Acting Your Age

One night two weeks ago I woke from a deep sleep around midnight coughing and sputtering and with an awful burning in my throat, my chest. Sitting upright in bed I struggled to catch my breath, swallowing hard and fighting through the pain it caused me, trying not to cough to wake the entire upstairs of my house.

Ah, acid reflux, we meet again. My crime? Consuming two meatballs and one small glass of red wine after 8:00pm.

This episode was particularly rough. Typically I can come downstairs and sit in my chair, dozing until the worst of it is over. I can crunch a couple of Tums and take some small sips of water and eventually fall asleep again. But this night was very different in that I couldn’t even sit down. I walked the main floor of our house wrapped in a blanket, coughing weakly like a Victorian consumptive desperately trying not to disturb the acid that was staying put for now. It was precarious at best and one false move could force another eruption and my body was not willing to experience that.

And so I walked and walked, and every so often attempted to sit down, but then within seconds I was back to walking, and when eventually my body calmed itself down and I was able to go back up to bed, to lie down and sleep, it was nearly 5:00am. Our alarm goes off at 6.

I take medication for acid reflux and it has been a true lifesaver for the past several years, but not even it can handle some of the more serious transgressions, sadly. I need to be more careful, of course. But I sometimes forget.

I think it’s the forgetting that is making me hyper aware of my aging self, my aging body. Not forgetting as in losing memory, but forgetting that there are just things that aren’t possible anymore. Eating late, unless I’m planning on staying up past midnight, is definitely one of them. And that night of lost sleep took its toll, and it honestly took me several days to recover from that, so there’s something else that I forget. That a bad night’s sleep can ruin your week. A mantra of sorts, but a kind of depressing one if you ask me.

I am about halfway through You Look Good for Your Age: An Anthology, edited by Rona Altrows, and so the theme of aging—body and mind and soul—is clearly on my mind.

In this book of essays, stories, and poetry, the writers—all women—confront the inevitable. Some stories are crushingly sad, some are funny as hell, and they are all brutally honest looks at not only aging, but the ageism woman face as they age and how that can and does shape our perspective of it.

More than once during the reading of this collection, I have closed the book and stage whispered, “TOO REAL!” And, much like the “I’m in this photo/tweet and I don’t like it” meme, I have seen myself in several stories and have related to so many, and that is the appeal of this book. Relatable? For a woman of a certain age, indeed.

I will be 55 in January. I know that isn’t old age, but I think I’m starting to be able to see it from here. I’m looking to the future and it is reflux. And bad joints. And a shorter temper. But I’m planning on getting even older though, in spite of it all, so there’s that I guess.

And it’s not all terrible, as the women of You Look Good for Your Age will tell you. Some of aging is about power, about reclamation and about growing into yourself. And who doesn’t want that at any age?

I am really enjoying this book and I am grateful for the opportunity to read it, and so very grateful to the contributors for their incredible stories.

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