I Hereby Resolve

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As of January 1, 2017, I will no longer describe my latest ailment to anyone who will listen. It will be a difficult resolution to keep; I enjoy clucking away about my physical difficulties to those who don’t retreat when I lean close and confide, “You know, I have this rash…”.

I’m not alone in thinking others want to hear about my bunions, sore elbow and arthritic thumb. In my late fifties, I participated in an animated discussion with friends about our physical woes: dry eyes, insomnia, tinnitus and leg cramps. We described symptoms, “It’s like my head is filled with buzzing bees,” suggested remedies, “”Pull your toes back as far as you can for as long as you can,“ and shared our expertise or lack thereof, “You mean there’s a difference between floaters and flashers?”

Later, we couldn’t believe we spent an evening talking about our maladies rather than our jobs, families, movies and sports. Physical problems had plagued all of us our entire lives, but never before had we felt the urge to share them with all the fishes in the sea.

Like most people, my friends and I grew up in a maze of childhood sicknesses, wandering cluelessly from colds to mumps to measles to chickenpox. We suffered earaches, stomach-aches, sore throats, pink eye and the flu. We worried about tonsillitis, which could lead to a dreaded tonsillectomy, and lived with the threat of polio, which lurked in the background of every day, an uninvited and dreaded guest.

We were quarantined to our rooms and confined to our beds. We whined, complained of boredom and dreaded the agony of vomiting. We sweated under mustard plasters, soaked in Epsom salts and scratched our red spots when our mothers weren’t looking.

At one point, to cure my chronic sinus congestions, the doctor told Mom I had to forego sugary treats and, when it was cold, wear a stocking cap to bed. For weeks, I blew my nose and ate a banana while my siblings enjoyed cherry pie and made fun of the raggedy knit hat I wore to bed.

Yet I never inflicted a detailed description of my malfunctioning sinuses on my young friends; nor did I introduce my hangnail-infected big toe into a late night conversation with my college roommates. My impacted wisdom teeth and stress-related headaches were never discussed in a faculty lounge.

Now, however, Joel and I consider a day poorly spent if we don’t devote several minutes of conversation to the quality of our sleep and the status of our chronic issues. At family reunions, my siblings and I provide health updates to a sympathetic chorus of sighs and advice: “You can’t wish your sciatica away. You need physical therapy.” And my friends and I compare symptoms at length: “My mouth gets so dry my husband says I have a speech impediment.”

I admire my sister-in-law, a successful professional woman and involved grandmother, who has wit, intelligence and complex health issues, problems that would allow her to dominate any discussion. But she never mentions them. Ever. When directly asked by those of us who love her, she responds simply and briefly and then gracefully changes the topic to grandchildren, pets or politics.

So, in 2017, I’m going to follow her example and stop pouring a detailed description of my latest symptoms into every available ear.

But I don’t promise to quit writing about them.

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92 thoughts on “I Hereby Resolve

    • How kind of you to tell me my writing glows, Diane. I like that. I’m betting you laughed at my descriptions because you shared some of those same childhood illness as well as the adult desire to talk about our ailments. Am I right?

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  1. SO true – and some people seem to enjoy (telling and listeningto) the lamentation more than others! As we age – and thank God that’s what we’ve been allowed to do – some people are dismayed that these things are happening to them. The one way that such sharing maybe beneficial is to help another solve a problem, particularly if they aren’t getting answers at the doc’s. I also think it’s okay to (occasionally) share with younger relatives so they might avoid certain maladies they may have inherited (been gifted!). There are so many other things to discuss and learn with our friends, so I will work to do more of that, too – happy new year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So good to hear from you, Sparky. I agree there are times to share, especially when doing so might make a difference for someone else. But I need to resist the urge to share my aching feet with the stranger in the grocery checkout line! (Not that I’ve ever done so, but I’ve been tempted.) I also thank God that I am aging and that my body is mostly cooperative. Thanks for dropping by; Joel says to tell you hello and wish you a Happy New Year.

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  2. great insight, Janet. Until you brought it up, I never thought about our childhood ability to ignore whatever ailed us.
    And you are so right. For most of my youth my knees were covered with scabs and my limbs were rarely without bruises.
    Growing up in a litter meant that colds were passed from one to the other for most of the winter.

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    • I grew up in a litter as well, Shelley, (I like that description) and I sometimes wonder how my mom survived all the illnesses we brought home from school and shared with our siblings.

