The older I get, the more I find irony in the phrase that “knowledge is power”, while so very much of life is based on trial and error.
We spend approximately 16 – 18 years of our early lives in school. Learning, testing, gaining skills. Then we are out in the “real” world. And over time, we begin to learn how little we know about that real world. News flash: it doesn’t get easier the older we get. Much of what we learned in those first 16 years starts to fade, replaced by effort and experience. As a matter of fact, as life takes us through increasingly new and challenging experiences, we start mumbling “no one told me about this part.”
For a while, we rely on the generations before us to impart their wisdom upon us. But what happens when those generations pass, and we are left…well, with our own lessons? What then? Are WE suddenly in the role of the wise elders? Wow, that’s a frightening prospect.
For all the “help” books that are published every year, along with lengthy manuals and doctoral theses, and the trillions of YouTube videos and Google searches, there still seems to be a lack of being able to just tell me like it is – short version. There’s no Cliff Notes on how to raise children, how to survive teen angst and making college decisions, what to really expect in caregiving for elders, how to stay happy in 20+ years of marriage, deal with budget stress, handle job changes late in life, and – here’s the biggie – cope with our own aging. Now, please, don’t start flooding me with books to read. I know there are many great authors, therapists, doctors and motivational speakers out there who would love to tell me how to handle any of the above. But what about the REAL story? The stuff we learn from our mom, our aunts, our BFFs – and, truly, the things we learn by just making our own mistakes? There’s no greater solution, like it or not, than trial and error.
Every now and then, when we are lucky, a big lightbulb goes off, or someone has the bravery and experience to honestly tell us like it is. Sometimes this is in the form of a comforting friend who has “been there done that”. Other times, that wisdom comes from being willing to ask questions to the right people.
I had a big fat lightbulb moment this morning and it changed my whole attitude for the rest of the day – in a good way. And it prompted me to want to shout this wisdom from the rooftops to all the other R.W.’s out there who are experiencing the same thing I am. Ok, well, this isn’t a rooftop, it is a blog post. Kind of like I’m whispering in your ear. It’s safer this way, as I would probably get arrested for spouting weird crap that only I find amazing from the top of a building…. But I digress..
First, a bit of background. All of my doctors are women. I have absolutely nothing against male doctors. It is just that I have found that, especially later in life, female doctors totally “get it.” They are the ones who will tell you kindly and gently what you need to know like a friend, they have likely experienced it all too, but they have the years of medical knowledge and skill to actually back it up when the rest of us are pretty much winging it. I am also lucky that at this point, all of my doctors are totally awesome.
This morning I had a check up with my Oncologist. A lovely, wonderful woman. After the usual exam and discussions about menopause, she asked if there was anything else on my mind, any questions, concerns, etc. Let me pause right here. Far too many women, especially in our younger years, are hesitant to ask questions or to say “well, you know, this has been bothering me…” I’m not sure why we hold back, but we do. Maybe embarrassment, maybe the feeling of “that’s not important enough to bring up”, maybe a bit of head-in-the-sand syndrome, who knows. But with age comes confidence, so I have moved comfortably into the zone of sharing with no fear. I told my Dr. that I was feeling frustrated that I couldn’t shed this extra 10 pounds I’ve been carrying around for a while.
She leaned back and told me the following. (You younger women reading this, bear with me – this is good for you to know too). The average woman between the age of 47 and 55 gains an additional 7 – 10 pounds during those years. And they gain a tummy roll, even if they never had one before, and even though we all hate it. That tummy is not all about being fat. It is keeping us healthy. Seriously. It is there to assist with hormones and providing estrogen our bodies need as we head into our menopausal years. The Dr. even told me that our tummies help fight osteoporosis… and women who have that bit of extra weight and that stomach pooch live longer.
I’m sure I looked at her as if I had just heard “I love you forever” from Adam Levine or George Clooney, or that she had just handed me a winning lottery ticket. I said “Really? Wow, you just made me feel so much better! I never knew that!”. She smiled and said “You need to learn to love your tummy.”
Ok, so maybe for many of you this is either old news, or no big deal. But for me, at that moment, it was that slice of “no one ever told me that”, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. I swear my mood boosted to level 10.
By the way, for any men who have hung in here long enough to read to this point, please take note as well. Don’t be critical or discouraging if your mature lady’s shape has changed… she is going to be healthier and live longer because of it. (Not like your donut belly, by the way. Yes, we do notice it. We are just too nice to point it out.)
I realize her information does not give me license to give up eating my salads, stop exercising, and become a sloth on the sofa who eats chocolate cake every day. BUT, her information did something vitally important. It made me feel a whole lot better about myself. It also made me think about all of the other R.W.’s out there who could use that good information and mood boost and feel better about themselves too.
Because, in the end, all of our knowledge gathering, trial and error, and figuring out “why didn’t someone tell me about this” moments are not about becoming experts at everything, or geniuses, or Wonder Woman, or even the best ever caregivers. Life is all about just doing the best we can. Getting through each day, making it just a bit better for ourselves and those around us. And that is exactly what Dr. S. did for me this morning.
To celebrate, I’m going to try really hard to follow her advice and appreciate my new form. And I may just grab a handful of m&m’s for my tummy… you know, just to say thank you.