Though bookstore shelves are heavy laden with manuals on aging and retirement, there is an important aspect of the reality of aging that is never mentioned. A reality that I don’t think any one is ever prepared for.
What always comes as the biggest shock to retirees, is waking up one morning to find that mental preferences no longer rule the body. That the line of command has shifted.
When they say, as they’ve always said, through childhood, youth, and middle age, “Run, body, run” or “Jump, body, jump”, the body suddenly and unexpectedly refuses to do their bidding. Like a spoiled child, all they get from Body is stubborn dormancy and “Nah, don’t want to.”
It is the wildest irony that when the mirror reveals a failing physical form, that is when the power and long-time rule of Mental Preferences will be suddenly usurped by the authority of a feeble, mindless, stooped, and willowy-thin bit of hair and bone.
So here is a brief tutorial of what to expect when the Body becomes the new ruling authority and mental choices become obsolete.
BOOK 1: Rules for the Day (under the new authority)
1) Wake up.
2) Do not move. Do not attempt to rise. You will need to work out and warm up first. Start by gingerly stretching to unclasp padlocked limbs and loosen knots in the calves of your legs. It will take more than a few cautious stretches in order to abort impending macramé of every tendon.
(Remember in your party days how you used to press a foot again the wall to keep the room from spinning. You are going to have to do that again.) Lift one leg high and press your foot against the wall in order to ward off an impending cramp in the arch of the foot. Hold that posture until the spasm has passed.
3) Sit up and swivel body until legs drape over the side of the bed. No, maybe not. Not if there is a back spasm threatening. Maybe just roll over on stomach and push, crawl, fall over edge of bed. Now secure a good hold on the bed frame and stagger to your feet.
Support the upper body with arms braced and ease the torso gently onto the legs. If legs fold, repeat.
4) Don’t look at the clock. It is of no matter what time it is. Life is no longer a process marked by time. Your body, though frail, is now CEO of this relationship. And as the newly-installed CEO, Body will determine when you should rise, stand, sit, or lie down, and will needle you with cramps and pain if you disobey.
There will be no insubordination no matter what the clock-time or how physically and mentally exhausted you are.
Under the new authority, you may be obliged to stand and walk about at 4:30 a.m. and to lie down and sleep at 10:30 a.m. But still, within this new re-organization, you are obliged to do what your Boss-Body demands when your B.B. demands it.
5) After pre-testing of legs and eventually independent stance, put one foot in front of the other and head to the bathroom. Have the Nil-Odor within reach.
You will feel an urge to relieve yourself and you may, but at the same time you will for certain expel surprising and unexpected volumes of noxious gas. [NOTE: Nil-Odor has warnings not to inhale the fumes but the other can’t be safe either. So take your pick.]
6) Re-install your teeth. Mindless body will not prompt you to rinse them first. So maybe make a note of that because dental-soak is as strong as the acid used for marble etching.
7) Assemble bath materials – soap, towels, dry-skin lotion, non-skid bath mat, shampoo, etc. Remove night clothes. You may tell your body to “scale the tub” but Body will likely say, “Shut up, I’m the boss here and I don’t want to.” So there is nothing for it but to work up a soapy lather on a soft cloth and wash pertinent areas starting with UPPER portion of body and working down! [Another routine that it might be well to write down in appropriate order.]
Rinse and dry.
8) Crawl back into night-clothes because mindless-body forgot to bring day-wear to bathroom. Trudge back to bedroom to extract clothes from closets in order to dress. Lay wardrobe on bed. Go to kitchen. Boil water for tea. Make tea, make toast, take pills. Return to bedroom to get dressed. Return to kitchen to remember why you went to bedroom. Return to bedroom to remember why you went to kitchen.
Didn't help. Oh well, it's of little matter. No doubt, by now the new CEO or Body Authority will decide that that is enough body-movements and physical commissions for now. And so Body, at this point, will bullishly insist on a lie-down. And so, submissively, that’s what you will do.
If we were consulting clocks, which we are not doing, this process would have started at 9:00 a.m. and reached completion by lunch-time.
And so now…I’m wondering if there is a real need for this kind of handbook. I’m wondering if after this mandatory nap, if I should attempt to work on Book Two. I expect the new boss will say “Nay” to that as well.