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  3. You and I come from the same era.
    I had five siblings so my poor mother ran an infirmary when ever one got sick we all got it, the funny thing is I only remember her getting sick, stay in bed sick once. We thought she was going to die so we went to the rectory after school one day and asked father O’Tool to pray for her. He felt so bad he drove all five of us home in his car. My baby sister was not attending school yet. When we arrived we pointed to my mother’s bedroom door, he knocked and heard her say come in and there she was sitting up in bed for the first time in two weeks smoking a cigarette. She was also reading a magazine.
    “Well, you don’t look like you’re about to die Mrs. K.”.
    “Oh, hello Father O’Tool, who told you I was going to die”?
    “Your children came to me after school and asked me to pray for you. They thought you were dying”.
    “I had pneumonia but I am much better now”.
    “I can see that. I think you should let your children know that”.
    With that he smiled and left. My mother got out of bed got dressed and never was bedridden again. We all laughed over that for many years. She blamed my dad, said he was trying to keep us quiet when she was sick so she wouldn’t have to get out of bed, :o)

    Happy New Year!!!!

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    • Happy New Year to you as well, and thank you for this delightful, well-told anecdote. It is priceless. I think I’ll be smiling about it for days. I hope my other commenters will have have the fun of reading it as well.

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  4. The reason we didn’t discuss health or lack of it in our younger years was it wasn’t cool…. but hey – now we’re older and – apparently know better – we could make it cool, couldn’t we? ;- )

    Loved your post, Janet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think there’s truth is your comment, Val. Why is it we develop a feel for what’s cool when young and then gradually quit caring about being cool with age? For instance, I know skinny jeans are cool, but they are not something I’ll ever prance around in.

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  5. Ha! I’ll show you my rash if you show me yours.
    I was so glad to see your one-word sentence (Ever.). I used that in my next essay.
    It’s part of being an old fart. I spend a lot of time discussing bowel movements of late.
    Another good job, Janet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are welcome here any time, Jessica. I just visited your blog and left a comment for you. I think we will have a lot to say to each other in the future. (PS I typed “let” in my comment to you instead of “led” and didn’t catch it until I had published the comment. Forgetting to reread is a weakness of mine, and I count on my blog friends to make appropriate substitutions!)

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  6. Ah thank you Janet I have not reached this stage yet though I am reaching the grumpy old woman stage about “my young nieces and nephews ” and technology …having just spent Christmas with so many of them glue to their phones. My friends and I all grump about that. I have a few memories of childhood illnesses of course like your family my four sibling and I suffered through them all for me the chance to stay in bed was an opportunity to read which I took envy adantage of. My New Years resolution is to walk more and move more to keep those joints etc flexible.cheers

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    • We have so much in common, Lynne. I, too, get grumpy about the use of cell phones in social situations, and when young I looked forward to the recovery stage of my illnesses when I still had to stay in bed but felt well enough to read and read and read. Actually, I still look forward to it. Being unable to do anything but read is the best part of minor illnesses.

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  7. I’m ashamed of my ailments, so I don’t like to talk about them. Part of me thinks growing old is a shameful thing and a sign of failure. Don’t ask me to offer up any logic on that one because we CAN’T chalk it up to machismo. It’s only lately I’ve perceived that SOME communication about my physical challenges helps people understand what’s going on with me. I also have a couple of friends who seem to have a scientific interest in this stuff (that I can kind of see…) I guess there is a middle way… Happy New Year! Stay upright and keep moving! ❤

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    • Growing old is part of life. In ancient religions in the Indian sub-continent, aging was the time to withdraw from reponsibility and reflect. ( I suspect only the men got to do this). I think we have to embrace aging as a source of wisdom. If we see it as something shameful, the generations beneath us will make us more invisible than we already are. Happy New Year!

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      • I don’t think I said I was ashamed of growing old, but ashamed of the “betrayal” of my body that goes with growing older. I don’t mind the wisdom bit, that’s all good. I do mind not being able to run and having inexplicable physical discomforts. Anyway, we get to grow older (if we’re lucky) whether we embrace it or not. In my perfect universe, our bodies would “freeze” in the early 50s/late 40s; our minds would not deteriorate and we would die at our appointed hour. 🙂

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    • I’ll do that, Martha; as my doctor says, its better to move it than lose it. My dad never talked about his ailments, and though he was very masculine, he, too, didn’t suffer from machismo. I admired him for his stoicism, but couldn’t replicate it. I think there is a middle way, and I intend to seek it..

