As you might imagine, not a whole lot is getting done.
I'm old. I'm 65, which is not very elderly, but it's certainly not middle-aged. When I turned 60 I felt wonderful, a feeling of "Damn! I'm still standing!" but 65 feels different; the path just slightly starting downhill. Because I've been around and using my body for so many years, parts are not working so well. My joints are getting arthritic. I've had hearing loss my whole life, but it's getting -- I'm sorry, what? -- worse. Without reading glasses I can't read anything much smaller than "Go Dog Go" even in bright sunlight. My digestion -- eh, let's not go there. And there's a definite tendency towards Geezer Mode: My god, kids today, those pants! And the music, I can't understand a word of it except the F word. Movies, I've seen all these plots before. I can't tell the difference between all these young women doing scandalous things. My dentist looks like he should still be in high school.
But there's not much support for aging in our culture. Being able to look at least youngish, and to be able to act young, are the marks of a successful old person. We admire the old who are STILL ACTIVE. Yessir, she lifts weights and does yoga and walks every day, she's up-to-date with her computer, and gardens, and watches her diet, and you never think of her as "old." How often do you see an article or hear about a marvelous old person who's a physical wreck but WISE? Or, even more unlikely, SPIRITUAL? Those are the paths open to us as we age, but it's mostly dark, unexplored territory.
I'm disabled. It's an "invisible" disability, but it's a disability nonetheless. I have Post-Polio Syndrome, which is a progressive debilitating neurological condition. Many people who had polio as children develop PPS in their fifties and sixties, but since polio has virtually vanished in the U.S., there's not much interest in working with PPS in the medical world. There are no helpful drugs, nor much advice beyond giving you a handicapped parking sticker. The symptoms are similar to other destructive neurological conditions like MS and Parkinson's. Increasing weakness. Increasing fatigue. Transient mental confusion. Pain. Good days and bad days. Rest is essential. "Not overdoing" is essential. I'm not going to get better, any more than I'm going to get younger.
There's a lot more understanding and support of disability in our culture than there used to be. (Of course, going from 1% to 10% is a huge increase, but it's still only 10%). When you look okay, but need to cancel or decline or opt out, over and over again, it's hard for others to be supportive, or even know how to react. I've found it's easier for my friends, and the world in general, if instead of saying, "I can't because I need to be quiet and stay in bed right now" I say, "I can't because I had to take a strong pain pill and the medication has knocked me out." We know how to act towards medication reactions, but not towards long-term disability. And I haven't gotten past mourning my losses: no longer able to be a hospice volunteer, no longer able to do an entire yoga class, even if I "pace myself," no longer able to go on an evening walk in the neighborhood with my husband. No longer able to simply live my life full out, without constantly thinking of consequences and running into barriers. I can't say as I've achieved much understanding or support of my disability.
And I'm lazy. Because I'm not trying as hard as I could. I know that. My mother knew that, and of course it's her voice I hear pointing it out. No, that's not fair. My mother, God rest her soul, has been dead over 30 years. It's my voice now. Last night I tried to open a box of spaghetti. Not one of those armored boxes, just a simple cardboard box like a cereal box. I couldn't do it, my hands were too weak. I handed it to my husband, but as I did I thought "lazy." If I'd tried harder I probably could have gotten it open. I could have gotten a scissors or knife and hacked it open. Lazy. Because not doing it meant one more thing I can't do.
"Trying hard" is the essential American virtue. Not sweetness of heart like those Dickens' heroines, not understanding and proper behavior like Austin's ladies, not style nor honor nor creative madness. "Try a little harder" -- to exercise, to eat the right things, to not eat the wrong things, to get all the right medical tests to keep those numbers in the currently right range, to read the right books, to learn how to use your new computer and phone and camera. And if you don't want to try? Well, that's the working definition of lazy, isn't it? She won't try.
There's a good reason for that focus on trying harder. Because if you stop, if you release the definition of lazy from your life, if you give up the hope that trying harder will make a difference, then you're face to face with your limitations. And nobody wants to go there.
But I'm here to tell you, my friends, that if you do all the right things, and have luck on your side, you will indeed live to be 95. That's the point, right? And being 95, I think, will feel quite a bit like I feel here at 65, with my disability. Slowed down, and losing ground. So you might want to start thinking about ideas like laziness and virtue and the true value of a human life. Just to get a bit of a head start.