I write this knowing well that someone older than I am likely will post some snarky comment about how I know nothing about aging. But it’s on my mind and this is my blog…so there.
I turn forty this week. For the most part, I think it’s great. I love my life, my family, and we’re in a good place, all things considered. But I went to see my doctor this week for a long-overdue checkup. And it turns out I was in denial for a reason. All the gave me was crappy news, or at least that’s mostly what I heard.
There was some good news, actually. My triglycerides, blood pressure, heart rate and most everything else was great. Guess my several days a week of exercise are worth something after all.
And then he hits me with the bad stuff.
The chronic pain in my foot is plantar fasciitis. It can hang around pretty much indefinitely, and even surgery isn’t much of a guaranteed fix. The ache in my shoulder most likely is a torn rotator cuff, the cartilage in one of my knees is going out and the ACL is messed up in the other.
If I was a car, I’d be ready for a tune-up, some new belts and hoses, at least.
But the one that bothered me most was my cholesterol. My HDL – which is is good stuff – is awesome. The bad LDL cholesterol, not so much. It was about 45 points higher than the upper limit of where it should be.
What the hell? I rarely ever eat red meat, hardly ever eat fried food, count my fiber and protein intake, watch my fat…from the outside, I look like I’m in good shape. and I guess I am, more or less, but the thing that bothers me most about the cholesterol is that the problem is mostly hereditary.
“I guess it could be a lot worse,” said my mom when I told her, “considering you have bad cholesterol on both sides of your family.”
Great. Well, at least it could be worse. So I’ve got that going for me. Thanks mom.
But the older stuff I can’t seem to do anything about just kind of pisses me off.
Then I remember the first tenet of Buddhism: life is suffering. It’s easy to read this from a contemporary western mindset as a real downer. I mean, our lives are built around maintaining a certain level of comfort in a lot of ways, right? But Jesus didn’t take the easy road, and neither did Siddhartha Gautama (AKA, Buddha), Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and so on. So why should I expect life to be free of suffering?
What my resentment has made clearer to me than anything is that our culture literally worships personal comfort. So it’s no wonder that ministries like those of Joel Osteen and others who claim that God’s favor is exhibited in the form of wealth and material abundance draw millions.
It also helps explain how churches teaching people to get over themselves, and that life is not all about us, have a tougher row to hoe.
It’s not a sexy, headline-making mission, but it’s worthwhile. The best part about suffering is that it’s a palpable reminder that I’m still alive. Every time my shoulder screams when I pick up my daughter, or my knee sounds like Jiffy Pop on steroids when I wrestle with my son, it’s a reminder that life is still happening.
Considering the alternative, I’ll take the suffering, thanks.