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      • I think I might suffer from machismo. I was an athlete and in my fifties I was running trails with kids half my age. Then, at 53, I showed up with osteoarthritis and was suddenly an old woman in my 80s. It was hard to take and I don’t think I have recovered psychologically even though my hip is fine now, thanks to surgery. We wear out. That’s the long and short of it… 🙂

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      • That sudden change must have been hard on you, Martha. I subscribe to your wearing out theory. My dad did as well, but he wondered why of a person’s two legs, two arms, etc., each the same age, one always wore out sooner.

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      • That’s something I wondered, too. My orthopedic surgeon said it can be a number of things — first that we’re not really symmetrical and then a lot of arthritis starts from an injury that knocks something just a tiny bit out of kilter, sometimes not even enough for us to have been hurt.

        What I’ve gained from that experience (and don’t get me wrong; I’d rather be able to run than have gotten this lesson) is the ability to appreciate — even enjoy — what I can do now. There’s no point whining over it, as my folks used to say. The question is “What can I do NOW?” I’ve learned that the body/mind endorphin connection thing doesn’t know the difference between running and riding a stationary bike and my heart/soul/mind/eyes don’t need to run through a landscape to appreciate, love it. ❤

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      • Thanks for the info, Martha. It sounds logical. I like the philosophy you’ve adopted and feel much the same. I ran (slowly) until I was 70, mourned when my body forced me to stop, and now look forward to my walks, that become a little slower each year, as much as I used to my runs.

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  8. Thwarted by technology again.the reply above was in response to Martha Kennedy. Janet, once again you have described our stage of life with commonsense, wit and insight. Thank you. I hope you have a Happy and healthy new year.

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    • Technology can drive a person batty, can’t it? I think that’s why we all understand when something goes astray. I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Sally, and I wish you a rewarding new year as well.

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  9. Ha! Excellent ending, Janet. Feel free to share your issues and problems here. Sometimes, it helps to be reminded that we aren’t fighting these small daily battles alone. Maybe we’ll find that beer (or wine) and chocolate really are medicinal 🙂

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  10. For whinging over everything, work in a Health Food shop, my co workers panic at every germ, gulp horrible concoctions, drink mushroom hot chocolate, chose seaweed over a fat steak, and do not recall, as we do, the shadow of Polio, waking up Christmas Day with Mumps, and Cod liver Oil. I resolve this year to count my daily blessings- great post Dear Janet- Happy New Year to you and Joel.

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    • I hope your new year is fulfilling and happy as well, Sheila. You are one of the best gifts blogging has brought to me and each and every day I wish you well. I had forgotten about cod liver oil. I should have included it and also the green tea we had to drink when our stomaches hurt. Your co-workers sound like a rare lot. Dlo they also much on chia seeds?

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      • Hello again Auntie dear,not so much Chia seeds, but Sava Seeds that taste like fish.Some glug flavoured fish oil for dessert. Ma believed in “Dettol”, and Dr Fowler’s Extract of Wild Strawberry- apparently still available, and look how I turned out. Remember that discussing boils in a lineup gets it moving, especially if you are alone- learned it from Alice.

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  11. My bunions are growing bunions,
    My feet smell like onions,
    My toenails are ingrown,
    Fungi to my toes have flown,
    My ankles have anklelitis,
    And I very well might have appendicitis.
    My calves are mooing.
    Not sure what my knees are doing.
    My hips are shaking,
    They could be breaking.
    And that sound you hear
    My tummy had too much cheer.
    My chest is aching,
    My hands have started shaking.
    Could it be a heart attack
    Or just the burping from a midnight snack?
    A crick in the neck
    And a boil to be checked
    My hair is falling out
    And lips have a permanent pout.
    Otherwise I’m fine and dandy, Old Bean,
    And ready for 2017.
    Happy New Year, y’all.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. That’s quite a list of maladies, Janet. My ear is always available to hear your ailments, friend, because how can I tell you mine if you’re going to be so stoic?
    This getting old surprises me every day, ’til now I just say “hmmm, that’s interesting”. (Unless it hurts real bad and then I say #$&%)
    Janet, I’m wishing you and Joel a New Year free from complaints with lots of what makes you happy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, Mary, I’ve been embarrassed by how I monopolize our time with my ailments on those rare, wondrous occasions when we get together. You are such a kind and sympathetic listener, that its easy to rattle on and on; and I don’t suppose that will change. Your two greetings for each day’s bad news from your aging body made me laugh. I think I’ll adopt them. Thank you for your kind wishes, and Joel and I return the same to you. Happy New Year, dear friend.

