Changing Definitions

Definitions have a way of changing as you get older, ever notice? For instance, remember back in your 20’s when you thought being in your 40’s seemed old? Then you reached your mid 30’s and 40 didn’t seem old at all, am I right? So when my kids slip and tell me of some encounter with an old person, ‘you know, in their 50’s’, I don’t get my hackles up, because I know from my vantage point that people in their 50’s are still babes in the woods…but 70’s, well now, that’s old.
Long, long ago I’m sure there was a time when saying you ‘felt good’ actually meant that your body felt, well, good. Then somewhere in your 30’s and 40’s something happened, you birthed children, old sports injuries reintroduced themselves, new injuries didn’t heal as quickly as they used to and gradually the definition of ‘feeling good’ meant two things; that you were able to go to work, and that you could still keep doing most, if not all of the things you had always enjoyed doing. Feeling good didn’t necessarily mean that you felt great all the time, but rather it just meant that you had adjusted your definition of what ‘feeling good’ meant to you.
It would follow then that as people age and get sick with diseases like cancer, COPD, lupus, heart disease, or whatever it may be, that what used to constitute as feeling good is a much different definition than what you or I would define as ‘feeling good’. ‘Feeling good’ now means learning to live with symptoms of the disease and medication side effects that go along with it, which inevitably may make you feel bad, but fits your new definition of ‘feeling good’ because you can now tolerate  old activities like going shopping, or eating out, or seeing a movie, maybe even taking a trip. ‘Feeling good’ may mean that the constant dull ache in your shoulder feels much better than the sharp excruciating pain that kept you from moving your shoulder. ‘Feeling good’ means the fatigue which usually overwhelms you is still there but you’ve still managed to squeeze an outing or two in each week.
Taken a step further, when you are diagnosed as being terminal your definition of ‘feeling good’, which has not always been that great for a long while, gradually dwindles even further to simply being able to take a few bites of food without feeling nauseous, or feeling like walking out to the living room instead of lying in bed. It’s these small achievements which constitutes a caregiver’s report of ‘he was feeling good today.’

Tweaking definitions as you go through life are just a part of life. What is old, feeling good, or looking good, are all subject to life’s interpretations…

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. And there you have it. My mother has never adjusted to her new reality. She wants to feel like 50. She gets irritated when doctors tell her she is doing great considering her age. She doesn’t want merely to be better than most people her age, whatever age that has been; she wants to be better than someone 20 or 30 years younger! It is a gift to be able to accept what is.

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