By Kim Post Watson
What a great title!
What a big fat lie!
Here I am, developing tools for processing the midlife journey in faith communities, and feeling pretty excited after writing a blog post for The Perennial Gen, yet when I saw the topic of health for October, I just skipped on by.
Health problems are for other midlife people.
Upon further reflection on a very long plane trip, I realize I have a long way to go to accept the idea of an aging body. I had a rather rude jolt this winter when I was skiing with two guys under 40 from our home group, and, I might add, shredding it during an epic California ski season, when someone kicked my ski out from under me. I hit the snow on my bottom really hard and felt a sharp ping in the middle of my back. To make a long story short it was a stress fracture. Stress fractures are not a huge deal. They heal on their own in three months to a year; they do not hurt that much.
When I went for an x-ray, I knew I had had two stress fractures at age 21, when a our team of camp counsellors jumped off a cliff into a lake, and I hit the water wrong. It turns out that somewhere between those two, and the one from January, some other crazy sport gave me a fourth. So, you’ve guessed correctly, this led to a bone density scan, and furthermore the diagnosis that my spine is not dense enough.
I now eat a lot of broccoli. And even more kale. And I take medicine for the condition that shall not be mentioned…a grandmother disease…and my kids do not even have spouses at this point, so I rebel against having a grandmother disease if I don’t also get to have grandchildren. The reality is, though, I have osteoporosis, at least in my spine, and besides my husband, I’ve told no one else until this moment.
My doctor says I can have another bone scan in three to five years. What?? I want to conquer this, and I want an app to chronicle my density week to week. I already made peace with taking blood pressure tablets for the rest of my life. I do not want to be patient, to sit with, to have as part of who I am, the risk of fractures in my sporting life. I do not want to be fragile. I don’t want to wait for years to find out if I can turn it around.
This week I spent a few days with a much younger friend who has an awful case of breast cancer, so I have no interest in complaining, and I am so grateful for my generally good health. What I am interested in doing is facing what Carl Jung said:
“From the middle of life onward, only he remains vitally alive who is ready to die with life.”
I want to be prepared to accept the challenges of aging. I want to be ready to die when it is my time. I want to live to the fullest but not deny my mortality. I want to welcome complete union with God. I want to carry around my death as a friend.
I have a lot to give this world. I want to fight for justice and walk along people in midlife. I love watching my young adult children fledge. I experience deep connectedness in nature, and nothing brings me more joy than my bike, my hiking boots and my skis. I’m learning to like yoga, which is also helping me with contemplative prayer. I plan to take my health very seriously.
But, if I want to be a person that walks through life unafraid of death, I must accept that I have osteoporosis. I have high blood pressure. I’ll probably have more things and not just die in my sleep at 92 with the same body I have right now.
To get ready for that, I need to get centered. I need to go deep with God. I need to seek to know my True Self. I need to learn to breathe the Spirit in and out. Slowly. I am going to be transformed into a glorious new body some day (hopefully taller), but for now, I’m living in one that has a fair amount of mileage on it.
I have some work to do, but at least now I have admitted it.
Kim Post Watson recently discovered that she is an Enneagram 7 in midlife, so it makes sense that she has three children, two dogs, two passports, 57 cookbooks, and an entire closet full of sporting goods. She and her husband keep their table filled with people in San Francisco, and, when they are not visiting their children in NY, LA and Chicago, spend as much time as they can in the Sierra Nevadas and the United Kingdom. She spent the last three years studying the spirituality of midlife and will receive her MA in October 2017 in London. Her dissertation is titled The Midlife Journey: Liminal Space between the Two Halves of Life and, since it felt like birthing a fourth child, she is excited to share it with anyone who would like to read it. Contact us here at The Perennial Gen and we’ll put you in touch with Kim.