2017 kicked my ass right out of the gate. My right eye swelled up on New Year’s Day and the doctor thought the tiny bump on my eyelid was a swollen gland. But when a few more popped up on my face, he diagnosed shingles. SHINGLES? That’s a version of Chicken Pox and it was in my freaking eye! I grumped around the house for three weeks until the blisters finally subsided. If shingles weren’t depressing enough, soon after this a shoulder MRI showed a torn rotator cuff. “It’s from use,” said the doctor, pointing out the bone spurs that were grinding bone against bone. I’ll count leaving my computer onboard an airplane as completing the “bad things come in threes” trifecta. My Air was gone, despite throwing the full weight of my investigative journalism powers into finding it. I was sure that the stress would bring the shingles back.
The point is… I feel old. Brain and body. But on my 52 birthday, I feel hopeful too. The blisters have gone, taking a clump of eyelashes with them that will grow back. A cortisone injection in my shoulder has made me pain free (sort of…at least for the moment). And I’m writing on the very computer that some American Airlines employee found and finally turned in (God bless your soul!). How lucky am I?
So, in a fit of gratefulness, I wanted to give the gift of the best “aging gracefully” tips I can think of to all my fellow 50-somethings (and late-40-somethings too) who might also wonder occassionally, “What the hell happened to me??”. For all of us who are dealing with aches and pains and wrinkles and–shingles maybe??–it’s a reminder to focus on the positive.
1.) Buy a cute hat. Don’t laugh. It’s been cold enough in LA to wear one and I swear it hides a lot (hair long enough to hide the neck is added bonus). Cheap, easy to throw on, and totally in style.
2.) Buy an “old lady mirror.” This is my nickname for the magnifying mirrors I have in my bathroom, my purse, and my car. Find them at the .99 Store and stock up. “Holy shit!” I think everytime I look into my old lady mirror but I can’t stay groomed without it nor can I put my contact lenses in.
3.) Get contacts if your vision has blurred. it’s taken me two years to find the right contacts and learn to use them but it’s sure nice to see again. Don’t give up. The learning curve is steep but the payoff is huge.
4.) Always try to put yourself in good light. I mean this literally and figuratively. When my negative voice points out how hard gravity is working on my butt, I focus on my legs. And when the mirror is unkind, I turn on the lights. This helps, I promise. Aging is not only about biology but about perception.
5.) If #4 doesn’t help, then actively, consciously try to see yourself through the eyes of your people because love is a great equalizer. My sister Stephanie came to see me when I was in shingles hell. I’d tried to prepare her for how awful I looked but when she saw my face she laughed. “You look as beautiful as ever to me.” I didn’t tell her how that comment stayed with me over the next few days and helped me heal. Thanks sista!
6.) Surround yourself with people who want to build you up, not tear you down. As we pass the half-century mark, it’s smart to take stock of our relationships. Time moves faster now somehow, and seems more precious than ever. Stress, negativity, and bullshit only age us faster, on the outside for sure, but on the inside as well, where things much worse than wrinkles and grey hair can work a dark magic.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2017. Would love to have your “aging gracefully” tips in the comments below as we’re all in this together!