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Half-Dollar (Fifty-Cent Piece)

Half-Dollar (Fifty-Cent Piece)

This morning, while driving in my car, I heard an ad targeted to people “50 and better”—can you blame me for bursting out in laughter? Got the giggles so hard that I have no idea just what was being advertised. Here I was on my way home from my Deep Water exercise class where I had just spent my time with women who tend to be even better than I am. Believe it or not, I’m still on the younger end of classmates even though I’ve been taking this class for something like nine years.

Water exercise often attracts people who need exercise that is gentle on the joints so that tends to skew the age of participants. The first summer I did it I was—obviously—much younger than I am today, but was recovering from a severe bout of plantar fasciitis brought on by running and step aerobics—as well as by my naturally stiff muscles and some extra pounds. Deep Water exercise (done by participants wearing some sort of flotation device in the deep end of a pool) was the only type of no-impact aerobic exercise I could do while healing.

I’m no swimmer and I don’t really like getting wet in cold weather, but I learned to love exercising outdoors in a pool on a warm summer day. When else do you get to hang out in the deep end of a pool without a lifeguard blowing a whistle at you? With the sun still fairly gentle and temperatures fairly temperate, a dip in the pool a couple mornings a week seems like such a treat; plus, you can’t beat seeing birds such as hawks or Blue Herons floating above you or hearing the songs from smaller birds in the nearby trees.

So that’s why I’ve continued to come to summer Deep Water classes even in past years when I wasn’t injured—or when I was just less better than I am now. With that statement, I can imagine my former English teachers either pretending they never had me in their classes or rolling over in their graves. Well, if the word better can’t be compared against itself, then I’m pretty sure better isn’t a very good way to describe the aging process where we either get older—or, well, cease to breathe and begin to reverse the process in way that has nothing to do with getting better as far as our bodies are concerned.

Please, I’ve earned my muscle imbalances, extra pounds, wrinkles, scars, and the occasional gray hair—although in that area I’m very much willing to admit I am doing better than the average person in the “50 and better” category. Parts of me are better: my long range view, wisdom, experience level, sense of self, connections with others, commitment to a set of values, problem-solving skills, and ability to apply lessons learned to new and, often times, unrelated situations. I’ve learned that not only do you need a Plan B, but sometimes you also need Plans C, D, E, and all the way through the rest of the alphabet.

And that’s where I am at this better phase of my life. I’ll do what I can to con myself into performing my physical therapy exercises and I’ll pursue other techniques, such as ChiRunning, to keep moving as long as I can. However, at “50 and better” I also know that I am more likely to continue to get better at pursuits that are more cerebral, spiritual, and/or social than at those that are physical. Though the physical pursuits help maintain my sanity and improve my joy—i.e. make my life better—I’m pretty sure that, these days, my path to better (as defined by that ad) will involve more improvements to my brain and heart and soul than to anything else such as my back or feet or even my hair color.

As a child who grew up listening to advertising jingoes in the late 60s/early 70s, how could I have forgotten what Clairol taught me: I’m not getting older—I’m getting better! Really—and even though I do go to Deep Water exercise, I still don’t dye my hair.

You know what? I feel better already.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I really hope that in my younger years that I was not as unaware about the elderly as many seem to be. But since I likely was, I beg for forgiveness for how much harder I might have made someone else’s experience when he or she was already living a harder life than mine. Although my mom’s been gone over two years, I guess it really has been three long years since she spent much time outside of her residence—perhaps the treatment of the elderly has changed since then? Still, I am shocked at the callousness directed at my in-laws who are older than either of my parents got to be.

Have people lost quite a bit of patience since the days when my mother needed my care, or, as the primary person charged with watching out for her, was I just that much more focused on her than on the outside world? What I remember is people watching us together and looking as if they were glad someone was there beside someone in such need. Helping her move about was a time-consuming process, but I don’t have memories of people just ignoring us or getting angry because we moved slower than others might have preferred to move. Trust me, if I had experienced people acting that way toward my mama, I would have been furious.

