Getting old. I can’t remember where I heard it, but I’ve been told that it “sucks.” Oh, that’s right, it was everyone old I ever knew. Now, having Rheumatoid Arthritis since the age of nine, my body began to wear out the day I was diagnosed, and I had just assumed that my disease was an early form of that wonder of nature called aging. Unfortunately, it’s looking like that’s not the case as my disease and time itself are now locked in a race to the death – to my death, as they fight one another in a bloody conflict for the right to make my body even more useless than it already is. Their war rages on, but no matter who wins, I lose.
Why I thought the ravages of aging wouldn’t touch me, well, I’m not exactly sure how that particular assumption came into being. I suppose because I already was suffering the symptoms of getting old, I figured that was pretty much the same thing. How many times can you destroy the cartilage in a knee or a hip? Once, the answer is once. “So,” I thought, “if it’s already happened, then aging can’t really do anything to me! Ha, I figured out how to beat getting old! Do it when you’re young! Awesome, tell everyone.” Oh, t’were it that easy.
Fast Forward to around now, when I’m mmmphmmnmnh years old, and I’m learning very quickly that Father Time does not intend to be anyone’s bitch. Like the rap wars of the late 90s, Daddy T (Father Time’s gang name) and his west-coast cronies have come to bust a cap in my ass, and he won’t be put off by some punk-ass east-coast autoimmune illness. It would all make for a great “Behind the Music” if they weren’t fighting over the privilege to see who gets to cause me pain and discomfort.
What’s even worse is that, as of late, its almost impossible to tell which has screwed me – disease or age. Now you might say, “who cares what caused it? Stop whining.” Normally I’d agree with you as whiners are right up there with drivers who jump the turning lane and people who pronounce “wh” like “hw,” (we get it – you’re sophisticated) but in this case, it’s important to know what’s causing my symptoms. If I pulled a muscle in my hip and I have to sit on an inflatable donut for a week because my body is slowly falling apart due to age, then that’s a problem on the scale of “7-11 is out of Haagen Dazs vanilla again.” (How do you run out of vanilla constantly? It’s the most popular flavor in the world. Nobody likes Dulce De Leche.) On the other hand, if my pain is caused by one of my many bionic parts breaking down, then that’s a problem on the scale of, say, “What happened to our pilot? Wait… where did that second parachute go?” You get the idea, and worrying about whether it’s an ice cream level problem or a missing pilot level problem can keep me up for nights on end.
The reason that this all has come to a head is because, lately, as I’ve been pushing my body the way I normally do (too long and way too hard), I realize I’m suddenly paying a much higher price than I’m normally used to. Autoimmune illness is like living in a video game. You only get a certain amount of energy each day, and if you spend all of that energy you begin to eat up the reserves that will power you for the next two or three days. (Before you ask, no I can’t use the up, up, down, down, B, A, B, A code) So, you push yourself when you have to, and you know that the next two days are going to suck. Unfortunately, that equation no longer seems to balance correctly.
Now, when I push myself into my energy reserves, its like I’m using up my strength at three times the normal rate, and I can easily end up out of commission for an entire week if I’m not careful. It’s really inconvenient because despite my illness I’ve never been the kind of person who can sit around and not do whatever needs to be done – if there’s yard work, I have to do it, if something needs to be fixed, I bust out the tools and git ‘er done, if there’s pizza left over, I bite the bullet and eat those slices with some hot sauce or ranch, if there’s – well, you get the idea. In fact, I’m so used to not sitting around that if there’s nothing to do, I’ll start one of my infamous (read: awesome) projects and rewire or rebuild something (my wife loves this). Whatever it is, I don’t care. I’ll build a Speak-N-Spell transmitter so E.T. can phone home and the next week turn it into a Sonic Screwdriver for wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff. Its what I like to do, I’m the Rube Goldberg of electronic bric-a-brac and now, for the first time, something is interfering with my ability to tinker, and I’m having a hard time with it. Who would have ever guessed that something as mundane as plain old aging would be the hydro-spanner in my works.
If I close my eyes, I envision a nemesis that could best me as some sort of super-android with a human brain, amazing hair, and a reserve of sarcastic quips at the ready – like a sociopathic robot James Spader from The Blacklist. And and eye-patch. So you know he’s evil (duh). Unfortunately, that wasn’t the droid I was looking for. It’s actually a frail old man with a long white beard and a Flavor-Flav clock named Father Time who crashed the reality show called My Life. Now I have to learn how to live with even less, and the worst part is that my mind hasn’t aged at all. I still call my friends “kids,” and call their parents Mrs. And Ms., even though I know that’s probably ridiculous. Getting old really does suck. Now, about that reality show with a Sam android, Flavor-Flav, and Father Time….