Life’s a trip!

Monica, Age 71

This is the first time I’ve been on a blog. Since turning 70 last year, my health dramatically changed. In October, I fell and ended up with 2 injured shoulders. I am currently recuperating from rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder and will need a shoulder replacement on the left side. Also, I found out I have 3 herniated discs in my lower back and one compound fracture just above them. Before I had the rotator cuff surgery, I had to have an EKG. From this, it was discovered that I have atrial fibrillation. This past week, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea which may be causing the a-fib.

I am stunned by all of this, especially, the heart stuff. This growing old is taking its toll on me. Facing mortality is one thing; being disabled is quite another. They both keep me fully anxious! Oddly, I am in a pretty good space, otherwise. I am happily married, work 3 days a week, love to read , cook and travel.

When I was young (and younger), I was a mischief maker, an imp, a trouble maker. I was the kid parents didn’t want their kids to play with. I was never disrespectful; I was full of an anxious energy. I was expelled from 2 high schools and one college. When the 60’s hit, I fell into the whole hippie scene. To this day, I smoke pot every night and drink (mostly wine) a few times a week.

My medical issues have put a crimp on traveling, but I am learning how to accommodate them. For example, I mail my suitcase to the address of where I will be staying. I also request a wheelchair at each airport. These two changes have made it doable for me to visit my family and friends back East. I am so grateful for them!

Also, I am leasing a new car that has an automatic transmission! I cannot tell you how switching from a manual to an automatic has improved my day-to-day life. One other item – a placard for disabled drivers! Parking close to my workplace has resulted in my being in so much less pain.

My exercise routine is pitiable. I do my physical therapy exercises and go to P/T twice a week. To support my back, I need to use my abs for moving my torso, instead of relying on back and leg muscles.

Because I don’t feel sick (no fever, sore throat, etc.), and when I sit, the pain decreases significantly to the point of being easily manageable, I feel like I am taking advantage of someone or thing.

Another thing that I’ve become insecure about is appearance. It may seem shallow, but I love clothes and shoes, especially sandals and boots. Thankfully, there are so many shoe makers that make attractive, trendy comfortable shoes. They cost more, but they allow me to feel stylish and comfortable. Brands I buy are Born, Easy Spirit, Sofft, Clarks, etc. I like some height (I’m now 5/2″) but don’t wear anything over 2 inches high. Clothes are more problematic for me. What does a short, slightly plump 70+ year old wear???? I still love jean, leggings, cropped pants, skirts that hit just below the knee to midi length, summer dresses that are below the knee, preferably midi-length. Maxi dresses make me look like a fire hydrant (Johnny Pump in Brooklyn!).

It’s the wanting to enjoy each and every day of my life while facing mortality when that thought creeps into my mind. Every decade has it’s trials and tribulations and I am as ill-prepared for the 70’s as I’ve been for all the other decades I’ve had the good fortune to live. Ageing forces one to be humble.

My marriage is in a really good place. During my recovery, my husband has taken such wonderful care of me. We grow closer every day and laugh a lot. As with any marriage that has lasted 26+ years, we’ve had our life challenges – job losses, unemployment, cancer, deaths of loved ones. We seem to come out the other end closer and more in love, if that can be ;possible.

I am close with my family, which is a large one. I have a few extremely close friends from high school and college, and a few more great friendships have developed over the ensuing years.

When I look back over my life, I realize that I have everything I ever wanted – to live in California, to be with my husband and to have had a rewarding, exciting career. More money would be nice – I could travel in style!

Throughout my life, I hope I have helped others to achieve their goals, to get through a difficult time, to offer a shoulder upon which to cry, feel joy and glee, and to laugh….often.

Years ago, I went through a very difficult time in my life and I promised myself that I would try to help anyone else who I encountered who was going through something similar. I hope I have been observant enough to see a need in others where I could reach out to help.

Many of my friends and family members regret things they’ve done in the past, mainly life-altering decisions or choices that became life altering. I’ve searched deep into my heart and soul and I do not find I have regrets. Yet, I am filled with constant anxiety. Life is a TRIP!

This entry was posted in 70candles, Attitudes about aging, Caretaking, Family matters, Our bodies, our health, Resilience and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Life’s a trip!

  1. May I recommend the book, THIS CHAIR ROCKS” A MANIFESTO AGAINST AGEISM by Ashton Applewhite. I have no fiduciary relationship whatsoever in this regard, but I recommended it often. I believe you will be amazed by what Ashton writes about aging —- all grounded in research. An easy read.