My 88-year-old mother-in-law really wanted to get out to a Colorado Rockies game this season. Not sure that was the wisest plan, but it is what she wanted and, besides, we would be there with her. Though my husband dropped off his mother and me so we wouldn’t have far to walk to the ballpark, we still had to get around once inside. She can walk well with someone else at her side, but she cannot walk quickly. I just felt as if people were looking right through her or trying to push around her. The masses of people took little notice of the frail woman hanging on to my arm—I jokingly suggested she hold out her cane to allow us some space and that always feisty woman followed through on the suggestion! Getting to the elevators—that are supposed to be for certain ticketholders, the elderly, disabled, and families with small children—was quite challenging. After the game she had to wait quite awhile for the elevator that seemed to be full mostly of people who met none of the criteria.

Yet, getting angry at the elderly for being so much slower is even worse than not seeing them. I really question the “hurry up” world we live in when drivers cannot slow down, even for those whose days of need for speed are obviously long gone.

Earlier this year, I took my in-laws to see their doctor. Since they do not have a disabled parking permit for their vehicle, I stopped to drop off them and my son at the entrance of the medical building. Their white heads along with their reliance on my son for balance clearly indicated they needed easy access to the building, yet the driver of the big red truck following closely behind us honked repeatedly at us before racing around at a speed unsafe in any parking lot.

Various family members take turns driving my husband’s father to daily IV infusion appointments—he is over six weeks into the second round of treatments. His condition is such that his body notes every bit of long-term road damage, as well as any new potholes that have sprung up since the trips began in February. We take corners cautiously and slow down for bumps even if we don’t drive under the speed limit on smooth roads. Yesterday, after his daily treatment was over and as his wife was waiting to be moved from the ER to ICU back in the same hospital he visits, I took him home from the longer-than-expected outing. As we were driving along with traffic on a road with a 30 mph limit, a pickup trunk honked and swerved around us, the driver’s face twisted in absolute hatred while his left arm was flipping us off so hard and so frequently I swear he was going to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.

Seriously, what is up with people? Would it matter if it were their own mothers or fathers in front of them? Or will they themselves have to be elderly before they understand that this is no way to treat anyone, let alone those who really cannot move more quickly?

A world that treats its elders with such disrespect is not a world in which any of us should aspire to grow old. Let’s take it upon ourselves to slow down for those who need our patience—but not because one day we want to be treated better but because it’s the right way to treat people, period.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

When I was a young 20-something in the 80s, I worked with a couple older women—who were younger than I am now! However, they represented two different generations. One was 44—and graduated in the same year Peggy Sue did (in Peggy Sue Got Married), meaning she was born early during World War II and, thus, a member of the Silent Generation. The other was 36 and very much a post-war Baby Boomer.

Those two women couldn’t have been more different. The older woman was a conservative Christian who would rather have been home than at work, although her kids were mostly grown. The younger woman had come of age in southern California during the late 60s and had lived—and was still living—a chaotic life. Truth is, I enjoyed time with both women but for very different reasons. Even though I was the young one, eventually I found I had more in common with the older woman than the younger woman who I finally realized was never going to grow up. What had first appeared hip and exciting turned out to be out-of-control and totally lacking in grounded values. Yes, partying until 5:00 a.m. every weekend night may lead to a lot a sick days by the time you are 36.

The older woman seemed to feel it was her duty to act and look her age and that the younger woman was fooling herself by trying to pretend she was still young. And while I agree that she needed to act much more like her age responsibility-wise, I don’t think her looks were the problem. It’s not as if she ran around squeezed too tightly into too-short clothes. No, the older woman seriously thought “older” women should not have longer hair. And by longer hair, I mean hair that went a few inches past her shoulders.

Really? For the life of me, I can’t even figure out what the crime is in wearing your hair longer after 35—maybe that was a Silent Generation thought—after all I am, just barely, a (rebellious?) Baby Boomer. Since I’m way past 35 or 42 and still have longer hair, obviously I’m not abiding by those rules. Doesn’t it really matter how my hairstyle looks on me, not how old I am? (Shh—I’ll even wear white after Labor Day if the weather merits it! Rebel against arbitrary rules, I say.)

