Bellyaching & Whining While Crying in My Metamucil

by James Wallace Harris, 8/4/21

TRIGGER WARNING: Don’t read this if you’re under 65 or prone to depression. I don’t want anyone blowing their brains out because I’ve bummed them out.

This past year I’ve been sitting in countless waiting rooms with other sick souls waiting for the M.D. After our name is called, why do we say “Great” or “Fine” when the nurse asks us how we’re doing? Aren’t we all lying? Are we so overjoyed the waiting is over that we lie? How do we really feel? What if we actually told her.

The next time the nurse is in the doorway and yells “James Harris” and then asks me as I approach her, “How are you doing today?” I’ll give her this blog.

People ask me all the time about how I’m doing. I’m afraid to tell them. Oh, I make up funny anecdotes about the urologist, or laugh about my gallstones, but is it socially acceptable whine about how we really feel?

Lately, I’ve been asking myself, “How do I feel?” Mostly I’m stoic even to myself. I don’t want to admit that life is starting to suck. It’s not all bad, but so many of my organs are breaking down that I want to trade my body in for a 2022 model. I’m retired and have all my time free – which my young friends envy, and I’m not suffering like many folks on the nightly news every evening. But retiring and getting old is nothing like I imagined.

When I was young I thought turning old meant going bald and becoming wrinkled. I figured I could handle that. Then in my forties and fifties I started having various medical “issues.” However, doctors would fix me, and there would be long periods of feeling good. I realize now that getting old is when the periods of feeling good get shorter and shorter. I assume old old is when we give up hoping for symptom-free days.

I haven’t had a day where I felt normal, much less good, in so long I can’t remember. There’s always some body part yelling or kicking about something. Luckily, it’s been mostly little slaps to my innards, but they are starting to get a lot more forceful. I can’t imagine what daily life will be like in ten or twenty years.

And I have no reason to whine. I know people with all kinds of horrible cancers, chronic pains, conditions with scary names, failing body parts needing replacements, mental maladies, or worse. A quarter of the people born the year I was, 1951, are now dead. Of course, I know people my age, even ten and twenty years older, that are still healthy (if they aren’t lying). Aging begins in different decades for different people. And I keep hoping I can get my current broken parts repaired so I can feel normal again – for a while at least. I’d love a whole normal year, or even a couple months. Hell, right now, a week would be wonderful. I’m starting to worry that some of my ailments might be chronic. I’m like an antique car that runs but is always up on the rack.

Aging wisely I suppose, is learning to accept the increasing time required for parts maintenance. I sure it took Sisyphus time to adapt to his task too.

It used to be simple. The head aches, take an aspirin, it stops. My stomach complains, I change my diet, it shuts up. My heart has tachycardia episodes, I get a cardiologist to zap the right spot, it ticks like a clock. That’s what I thought would happen with my pee-pee-peeing problem. I’d see a urologist, have an operation, it would be fixed. That didn’t happen this time. I had an operation. It didn’t fix everything. My doctor is still trying, but things aren’t simple.

Right now my bladder is driving me nuts daily, every few months I have a gallbladder attack, and I’m getting rather gimpy because of my spinal stenosis. For years I’ve had stomach problems, but if I gave up certain foods my tummy would play nice, sometimes for months (until I started sneaking in junk food). I’ve now given up all the fun foods gurus told me were bad, and my stomach still bellyaches. I suppose it’s the gallbladder, but I don’t know. My doctor is wait-and-see watching me. It used to be docs would just rip out the gallbladder but they don’t seem to be so quick with the scalpel anymore. They’ve discovered there are long-term consequences to living without your GB. I’m trying to find if I can live with my gallbladder and stones or need to have that sucker laparoed out, but while I ponder I have indigestion, reflux, and sometimes painful attacks. It’s a quandary. It’s certainly taken the enjoyment out of mealtimes. I never know when I’ll eat a culinary grenade.

I’ve been taking a drug that helps me piss less, but it gives me dry mouth, and nasal congestion. If I stop taking the drug I pee over thirty times a day and have all kind of weird sensations in my bladder, prostate, and penis. Taking the drug quiets all that, but the trade-off is those head symptoms. Right now I’d rather feel bad above the neck than below the bellybutton.

One reason I don’t blog as much is I don’t feel like blogging. But today I’m making myself write because I’m starting to believe that another lesson to getting old is just pushing through, learning to ignore shit.