    A fib is not fatal. It is a condition more common among older adults. If it is serious, there are good treatments for it.

    Keep walking!

  2. Diana says:

    Monica, I hope that you’re able to get around more soon. Being inactive takes such a toll on those of us over 70. It’s good that you’re doing PT, but I know it’s no fun.

    Sending your luggage ahead when traveling is a great idea that I never thought of. Thanks for mentioning it. It’s the on-plane luggage bins that are my downfall. My carry-on bag is small but it gets crammed in by those huge roll-aboard-bags others bring.

    And congratulations on your happy marriage; they’re far too rare.

  3. Diana Belland says:

    Dear Monica,
    You sound like an incredible woman! You have so many interests and you are using each day to make the most of your life. Your clothes and shoes choices sound terrific. Keep wearing what you love and what makes you feel good. I bet you look fabulous. You have a loving husband and family and many friends. You’ve worked hard for that and now that you need support, people are there for you. And the fact that you’ve arrived at the age of 71 with no regrets is something many of us envy, I am sure.

    I feel great empathy for your sense of having gone from being healthy and active to now feeling somewhat disabled. I recently had spine surgery and often wonder if I will ever be able to return to the “healthy” me of only six months ago. Recovery is very, very slow, and it does get discouraging when you can’t do the things you used to do easily. But it sounds as though you are doing everything you can to recover from your shoulder injuries/surgery and to treat your spine issues.

    I, too, have Afib. Generally, it’s the paroxsymal type, a quick burst of rapid heartbeat. I have a breathing technique which gets it under control. But, occasionally, I do get short periods of persistent Afib. About five months ago, I read a book called The Relaxation Response by Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist at Harvard. He advocates meditation with conscious breathing techniques to activate the para-sympathetic nervous system which helps us relax. I have found that practicing meditation and breathing every day, sometimes even several times a day, has helped enormously to control my skipped beats and Afib.
    Like you, my medical problems have caused me to feel a lot more anxiety than “normal.” But I chose to focus on meditation and breathing rather than to take anti-anxiety medication (even though my daughter, who is a physician, prescribed it for me.) My cardiologist agrees that meditation/breathing is more effective for me than medication.

    I agree with Sister Imelda. Afib is not fatal and people can manage it successfully right into their late nineties as my mother did. She passed away at 98, and I have a wonderfully active friend who is 92 and has Afib. She says she just doesn’t let it bother her.

    You are doing all the right things! Enjoy your wonderful family and your travels!

  4. Annette Roark says:

    Dear Monica,
    I enjoyed reading your post – there is comfort in the fact that many women who have always been active can be laid low by health issues and yet continue to live rich lives. I’m only 65 but I find that these changes can change our bodies so rapidly that we can’t believe they could be permanent but fear that they might be! I’m wondering whether everyone undergoes a psychological shift in understanding to come to grips with the fact that our life is finite and that the end is way closer than the beginning! Does everybody wonder whether this can really be happening to them or do some have a disposition that faces all change and adapts without spending a lot of thought about the “meaning” of that change?

  5. Theresa says:

    Monica…a practical question. How do you send your luggage ahead of you on a trip? Do you have to do it through the airline? Thanks so much.

  6. Theresa says:


    I feel like you have written my story. I turned 70 in January…and seemed to all of sudden be hit with health issues….from Skin Condition, to TMJ, to bursitis and possible issues. What is going on…. I too have hardly regrets …taught for 34 years loved it…retired now…ex husband is best friend …have two grown adult sons that are doing pretty well…one now is out of work…but that is part of life once in a while..the other moving to Memphis for a job opportunity for a few years….we are New Yorkers so it will be a change for him and me…also broke up with somone about 9 months because he couldn’t commit ..and to me to commit means just exclusivity and partnership…I don’t want to live with him or marry him….now he wants all what I had wanted and now I don’t…as I believe he is sincere but not capable…and I do miss him…but all this health anxiety has made me nuts…and I don’t like this “new” me…as I have always been the one that people came to for cheering and pepping up. So I get what you are saying….even with your wonderful marriage…which is just so good to hear…and even with my life….as I am involved with a few projects….this anxiety is my enemy. So girl…thanks for being so truthful as it so resonated with me..and that another human gets what I’m going through Be good to yourself

  7. Theresa says:

    Monica…I left a word out….I might possibly have heart issues too.
    So got to get my head on straight.

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