Last year was the year of ThingsGoingWrongWithTheBody. It was not much fun. There were a lot of bodies, absolute carnage dear heart, oh yes.
Well first there was my mother’s body that conked out completely on January 20th. The surprise was not that it conked out but that it kept going for so long when she did so little to assist it. She was basically immensely strong. Just built that way. Over the year, whilst sticking photographs of my mother and her family into a photograph album, I had a chance to look at her inheritance, genetically speaking. She was in every way her father, a big square bully with a fondness for as much alcohol as she could get her hands on and a loving of physical sensation. It was legendary among the family that my grandfather really enjoyed sneezing. That might have been why she became such a good cook, mad for the sensation of food and married in a time of food shortages.
Then there was the OH. As soon as my mother’s affairs in another town were concluded and his need to drive there early in the morning was also concluded, the brakes on the drinking were off in a major way. After he came out of a liver scan white as a sheet but had recovered into total denial again by the time we got to the car park, he got into the driving seat and the foot was on the accelerator again. Drinking is go!
In the later stages of the disease alcohol destroys the body at a cellular level. Because alcohol is such a blast of empty energy, the mitochondria, which are the body’s batteries, present in the cells, expand and contract at a much greater rate and size than they are designed to do. Eventually they rupture the cell walls and the cells die. This is apparent in the parts of the body which are not many cells thick, for example the fine nerves in the ends of the extremities. Many people late in the disease have difficulty walking, such as my great grandfather whose gout and gait caused him to miss his footing and fall from the gangplank between two ships, to his death. The OH has spent the year hobbling and complaining about his feet. We have spent many hours in the morning scrabbling around the kitchen floor for dropped pills. Alcohol efficiently destroys the fine alveoli at the top of the lungs too; there were more colds passed on to me last year than I care to remember.
To me. Oh yes, what a year. Not only did I suffer from other people’s physical frailties, I suffered from mine a lot.
I don’t think I am particularly strong. I started as an unwanted foetus, my mother may have smoked during pregnancy, not knowing any better, and I was conceived at a time of food rationing when, to get extra rations, pregnant women had to declare themselves to be so. My adoptive parents often told me of their search to find smaller and smaller teats for feeding bottles because I was a bad baby and drank my milk too quickly. From early on food was limited to me. Later I was a bad teenager, I did not stay small and biddable so I was locked up and starved.
So I am not strong. Short, fat and weak, an ideal combination for broken bones. To date, two toes and both arms. I am now attending weekly, or perhaps that should be weakly, shoulder classes at the hospital. I am working out every day as usual and incorporating my arm exercises. It is slow work, it hurts a lot but I am keeping at it, giving up is not a option. In the middle of the year I had a bone density scan in which I discovered that the daily exercise I have done for the last 17 years has helped to counteract my unfortunate physical inheritance. It would have been much worse if I hadn’t worked out. To that I owe my allergy to steroids.
I was fifty when I first got polymyalgia rheumatica in the hips. This is an autoimmune disease usually achieved by eighty year olds, demonstrably so, as my step mother in law got it last summer. It took some time to diagnose in me; a few years of it and a clever doctor who finally ordered the blood test. Meanwhile, as it became apparent that I was dramatically allergic to the first line of defence, the steroids, I asked the old doctor on the verge of retirement what I could do and received the old fashioned answer that the way to keep moving was to get moving and keep it up.
Brought up to idleness and physically weak, I now look upon the development of this disease in me as one of the great benefactions of my life, though I did not at the time. The last 17 years of exercise have stood me in good stead with my breakages. I know that to recover and maintain strength you have to work at it. I know not to give up.
The same is true for all difficulties and challenges brought about by others. Sticking by difficult people may give you strength of character and an admirable bravery and determination but it doesn’t stop you worrying about people close to you. My life has been fraught by the worry ‘What Stupid Thing Are They Going To Do Next?’ It is usually impossible to say and generally much worse and considerably more original than you would imagine.
My resolutions for this year are to worry about other people less, if possible. I’d like to cut them out of my head as easily as the mole on my ear. I think it was March, when I was Sorting Things Out that I asked the doctor about the very large mole behind my right ear. After a deferred appointment I finally got it cut off at the hospital in October. My ear is still intact, the mole, about the size of a half walnut, covering most of the back of my ear, was excavated and not cancerous, thank goodness. I am still waiting for the results of exploratory surgery elsewhere.
I think I can put nearly all my woes down to worrying about other people. If you are one of those to whom Other People have Occurred, you will understand. I now believe we are divided into two sorts of people. Those who happen to people and those who are happened unto.
You can look at it in a different way. Those who live in fiction, anaesthetising themselves against unpleasantness, while loudly deprecating its existence and those who live in reality and just get on with it. If you avoid reality you severely limit your learning, if you embrace it you can grow your strength and ability.
If you are reading this I suspect you might be one of the Put Upon. In which case I hope you can get rid of as much as is practical and live your own life without more encumbrance than you need for the learning.
May I be the first, and possibly only, to wish you Happy New Ear!
Exciting news about the 70th Min upcoming, plus a load of assorted rubbish and me being silly, to look forward to.
New resolution: Fewer Capital Letters In The Middle Of Sentences. (Sorry about that, hope it didn’t spoil your Reading Enjoyment.)