The older I get, the younger I (want to) feel, especially when it comes to illness. I don’t really know what’s going on a lot of the time and it’s scary. I get confused and I have so many questions: Why are you squeezing that so hard and Dude, where haven’t your fingers been today? Am I sure I haven’t seen this office on Dateline and is your diploma in Spanish? Why exactly are you being so dismissive of my questions?
There’s a lot to parse through, just to get an appointment, let alone with the “right” person. How do I know any of it is right? Just before I fall asleep some news item finds its way into my consciousness about toilet water being used during procedures at dentist offices (actual news story) or how four hours of cardio striptease a week reduces your risk of ever dying (you’re right, I probably made that one up). Not to mention some “old-world” and “holistic” practices that always sound convincing, but lack a certain je ne sais quois, French for insurance company compatibility. It kind of makes me want to throw a fit and pitch the world’s greatest temper tantrum every time I have even a sniffle. “I have to be mindful of what I eat and how much rest I get? Dateline said to just eat more acai berries! What am I, a genie?!” (I shake an angry fist and sell my stock in acai berry-flavored Vitamin Water, it’s all appropriately dramatic I assure you).
My frustration grows still when my body gets a little too human for comfort. I know that I’m an adult. But I still [want to] feel young. I still resent having to be home and stay in bed. I still resent that my friends get to go out and play (all night, with fried foods and alcohol!) and I can’t. “Everyone has something,” no longer offers any consolation as you get older. Your asthma flares, you throw your back out doin’ the Dougie, your skin freaks out, your bones and muscles ache, your breasts plot gravitational mutiny against you at night, your hair falls out, the medicine makes you feel like shit. None of it makes growing up seem very appealing. And no one else, you imagine, could ever be going through the same thing. In a lot of ways each new illness feels, to me anyway, like getting breasts and a menstrual cycle at the same time, every time. I know intellectually this was all bound to happen at some point to me and to plenty of other people. But my brain digs its heels in the ground, “But this’ll never happen to him! It didn’t happen to her yet! Does this mean I can never go swimming again?!”
I guess… just as I had no choice with growing boobies or getting a period, I have no choice with illness now. It’s coming. It’s here. Judy Blume may not be much help right now. I can stick to crossed arms, training bras and sitting on the edge of the pool. Or I can get properly equipped to go on about my plans. Doctors, like the rest of us, are human. Some will be assholes, some will be wonderful. Ask all your questions. Answer theirs honestly. Being sick isn’t anything to be embarrassed about (I still struggle with that one). Everyone will experience it, many already have. Stay home when your nose is runny, stay home when your brain is cloudy. Eat your vegetables. Go to bed on time. Lay off the caffeine and alcohol. Exercise longer than the duration of one Beyonce track. Your body will thank you. Some people will completely understand and some people will hold this against you even if you’re figuratively and literally falling apart in front of them. That has to be their problem. It’s still your responsibility to keep from falling apart. I will probably spend my whole life wanting to stay young and “re”-capture some part of my youth I feel like I missed out on. There were quite a few. But first things first. Though this is never how I pictured 25, I will try to enjoy it while I have it. Knowing that in a while, I’ll be applying this same sentiment to my wrinkles and my gigantic, knee-length breasts (they are plotting against me, I tell you).
|—||On Illness, 2011|