I must tell you about the bruise on my knee. It's a three-dimensional, technicolor marvel. There's a huge lump in the middle, and my kneecap is surrounded by a purple ring, like Saturn. Red stripes radiate from the center, perpendicular to the kneecap, but tilted about 10 degrees south. Fascinating.
Earlier this week I took a spill, something that happens to me every so often because I am a little klutzy and more than a little absent-minded. I slammed my knee – hard – on the concrete floor of a parking garage. I was with my mother at the time, and she was a bit freaked out – understandably so, because she has a few decades on me (she’s my mother, after all). For someone her age, a fall of that sort could be catastrophic. But I am still this side of 50, and lucky for me, my bones are still pretty strong. I was able to get up, dust myself off, and hobble on. (Let me assure you that I am truly, absolutely fine; as a three-time knee surgery veteran, I can tell you for a fact that this beauty of a bruise is only skin deep.)
While I am indeed this side of 50, I am barely so: the mid-century milestone is closing in, just over a month away. It’s a big one, this birthday. Sure, by anyone's definition, I have been middle-aged for quite a few years now. But when you hit 50 you are unquestionably, incontrovertibly flipping the album over to Side B. (And you unquestionably, incontrovertibly need to be at least 49 to parse that metaphor.)
I think a lot about how I want Side B to look. What I’d really love is to be one of the super-flexible seniors I occasionally see in yoga class: folks in their late 70’s who are doing exotic poses wherein they support their entire body weight on three fingers of their left hands while they wrap their right legs behind their heads. I have recently started going to yoga class pretty regularly (although the purple golf ball on my left knee has kept me off the mat for the past week). Four months in, I have almost gotten to the point where I can support my entire body weight on both of my feet. Some of the time. At least while I'm stationary.
Alas, this mess on my left knee is proof of the limits of my capacity to balance. But this bruise! It changes daily, hourly even: the colors! The shape! It's like a little work of performance art that I carry with me wherever I go.
"Check it out, Steve!" I say to my husband. "It's swelling down to my shin! And yesterday it was not nearly this green."
"Hmmm," he says, absorbed in his book, oblivious to the museum-quality aesthetics playing out on my left lower limb.
I do plan give up this habit of tripping over my own feet once I flip over to Side B next month. I will, after all, be a mindful, well-balanced Yogi, at least once my knee heals. But my telomeres are growing shorter, as they inevitably must; and in time I will face whatever age-related health concerns I have to face. Who knows? Perhaps those three fingers on which I learn to support my entire body weight may even develop arthritis.
But whatever health challenges I face, I will not bore you by talking about them! I refuse to become someone who dwells endlessly on my physical infirmities. As Gordon Livingston writes in Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart:
What could be less interesting and more discouraging than a litany of aches, pains, and bowel difficulties, delivered in the querulous tone of those who realize that what they are suffering from is beyond remedy and getting worse?
Livingston goes on to write about how our culture is dismissive of the wisdom of the elderly, and thus the elderly become dismissive of themselves. No worries: I plan to become EXTREMELY wise! Pithy little pearls of wisdom will drip off my tongue at discreet intervals, which tongue will not be otherwise occupied talking about my failing health.
Anyway, why would I talk about my health in the future, when nothing that happens could possibly be as interesting as the colossal bruise I have right now on my left knee? (I finally do manage to get Steve to pay proper attention. "Steve," I say, "how do you suppose we would calculate the area this bruise occupies on my leg?" He pulls out a tape measure and we decide it's best described, geometrically, as a rhombus, 4 inches in height by 10 in length, making it 40 square inches in area. Thanks, Steve!)
You wanna see it, don't you?
Surely you didn't expect me to show you my actual bruise!?! It's gross. And it's winter--way too cold to take my clothing off long enough for a photo shoot. Besides which, No Shave November is still going strong, here in mid-December.
All of which is way more information than you need. I will not speak of such trivial, self-involved things next month, once I'm playing Side B. The only things that will pass my lips will be those precious, pithy bits of wisdom, at discreet intervals.
But I'm still 49. So as of yet, I don't know shit.