The human body is an amazing thing, until it’s not. As I get older, mine seems to work less well and often actively against me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined in my youth. The scary part is this can happen to you, too! If our bodies are supposed to be temples, you better prepare for yours to be sacked and plundered before you turn 35.
I blame that old bastard, Father Time. The unrelenting march of that asshole’s clock has ravaged my body and left me withered and decrepit at the ripe old age of 38. My story is not unique. I believe all of us start to face the consequences of time on our bodies somewhere during our early 30s. Some of us are better at dealing with it than others, but I assure you, even they must work harder than before to slow the natural ageing process.
I, on the other hand, have somewhat resigned myself to falling apart bit by bit. I mean, I will do what I can to exercise, but I’m not going to spend $100 on Lululemon stretch pants and join a CrossFit class just because I’m getting old. In fact, I’m proud to say that, up to this point, I’ve managed to avoid learning what CrossFit even is, and I’d rather keep it that way. At least when you get older, you know what you don’t like.
Unfortunately, my sciatica doesn’t care whether I like it or not, and it’s here to stay. Apparently, the human spine only has a shelf-life of about 33 years before it begins to crumble like a cookie. My spine decided to pinch my sciatic nerve, in the process leaving me with pulsing sensations of pain from my booty cheek down my right side to my toes. When I say pain, I mean piercing, breathtaking, burning pain that explodes on the scene every time I move my leg. It’s the worst!
My troubles with sciatica began when I sat on a stool. That’s it. There was no crazy water skiing or roller disco accident where I did the splits and tore something. I just sat on a bar stool of average height, had a beer, ate a hamburger and stood up an old, broken man. I remember it feeling like someone had stabbed me in the ass cheek. After that, finding a position that would offer some relief required a level of contortionism that I am not comfortable with.
Acupuncture helped a little, exchanging the pain for mostly numbness, but I still have my flare-ups from time to time. That’s right, kids! Some day you may have to let someone stick your back, butt, leg and foot full of needles that don’t even have drugs in them to make your ass stop hurting (maybe). It may seem gruesome, but it’s an option and at least you know what is wrong. That may not always be the case when you are older.
Random parts of my body hurt for various durations without explanation now that I am older. I call these sensations “phantom pains” because they are a ghostly mystery to me. They come and go on their own and afflict various parts of my body. For example, I will be sitting comfortably when the side of my knee or arm will start to hurt. After a short time, everything goes back to normal until it happens again somewhere else. There is no rhyme or reason to it that I can discern. All I can say is if you see me randomly flinching, it might be a phantom pain.
It’s ridiculous that I can even have phantom pains when there are so many real pains about getting older, but that is the sense of humor we are dealing with in this tragic comedy. The gods love to smash their toys; they think it’s hilarious. They like to dress us up in grey hair and wrinkles while we try to fight them back with hair dye and Botox. It’s an arms race that makes the Cold War look like a squabble over dropped change.
I’d love to tell you there is a way to win. Plenty of other less scrupulous people will, but I’m not Ponce de Leon, and this is no fountain of youth. Eventually, your hair will turn grey or fall out, your skin will sag and your hearing and vision will go to shit. Your body will hurt in ways that it never has before. There is no escape. All we can do is commiserate and carry the heavy load of ageing together. Now hand me my cane and help me up because my ass is killing me!
**This piece first appeared in print on page 9 of issue #262 (March 26 – April 9, 2018)**