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  13. Ah, the ongoing and new conditions coming with age. As JL and I deal with these conditions, I too, don’t talk about them too much. But, there is always that need to share what is happening in your life. Always a delicate balance. I marvel sometimes on Facebook about how many people describe their ailments in great detail. I would prefer not to read them, although I know it is important to those who write them. It is life after all.
    Wishing you and Joel a very Happy New Year!

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  14. Well, thank God you’re not gonna stop WRITING about them! ‘Cuz I so enjoy READING about them! Another great piece of creative writing, Kiddo. You are so talented at taking a piece of all of our lives and framing it in such a way that is highly enjoyable, relatable reading…..now let me call up my Mom and find out if she’s had a BM today….I soooo love that daily topic conversation with her and her friends!!! ;)p Happy New Year, Buddy! ❤

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  15. Pingback: Why older people talk about our ailments | Write into life

  16. Love this post, Janet.

    Many times I’ve wondered why my friends and I now complain about our health, rather than discuss fun things. I think it started at age 50, when we all realized we’re no longer immortal.

    I really, really, really admired my Dad; he never complained about how he was feeling—ever—even when he was dying of cancer.

    I hereby resolve to adopt your New Year’s resolution. Here’s to a happier (and healthier?) 2017!

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    • I’m surprised by how many of my readers have confessed to having the same health-complaint conversations. I agree it began when we started to sense our mortality. Your dad sounds like a brave person. He and my sister-in-law are unusual in their fortitude. I really am going to try to be more like them and less like the complainer I think I’ve become. Happy New Year to you and Tim, Rita.

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  17. Oh my goodness! My family used to do this at the dinner table–discuss in detail who had cancer, the treatments, etc. And any other disease or thing befalling friends that was talked about in hushed tones. It drove me nuts! Too much living to do to focus on the aches and creaks, right?

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post, karenlee. It was my husband saying that about me after I had been on a new medication for a few weeks that dried my mouth out. At the time I didn’t think it was funny, but in retrospect had to chuckle.

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  18. Hi Aunt Beulah
    Gee whiskers! I chewed you and Lucie’s ears off in 2016 with my never ending story, Annie’s Five Year Medical Drama!!!
    I think it is finally all done and dusted and 2017 will be more about wellness than illness, Hoping to return to work soon, so there’s a big chance I might feel a pinch and a pang in this ol’ body…I hereby resolve to suffer in silence in 2017.
    I hope you keep writing about your sore spots because somehow you always make me smile or laugh out loud, I should be going out in sympathy for you. The time you fainted and fell in the mud, floundered out and somehow managed to find your way home, a minor incidence Aunt Beulah, I think from memory it was only a pacemaker that you required. Nothing minor about that, it was a biggie but you brought your innate sense of humor to the story and had us all floundering in the mud with you, giggling at just the sight of it all..
    I hope you and Joel have a safe and happy 2017!!
    I am looking forward to your stories Aunt Beulah
    Big hugs wrapped in love
    From
    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊 💜

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    • My Dear Annie, I hope you know I don’t view you a one of those I’ve resolved not to be, those who gobble on and on about their minor physical concerns. You faced major issues and, the few times you communicated about them, did so with humor and pluck. I consider your recovery one of the blessings I experienced in 2016. Please don’t suffer in silence unless it’s about an infected ingrown toenail or a rash on your bottom. Those I don’t want to hear. My best wishes to you for a 2017 that is truly more about wellness than illness andis filled with a multitude ofl blessings big and small.

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      • Hi Aunt Beulah
        Annie again popping in for a visit, I agree with you and 2017 will be a year of wellness Aunt Beulah. I loved your story I Hereby Resolve, I would never think anything you write could be anything other than a joy to read Aunt Beulah, I am a huge fan of your writing and happy as larry that we have become friends.
        Lots of love and big hugs across the miles
        From
        Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊 💜

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  19. This is so interesting. The things we talk about change so much as we grow older. I don’t think I really talked about my health with people when I was younger either although it’s something that a bit more airtime these days because of my blog. I tell you though the things we talk about are topical to say the least. Brett and I were in the kitchen the other day having a conversation about a particularly awful bowel motion he had to sort out for our son and we were talking about it so casually like it was normal. I have to say I do enjoy ready about your maladies, especially the way you pen them. I’m pleased you will still be writing about them

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  20. You are so right, Katie, that our topics of conversation depend on where we are in our lives. When Joel and I used to visit our grandchildren when they were babies and toddlers, we’d find ourselves in the middle of conversations about toilet training, diaper changes, teething, etc. Then we’d go home to discussions of dry skin and aching knees with our friends..

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