For awhile, I went to a hairdresser who, I swear, was trying to make me look old and fat. Despite telling her I wanted my hair longer (my round face isn’t flattered by short hair), she kept cutting it short—until I stopped going to see her. I think she must have believed in the “no long hair after 35” rule—for me, anyway.

This winter I achieved a new milestone—not only can I put my hair into a ponytail, but also I can put the ponytail high on my head and really keep the hair off my neck. That works so well for me because I spend a lot of time exercising: doing yoga, running, ZUMBA dancing, skiing, hiking, etc. And when I exercise, I sweat—not because I am an “old” woman but because I work out hard.

Quite frankly, I’m not going to let anyone tell me I’m too old to exercise, wear my hair long, or whatever if I still can. I didn’t need someone else telling me that staying out until 5:00 a.m. was a bad long term plan—I learned that on my own without first having to get fired for absenteeism. Age slows us down more than we’d like it to in the first place—why let someone else decide for us when we should slow down if it really doesn’t harm ourselves or other people, one way or another?

If wearing long hair makes me a rebel who won’t act her age, then so be it. How about I just keep the ponytail but stay away from wearing spandex shorts and cropped tops and singing “I Whip My Hair Back and Forth”? Deal? I thought so . . .

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Anyone else a runner during the running boom of the late 70s? Do you remember that some time later some studies came out that said running was actually harmful? What about the stir raised when running guru James Fixx died from running? I didn’t pay much attention to the hype, but it seemed the media often chose to pick up on the “running is bad” concept without analyzing studies or considering other factors.

I just thought a lot of people were looking for a reason not to do an activity they didn’t like in the first place. You know, the kind of people who are always doing the latest thing whether or not they enjoy it and whether or not it’s good for their bodies. I think the media buzz is happening again with yoga (and like it did with aerobics and Pilates and . . .)

Yes, I learned the truth—at seventeen—that running could hurt me. I ended up getting fitted for orthotics which helped me recover my health long term. The podiatrist said that running didn’t cause my imbalance problems—it just accelerated how soon they showed up and began affecting my life. Never again did I have the same obsession with running nor was I as naïve about the helpfulness of running, but I didn’t stop for good—I liked running.

You see, I didn’t run because it was “in” or the cool thing to do. For the most part it was a lonely experience, except for when I could meet up with my friends to do it or be part of a track or cross country team. Yet running often soothed my soul. I truly believe this was how I managed my undiagnosed ADD for so many years.

Enter real life obligations, children, and another undiagnosed condition that worsened—asthma—and running became less frequent in my life. It got to the point where I knew my weight gain was a risk factor for running, yet I didn’t know how to keep down my weight without running. This time I ended up with an injury common to inflexible, heavier, long term runners of a certain age: plantar fasciitis.

After that injury healed enough that I could use my feet, I switched to walking. Didn’t “everyone” say that was healthier anyway? I walked and walked—and continued to gain weight. With my feet problems, I couldn’t do any hard core land-based aerobic activities. So . . . I signed up for my first yoga classes.

By that point my lower back was hurting so much that I couldn’t get out of my chair easily. While I did find that yoga was helping in so many ways, maybe it wasn’t enough or maybe it just wasn’t fast enough. When I told my doctor, she thought I ought to add Pilates classes first to see if I could avoid physical therapy.

Here’s the deal: with yoga, Pilates, and walking, I did start to feel better—everywhere, but especially with my back and feet—and that ADD mind. And then I started to lose weight which meant I could move more vigorously, enough so that I could return to running and begin doing ZUMBA dancing.

So are all those things to blame for my recent back injury? Well, maybe. However, I will point out that my injury surfaced after I took off a week from exercise while spending most of that time sitting in a car.

Now that yoga is the new evil activity, it must have been the real cause behind my injury, right?

Really, I think that living and aging are behind my recent physical woes. As far as I can tell, people can get injured by moving—or not moving—or both as they age. When my father needed back surgery, it was because he carried excess weight and did not move unless necessary.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather earn my badges of aging from activity versus inactivity.

