you’ve got a bacterial infection, you’re sick as a dog for three weeks and it’s time for some antibiotics.

Beyond the sinuses I had some cosmetic issues, ingrown hairs to be exact.  For some reason, my hair in the beard area would sometimes grown UNDER the skin causing inflammation, discoloration and scarring.  Not life-threatening but just nasty stuff.  Again, never happened to me before.

And then finally I had a series of allergy attacks, in medical terms, facial edemas.  We’re talking swelling, closing down of the breathing passages for 6 – 24 hours.  They would happen monthly and it was a mystery to me.  Over time it was uncovered that I was NOW allergic to NSAID’s or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain meds.  We’re talking aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aleve.  You name it and it was potentially an allergy attack waiting to happen.  And they were so bad I would look like I had Downs syndrome.  So now I can no longer take NSAID’s which is sort of a problem given all my knee problems.

So yeah, youth is wasted on the young and over the years you’ll come to realize how lucky you were in your 20’s.  The machine was still working well with little or few ailments to slow you down.  Over time that’ll change and you may not even realize it.  But take a piece of advice from one old guy that it’s just around the corner waiting for you.  Even with all my injuries I’ve still snowboarded, rock-climbed, kayaked, white-water rafted and rode a motorcycle full-time.  You just have to be smarter about it.  Because while your body may fail you over time, your mind (thankfully) just keeps getting better and better with wisdom and maturity.  Would I trade it back for a brand new body that was injury-free?  Probably not because like my injuries, wisdom is one of those badges of honor.  So just get out of the way, Sonny.  It’s 5pm and time for dinner….

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