I used to be undaunted. Scrubbed the kitchen floor on hands and knees with no repercussions. Carried dirty laundry down three flights of stairs to the washer in the basement with no problem. Changed the linens on four beds without a twinge.
I could scour the shower stall and not even be winded. Planning and cooking a Thanksgiving meal for 14 people was no problem. Neither was driving at night.
But things have changed – and so have I. The mind is still willing, but sometimes the body is weak. Muscles are not what they used to be. Now they yell at me when I abuse them. And they punish me with pain. They used to be so much more cooperative. Bones ache and creak when I carry something that’s too heavy for them. Up until recently, we were always such good friends.
Sometimes I miss the complete cooperation that used to exist between my mind and my body. Whatever the mind commanded, the body performed. But now with age, it feels as if the body has become more directive. It has assumed more control.
“You can’t do it that way any more,” it tells my mind. And so I search for and must find another way for the body to do the mind’s bidding.
I use a steamer to clean the floor tiles and an electronic gadget instead of just a brush to scale the mildew from the shower stall walls. We moved from the challenge of our split-level home to our present residence, where the laundry facilities are just outside of the bedroom. And speaking of bedrooms, the kids each have homes of their own and change their own linens, so I’m down to just one bed.
My body thanks me for this recognition and acceptance of new limitations and for the creative way my husband and I manage to work around the challenges that often come with the aging process. Sometimes we use a hand cart to load and unload the car. A magnifying glass erases the difficulties of small-print instruction booklets. And contrary to the earlier years of our marriage, today all the garbage cans have wheels.
Now my body talks to my mind with more power than it had previously. They have learned to compromise and cooperate with each other in new ways in order to get jobs done. As I have aged, a new flexibility has emerged between these two very personal entities. They consult with each other in order to accomplish a task. And I can feel their dialogue.
“Hey, can you get this wooden table out of the car and carry it out to the lanai?” the mind inquires of the body. “Not without help,” the body responds.
And from the garage, out comes the hand cart.
I respect this change in the face of challenges. It allows me to do whatever needs to be cleaned, carried or fixed with confidence that between them both, the mind and the body will find a way to get the job done. And I have realized that as I age, a new and interesting kind of creativity between mind and body is emerging. They respect each other with more sensitivity. And I am grateful to both of them for working so hard to do my bidding. They continue to empower me.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”