So I’m not going to stop practicing yoga even if I am more likely to modify my poses now. I have always gone to restorative yoga classes led by mature instructors who aren’t fostering a competitive environment. And I will argue with a teacher if I think a pose goes against the advice I am receiving from the medical practitioners treating my condition—if I’m not going to believe them and follow their advice, then I need to stop seeing them.

I guess I have to say that if people don’t like to do yoga, then they should not be doing yoga to please others. They can take their chances lifting weights, swimming laps, or sitting in their Easy Chairs while I’m holding a Downward Dog—or attempting to get back to running again.

Maybe we’re all just running against the wind trying to maintain our bodies in the face of time, but I’d rather move than sit down to wait for the Grim Reaper to find me.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Today marks seven months since my (underlying) injury flared up and commanded my attention—guess those muscles decided I needed The Fatal Attraction treatment—you know, “I will not be ignored!” Thus began the days when my steps became more like shuffles in time.

Not here to debate the best way to treat my type of lower back/hip injury. In fact, one of the more frustrating aspects of this injury has been deciding which school of thought and/or type of professional I should choose for healing. Anyone who has gotten better has an opinion as do people who work in the fields, but so often the reasoning and treatments differ.

All I know is that I don’t just want to reduce my activity levels permanently and focus on pain management—I want to heal what’s ailing me. Yeah, I know, just another Baby Boomer who can’t read the calendar, right? Maybe, but the truth is not only have I had to give up my fitness goals, but also I have had to live with reduced energy levels that are nowhere near what is normal for me.

This week—for the first time since those fateful April car trips that led to this more sedentary lifestyle—I have sustained energy all through my days. In fact, I would say I am finally feeling like myself again.

Yes, I have been like a stranger living in a strange body. Sometimes a person’s body changes permanently, but I wasn’t yet ready to accept that was the case with my body. I mean, the source of my injury was sitting down too much for a week? Really?

The real me walks very briskly. She may not accomplish nearly as much as she’d like, but it’s more for lack of focus than for lack of doing. It’s about going in too many directions at the same time.

Without my usual energy levels, dealing with life’s challenges has also been much harder. So much of my successful “therapy” has been movement-related. Despite keeping moving, I have had to proceed with caution, always thinking about whether what I’m doing will make the injury flare-up stronger. That kind of reduced activity level does not calm my restless mind in the same ways that moving without constant over-thinking does.

To be sure, I am putting more effort into relearning simple things such as getting into and out of chairs, cars, and beds, how to reach for or pick up items, and ways to better capitalize on the exercises I already do. For now I do have to over-think these types of daily activities in order to get back to moving more effortlessly.

But those types of everyday movements have stressed my body for almost half a century—I need quicker relief than simple retraining can bring about. So today I celebrated this injury anniversary by continuing the trigger point dry needle therapy I began a week and a half ago. In that short time I have begun to remember who I am and what I still dream of doing.

Besides miles to go before I sleep, I’ve got steps to dance—with a little bit more work, I am about to get stepping back into the time I still have.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

My moods have continued to be fairly stormy, thanks to my response to the aches that increased again after going through Mom’s storage unit. I promise I followed doctor’s orders and didn’t do much lifting, so the pain I’ve felt since that weekend has been very disappointing (OK—that’s just a bland word I chose to avoid the depth of the emotional abyss I’ve fallen into again as I ponder the what ifs of not getting better in the ways I wish.)

Maybe this time the pain is more emotional than strictly related to physical activities I’ve done. After all, I’ve only touched the surface of saying how badly I felt about cleaning my house nicely for company only to have the project undo everything I did as well as add more “crap” to my patio, family room, and “to do” list. To tell you the truth, the cleaning project left me more angry at my mother for the tasks I’ve been given than sad for losing her—that’s how badly this project colored my emotions.

