The Anatomy of Aging (or, The Best Year Ever!)

by Angela Doll Carlson February 14, 2017

In about eight months, I’ll turn fifty. I didn’t think it bothered me all that much. Aging and the ascending number on the pull-down menus were just a nuisance more than anything else but this past year I’ve been noticing the ticking clock, the changing calendar. I thought to myself, “This will be the best year ever, not counting down but leading up!” I thought that maybe I’d get in the best physical shape ever. I thought this would be the year I finish this damned novel or at least begin one I like better than this one. And there’s still time for it. I have about eight months for my artificial deadline to hit. 

I’m tired all the time. I ache, and sleep has become more and more elusive. My arms hurt. I’m dizzy. I tell all of this to the doctor after procrastinating the appointment for six months, after my husband’s three-hundredth request to call and “get it checked out.” I spend time telling her about my symptoms and then more time telling her why I think I have the symptoms– “It’s aging” I say, “or my slipping into menopause, or my fibromyalgia kicking up,” and she nods, and I continue, “but I thought I should check, anyway.”

Some days I feel motivated and ready for the day. I feel in control and willing to do whatever needs doing. Then, on the other six days of the week, I am avoiding it all, like the plague, this calm event of turning fifty looming in the distance. Eight months. I don’t want a party, or at least I don’t want to plan a party. I don’t want loads of compliments about how I just “don’t look it at all!” Let me amend that; I’ll gladly take those compliments if they are sincere. I can spot a counterfeit compliment a mile away. Pull out the true currency if you’d like but spare me the cost of telling me what you think I need to hear. 

The nurse took four vials of my blood while I told her about my binge watching “House” on Netflix. “I don’t know why I do it,” I said. “I hate medical stuff.” I had, in fact, just explained my propensity to faint when I have blood taken. The nurse was nonplussed by the long explanation of my quirk. I had to by laying down. I had to bend my knee to keep the blood flowing to my head. I told her that if I said I was going to lose consciousness that she should believe me and remove the needle. “The last time, the bruise took a month to heal.” 

What do I need to hear? 

I’ve been having this conversation with myself for the last two months. What do I need to hear? What do I need to know as I advance in years? The short answer is simple. I need to hear that I have time. I need to know that my pace is good, that I’m making good headway on this life thing. And I’m not convinced right now. This is why I panic. This is why I jump to quick fix weight loss. This is why I worry about the occasional dizzy spell or unexplained bruise and why I would rather watch television than do anything about it. 

While she drew the blood, four vials, she asked me questions. My latest binge watch was in the front of my head. It was probably the reason I even made that appointment. I was tempted to throw around a few completely idiotic self-diagnosis guesses, but I didn’t. I kept to the subjects at hand—watching three episodes in a sitting, guilt from watching three episodes in a sitting, Hugh Laurie’s impossibly blue eyes and the predictable pacing of a television show.

After two or three episodes I am in touch with the rhythm of the writers. I can sense the shifts, the rise and fall of action, the coming resolution. I know who will die and who will live. I can tell just how long someone will be on the hook before the story writer rides to their rescue. If I’m in doubt and heavily invested in the show or the season, I’ll cheat. I’ll look for the answer before I watch it. And this keeps me going. I need to know. I can’t wait to know.

I got the call about my blood work a day later. It was the nurse calling, not the doctor. She said it was all fine—thyroid, blood sugar, cholesterol, white count, CBC. All normal. I’m normal. I only had to wallow in the worry for a day, perhaps even a little less than a day. The nurse was mildly apologetic, “We’ll see if there’s a plan we can put together to deal with your symptoms.” She was sweet, she’s young, maybe bumping up against her thirties. It’s a long jump, that twenty years. “I guess I’m just getting older,” I say, and she has nothing to offer in return. 

The pacing is right. The rhythm, convincing. But I cannot look ahead to find the answers on this one. No Google search will tell me how this season will go, how this episode will end. Perhaps, I’ll go to the gym more often. I’ll eat the kale and walk to the park. I’ll leave the couch and turn off the television. Maybe I’ll finish the damned novel, or start one I like better. It’ll be the best year ever.




Angela Doll Carlson
Angela Doll Carlson

Author

Angela Doll Carlson is a poet, fiction writer, and essayist whose work has appeared in Thin Air Magazine, Eastern Iowa Review, Apeiron Review, Relief Journal Magazine, St. Katherine Review, Rock & Sling and Ruminate Magazine, among others. She has published two books, “Nearly Orthodox” and “Garden in the East.”



3 Responses

Lisa Geraghty
Lisa Geraghty

July 01, 2017

It’s funny how we make plans for ourselves. I turned forty last year. This year, when December rolls around, I’ll turn 41. In 2015, after I turned 39, I came up with this cutesy idea that I’d make a list of things to accomplish before I turned 40. I thought I’d call it my “40 before 40” list. I would travel abroad again, get in shape, access muscles I’d never seen, write more, go back to school, fix a complicated recipe, etc. Instead, I had several panic attacks, several bouts of crippling situational depression, faced the watery childhood memories of pain that I’d never faced, went to therapy for the first time, stopped speaking with my father for the first time, started speaking with my father, mourned the death of my grandmother, and got fatter than I’ve ever been. I did not accomplish what I’d planned for myself. But instead…. some other things happened. Some things, that perhaps Someone else had in mind.

Valerie Van Selous
Valerie Van Selous

May 23, 2017

I was the same way eight months before I turned 50. I continued to count: four months, two months, one month, one week and when THE day finally came, I was no where I planned. I was in the hospital. Out of the blue, my husband, at the old age of 54, had three small strokes! He was fortunate enough to have a full recovery and our days tick on. About one month after I turned 50, I recognized a recurrent theme in my life, one that I pray will also continue to gong as the years go by, is to stop counting and enjoying each day as it dawns!

Renee Long
Renee Long

February 23, 2017

So beautiful, Angela. Thank you for sharing. : )

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