I have a pinched nerve in my shoulder.  My left shoulder.  It is so painful that I had to eventually go in to the doctor…of my own accord…without my wife asking me to. All you married people out there – You know that is bad.

And how did I injure myself you ask? Rugby? Hockey? Soccer?  Nope. Nope. Nope. I aggravated it on a soft hotel bed, using pillows that were too hard.  How lame is that?  And over the last two weeks, I have made it worse by spending 8+ hours a day at work in a non-ergonomic work station. I can’t believe I used those words –  ergonomic work station. Even lamer.

But before the doc diagnosed it as a pinched nerve, I was the typical man.  Yep…I self-diagnosed using my years of medical training (countless hours watching ER and Doogie Howser and House, MD)  and writing it off as too much pumping iron, or perhaps the onset of osteoarthritis from an earlier dislocation.  But a couple of weeks of continued pain in the left arm and shoulder, an inability to sleep in my favourite position, and soon I was on the Internet, checking my symptoms on the various medical pages.  There I was, clicking on pages and links that no young man would ever look at…and because it was my left arm that was ‘a-paining’, I was directed to myocardial infarctions, cardiac distress, cholesterol levels (with a lengthy diversion onto the benefits of a high fibre diet courtesy a well-placed hyperlink).  I then moved from there, distracted by Lance Armstrong’s personal sruggle, and starting reading about testicular cancer and prostates and PSA tests. And then it was a simple leap (of  just a few centimetres, really) to learning more about bowel issues and other topics that are just TMI for this blog.

Then I was struck by a thought:  How did I get here? When did I start giving a crap about things like that (no pun intended)?  What has happened to me? And…more importantly…what is happening to my body?  As I edge closer to the half century mark, so many things are changing – and many are unflattering and just plain annoying.  I miss the resilience and endurance I used to have when younger.

I mean, I still love spicy food and curries and jalapeno peppers and hot sauce and wasabi. But, my stomach lining and my diaphragm,  do not. The mild splash of stomach acid weeping into places it shouldn’t weep is just so sad.  No more asking for the Five Alarm CheektowagaIrv Weinstein” Nachos, the “Weep-at-the-aroma-only” suicide wings, theTabasco and Tequila fuelled Prairie Chicken.

Now it’s, “No, not the cheeky vindaloo, Sir.  I’ll have the mild korma, please”.  And, things that were in the old man aisle at Shoppers’ are now an occasional buy – Pepto, Tums, Gavsicon, Maalox.   My new catchphrase to the young and fool-hardy, the ones who have the asbestos-lined stomachs is, “If it burns on the way in, it’ll burn on the way out!”  Most don’t care – they are young and will heal quickly – but it makes me feel wise.  Like the old bull who walks down the hill.  The old bull who rations his chili pepper that is…

And what happened to the full night’s sleep?  That seems to have disappeared along with the hair. Caffeine after dinner is simply inviting the” kiss of death” for the Sandman. And if you have suffered a sleepless night, you will know that insomnia is insidious. Night time is much too quiet, much too long, and too full of bad TV infomercials, to spend awake thinking about all those little things that are in the recesses of your mind – things like did I put enough into my RSPs, why is my shoulder hurting, are the kids happy, should I buy snow tires?  Don’t small problems just grow bigger in the dark?   I do not enjoy that aspect of getting older.

And to add to the insult, just as the diaphragm weakens in the face of the acid onslaught, the nocturnal bladder seems just as frail in the face of the evening peppermint tea or just-before-bed glass of water ( I have learned this unfortunate reality is called nocturia, and is way too common). If I am lucky, I make my mid-night bathroom run at 2am or 3am, allowing for a delicious second “nap” before the alarm buzzes.  If I am unlucky, I do the porcelain shuffle fifteen minutes before I have to get up.  And I hate that…I fight it savagely.  I play mind games and struggle to deny that “too full” feeling like I am in a sleeping bag in a tent in the middle of a wet night. It would all be better if I could just fall back asleep and my bladder could wait until it is time to get up…but there is no cooperation. I might steal a few more ZZZZs, but they are always interrupted by the dream involving a waterfall or rain or a babbling brook.  Muscles that were once taut and resilient are older and less robust (Note to Self: read up on kegles for men…).  I hate the mid-sleep pee, especially since sleep seems to be a rare commodity.

Another sign of the age apocalypse hit me when I was at the barbers’ in Kingston (the Wilstassier was a little too long for the Gillette Mach 3).  At the end of the Zero, the barber asked me if I wanted my ears and eyebrows trimmed.  Excuse me?  What did you say?  Who am I? Dumbledore … Oscar the Grouch…my Dad?  And after a quick glance in the mirror, I relented.  Sadly, I now realise that I am part of the fuzzy-ear, bushy-eyebrow crowd (we won’t mention those unruly nose-hairs). I will need to include this new grooming ritual with the rest of my old man routine of belly lint and toenail clipping and corn medicine and Gold Bond anti-itch powder.  Soon it’ll be sock garters, the suspenders and belt combo, the trousers’ waistband pulled up to the nipples, the love of pastel colours, and the blue-plate special at Denny’s. Though my body may be heading that way, in my brain I am not ready yet – not in the slightest.

The shoulder is annoying, and I will need a physio or massage therapist to work out the issue.  And as I am wiser, I will actually do all the prescribed therapy. I will use the big stretchy rubber ribbons and the 5lb weights and I will stretch.  I will do it because if I don’t, my body will not forgive me. And, I will eventually run out of ibuprofen.

And that leads me to the tragic bit.  Though I really know better, and realise that it is not wise, I will continue to emulate the life I lived when I was 20. But eventually (like the next day) I will have to cash the cheque I wrote earlier.  And while I am not ready to give up the spicy food yet, and I still enjoy my evening tipple, and I will still hobble onto the rugby pitch for an Old Boys’ or alumni game – everything must come in moderation. That is what old people do. They act sensibly.

But I hope that as in the past,  a wee, tiny, little bit of me will rebel and on occasion  quote Oscar Wilde: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”  And because I am man, and still want to frolic in the fields with the young bulls, I will follow that siren call.

But until then, please excuse me. My beverage just kicked in.  I have to go use the restroom…

Later,

ASF

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