When I last left off with the chiropractor a few hours before Scott’s family arrived, my hips were looking and feeling better. The plan was for me to wear my trochanter belt during the organizing, but to let others do the heavy-lifting. And with my improvements, we stretched out the days between appointments, plus, the chiropractor wanted me to do a short jog (wearing the belt) the day before the next meeting. In other words, I was supposed to try moving on.

All I can say is that when I woke up a week ago after the weekend project, my body acted as if it hadn’t gotten the memo. I, in fact, felt stuck again. Really, the pains running up and down my legs reminded me of the initial pains before I’d gotten any treatment at all. So while I could experience pain running through my body, I doubted that I myself could experience running.

None of my exercises during the week helped me feel better and walking seemed only to increase the pain.

But I tried to keep doing the things I either must do or was going to do anyway. Yesterday I watched with jealous eyes as an energetic woman at church moved back and forth with a pace that I often maintained just two months ago. For me, the throbbing following the standing activity at church forced me to lie down before meeting with the animal behaviorist for a scheduled long walk in the park with Sam. And then I needed to return home for more lounging before I could hope to head to a fireworks display we’d planned to attend.

Sherman dropped off Christiana and me. Luckily, I could walk the short distance, albeit at a slow pace. However, while listening to the patriotic strains from the Colorado Symphony and watching the creatively choreographed light and firework show that colored and lit up the white Civic Center building, my mind often slipped to my own limited independence. On the way home, I could not even keep up with the other two and had to stop and wait to be picked up.

The thought that I could jog even 10 minutes this morning seemed absurd. And yet, what did I have to lose?

So I strapped on that belt, did some very targeted stretching exercises, and then set my feet in motion—over two months after my last run and two months and one day after I returned from my road trips and discovered my body could not move.

This time my body moved, even if the movements themselves felt a little foreign. I watched my shadow, looking for signs of improper form and adjusting when necessary. Not quite an out of body experience, but I felt a little distant from my running self. Still, I was moving much faster than I did with the halting steps I took the previous night.

Just over 13 minutes later, I stopped and began alternating between stretching and gentle walking. The tension that has recently shortened my walking stride had taken a hike and the muscles felt more relaxed.

Could it be that not running is the problem now?

Tomorrow I return to the chiropractor to see if my hips remained in place; stable hips are what’s really needed to bring about my own independence. I still long for those miles before I sleep, especially if they are what will help me return to making all the other movements missing from my life now.

Just can’t wait to get back on the road to independence.

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

Haven’t had a lot to say this past of month—you would think that being forced to sit still might lead to a few deep thoughts. I regret to inform you that has not been the case.

And, I’m afraid that it’s because what I thought might be true, appears to be true: I have to move in order to slow down my brain enough to think.

So I am in a waiting period to see how well my hips/back are going to heal.

What’s really frustrating about these types of injuries is that it’s hard to figure who really can help you heal. There are so many types of specialists out there: orthopedic doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, and a whole slew of alternative health practitioners. It often seems that each type of specialist disdains the work of the others. Even within the same field, practitioners often don’t agree.

Case in point, Christiana went to see a physical therapist who didn’t believe that a person should be fitted for custom orthotics (for shoes) until various physical therapies had failed to remedy the problem. Several therapy sessions, an MRI and X-rays, as well as pain, reduced activity levels, and lost sports seasons later, another physical therapist referred her immediately to get fitted for orthotics saying that physical therapy couldn’t do enough for her structural problem. Within a week of wearing the devices, much of the pain had receded.

One professional felt the other had been wrong, but I’ve been around long enough to know we were just stuck in the middle of differing philosophies. Meanwhile my daughter was mired in pain and lost many opportunities that would not return.

And because there is no clear-cut path to healing for these types of injuries, often our friends are just as adamant about the right or wrong way to face our injuries.

In the end, we have to make the decisions for ourselves.

I prefer active healing techniques, whenever possible. I can’t begin to explain how much I have improved on my own simply through practicing yoga (over six years) and Pilates (just under six years) with what some would call religious attention. Believe me, I do sweat and raise my heart levels in those classes. I work hard at both the poses and understanding what I can control about my physiology.