When I see sick young people, especially tragic ones that have to stay at places like Saint Jude Hospital, I feel how it’s unfair they didn’t get their decades of normal health. I wish I could tell the healthy under forty crowd not to waste or jeopardize their future vitality, because I certainly regret my six bags of M&Ms a day habit now (and all the other tons of junk food I massed consumed).

It’s weird, but I felt my best when I was eating all the things health nuts said things were bad for you, and now that I’m almost vegan, I feel bad all the time.

If you’re healthy, do everything you can to stay healthy. Don’t worry about getting old, worry about wear and tear on your body parts. If I had to spend one day a month when I was a teen feeling like I do now, I would have given up drugs and junk food, and joined a gym in 1964.


11 thoughts on “Bellyaching & Whining While Crying in My Metamucil”

  1. Ha, ‘culinary grenade’ I’m a ‘49er so I know exactly what you mean. No doubt I will use that term as I scour the menu at lunch selecting the food that will cause the least problems rather than what appeals. Aging is akin to climbing Everest, daily.

  2. I believe you tapped into everyone over 65. A few days ago I visited my Doc Bones, and when the nurse asked me how I felt, I said” like crap, or I wouldn’t be here.” She wasn’t amused and gave me the stink eye, but like you, I am tired of spouting BS and trying to be social. It appears I have lost my filters and what comes out of my mouth is a constant surprise to me and whoever is around. I’ve looked at growing old as how many good summers do me and my wife have left? At 72, probably 4, maybe 5 tops. Then the heavy stuff hits. Medical issues abound, we do what we can to circumvent the effects and try to be as normal as possible. Put on a brave face, keep a stiff upper lip, don’t go wobbly, and so on. Believe me when I say Cancer can put a big dent in your life for quite a while. On another note, it’s damn hot here in Texas, and what about those Cowboys? Good post.

  3. Amen! Close to 70 myself and every day is an out of body experience because I am losing control of my body. When you asked my grandfather how he was he’d say, “Terrible.” Folks made fun of him for it as if he were a hypochondriac or attention-seeker. But I thought then–and I’m even more certain of it now–that he was miserable all the time and just honest about it. I am not at the terrible point yet but…I use a computer program that tracks my physical condition and I no longer rate anything “Good”, just a lot of “Moderates”, and “Bad” is on the increase.

    Climbing Everest is apt. Old age maintenance takes a lot of time and effort and patience. It does make me self-absorbed but I don’t think that means there’s no reason to whine. I say let it out like Grandpa did.

    I both loved and hated the last section of your essay. It resonated with me but feeling regret is not constructive. As it stands my mood is good and I’m grateful to be anywhere.


  4. Consciousness isn’t a tool of wisdom.
    Many human beings thoroughly enjoy progress whitout ever realizing that progress is just another “enjoy now, pay later” scheme/scam. Pain & Pleasure are transient, though, and death the only certainty – but our current civilization wasn’t built upon that simple premise.
    The gentle art of letting go isn’t innate – too many will never know of it.

    (My apologies if this sounds sanctimonious – probably due to my own shortcomings, it’s hard to make dettached observations sound otherwise.)

  5. We’re all finding out how hollow The Golden Years expression is. Entropy can’t be escaped. Our systems run down and our organs fail. Medicine can only do so much to stall the March of Time. We all know how this movie ends.

  6. Humans weren’t built to live 70 years, or 80, or more. Medical science stretches our lifespan, but parts still wear out or get biologically damaged. At 75 I’m an epileptic diabetic who had prostate cancer. Time is short. I do what I can, like take my meds and vaccines (yes, including Covid). I know I’ll never feel as good as when I was 20s, or 30s, or 40s. I just try to fall apart gracefully.

  7. This is the best message I have ever received about real health issues when we get older if we don’t take very good care of our bodies at young ages.

  8. I hear you!……your body is providing an ever expanding source of negative signals that fill your thoughts with pain. So in the end your thoughts are also making you suffer, and you cannot get them out of your inner dialog! My approach has been to learn to mediate (
    If not this then I hope crowding sourcing some ideas via your blog brings you relief.

    1. Ian, it’s funny you should bring up meditation. Back in the1970s, when I was into New Age philosophy and Eastern religions, I got into yoga and meditation. I never practiced it faithfully. A few years back I read 10% Happier by Dan Harris and started piddling around with meditation again, but not regularly. I do occasionally, no mantra, just following my breath. Lately, I’ve been sitting out on the patio soaking up 20 minutes of sun each day, and it’s become meditative. I focus on the heat and light. I also spend time focusing on my body sensations, including the pains. I’ll check out Waking Up. I’ve read books by Sam Harris. Thanks.

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