However with my energy levels, I’m not just interested in such focused inside mat activities.

Thanks to yoga and Pilates, I could return to running and jumping and bouncing. I pray to God those activities are not yet over for me. I swear I have miles to go before I sleep, as well as dance moves to practice—and I don’t just mean in my head.

Supposedly I have L-4 radiculitis—which is pronounced a lot like ridiculitis. I can promise you this whole situation seems ridiculous to me. Before I left to get the puppy, my usual week included three yoga classes, one Pilates class, one to two ZUMBA classes as well as practice, and running a few miles twice a week and one supervised track practice. All I wanted to do after my protracted road trip week was get back to moving again.

Suffice it to say I had to change my plans. Now I walk slowly with the dogs and do whatever moves I can in yoga and Pilates and ZUMBA—and skip the rest.

But after a few chiropractic treatments I am feeling somewhat better—just not sure how to get my hips to stabilize enough so I can do whatever activities I choose. Just another Baby Boomer not yet ready to sit in the rocking chair . . .

For now I am taking B-Complex supplements and adding a lovely fashion accessory—otherwise known as the trochanter belt—to my wardrobe. I don’t know if these activities will heal me, but after several weeks, I have at least weaned myself from heating pads, Epsom salt baths, and ibuprofen.

It’s a start. Tune in to see how I figure out to jump start my brain, regardless of whether I’m facing a temporary detour or a permanent shift in my road plan. Not only am I not ready for the rocking chair, I’m also not ready for driving on auto-pilot.

Aging is a funny thing. I think we all have our own definition of what makes someone seem old. Mostly it’s how other people look or how they act!

My uncle, Carrell Ritter, (c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Sometimes our bodies make us stop doing activities and, no matter how much we want to do them, we just can’t anymore. Some of us go through physical therapy and/or try a lot of other remedies before we concede to the passage of time. Doesn’t it seem almost un-American in these times of youth worship not to rage against the night?

Other times the decision to stop doing something is ours. I’ve heard people say they don’t want to do something because they were so good at it when they were young. I’m not one of those people—so far. It’s logical that we’re not going to stay at our peak forever, but as long as we still enjoy doing something, I think we should.

Age didn’t stop the remaining members of the Who from singing at the Super Bowl. Roger Daltrey didn’t prance about in the same old way and Pete Townsend didn’t twirl his arm as much, but the sound was pretty good. Every time they and other older rockers get on stage, the jokes start flying about letting them out of the nursing homes. We expend a lot of hot air comparing them with themselves in their heydays. Are they still better than many people putting it out there, even if they don’t look and sound twenty anymore? I think so. And, I hope they enjoy it, too. I say more power to people who don’t stop, just to please the critics sitting at home in their recliners. I hope Roger and Pete at least keep singing in the shower, even when they are in the nursing home, just because music is such a big part of who they are.

On the other hand, sometimes aging gives us the wisdom to realize when we didn’t like something that much and it’s just not worth continuing to do. You start to understand yourself well enough to know when you were only doing something because it was supposed to be fun or because people said you needed to try it. I’d have to say that’s one of the reasons I’ve sent Jackson with Sherman when Sherman’s parents have given him Denver Broncos tickets in the past couple years. I know it’s a great privilege to get to go to a NFL game, but I just don’t enjoy it enough to spend my time doing it.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s about realizing how precious time is and that life shouldn’t be lived just the way others want to live it.

Still, it’s been a long time since I felt so alone on the dance floor. It’s good to have room to dance, but I don’t really want to feel as if Sherman and I are performing on Dancing with the Stars or something—we’re not there to make a show, but it seems that’s what we’re doing these days.

Makes me wonder when everyone got so old. Then I remember, some of those people sitting at the tables probably think I’m an old crank for not appreciating going to a Broncos game.

Grow old along with me—just don’t expect everyone else to want to do it the same way.

Especially as time and energy grow more precious, it’s up to us to decide who we are and what we want—and not pressure our peers—or let them pressure us—into living someone else’s life.

Just do not go gently into that night if you’d really rather be strutting on the dance floor of life.

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