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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Brain vs. Body

I spend a lot of time these days staring at old people. I understand that it’s impolite. But after I turned 50 I had a rude awakening. Sure I’d been eating at the adult table for a long time. I’m not kidding anyone when I say I’m still young, because I’m not. I’m simply immature. The next table I will be eating at will be the nursing home table. Followed by the hospital tray de puree. My body understands this. My brain doesn’t.

I see and feel myself getting old. When I look in the mirror, I notice my eyelashes have disappeared. They’re still there, but they are thin and flesh colored. Hundreds of childhood-fertilized, sun-baked wrinkles cover my face. My skin has thinned, and the face fat has disappeared. I’m getting “those horrid age spots!” they used to warn about in Esoterica ads, and worst of all, I am forever ripping out piano-wire-textured hair from my ears. I do not remember signing up for Chia Ears. Could someone call them off? I won’t even go into the age-related health problems. I’m saving my “organ recitals” for The Home.

So although I have physical signs of age, even beyond my years, my general psychological being is still an adolescent. So I’m paying attention to people a couple of decades older to prepare for what I’ll have to look forward to.

So far, there’s nothing.

I was at the pharmacy yesterday, and the woman in front of me, who was probably ten years my senior, was buying three giant-sized packages of generic adult diapers. “God,” I thought, “that could be me any day now. I’m so glad I’m not there yet.”

But I am there. After all, what was I standing in line for? To pick up my (fifty-dollar co-pay, thanks a lot) Celebrex prescription. For the osteoarthritis in my back.

I’m sure my brain is this way because it lives in denial. I nearly drowned last year when I got caught in a rip current in the Atlantic Ocean. I kept telling myself I’m one of the best swimmers I know, and I don’t need no stinkin’ lifeguards watching me. They couldn’t see me, of course, because they were dutifully patrolling their cell phones, having text conversations with their friends. I eventually swam out of it, but I did get to the point of yelling for help or drowning of pride. Other Bill helped rescue me. Will I swim out to a sandbar again? Probably. Because, to me, I’m not 53. My body tells me I am, but my brain is back in junior high school, wondering why all my friends are suddenly attracted to girls.

Granted, I have slowed down some. My body tells me that it’s perfectly all right to be ready for bed at 9:00 PM. Yet, my brain says, “Well if you’re going to do that, make sure you Tivo Dude, Where’s My Car? so you can watch it during the daylight hours.”

I try to eat healthy. During the weekdays, I have green tea for breakfast and an apple and a big carrot and a yogurt for lunch. But when candy, doughnuts or cookies are available at one of the many public offering tables at work, my afternoon repast will be a handful of tasty miniature Krackle bars, and if I’m lucky, a big piece of someone’s birthday cake.

My 53-year-old body tells me I should exercise to prevent myself from stiffening up. It says I should join a senior yoga class. But my 14-year-old brain says, “What that sore back needs is for you to push yourself all the way back in the recliner, put your feet up, have a couple stacks of those delicious, orange-colored Voortman vanilla-crème-filled waffle sandwich cookies while you enjoy two hours of Warner Brothers animation on the Cartoon Network. My brain bullies my body.

Doctors, therapists, and new age spiritualists all agree that you should listen to your body. But I can’t hear my body when my brain is screaming for ice cream. My brain uses a megaphone and holds the key to the sound-proof booth, where my body is isolated backstage.

I don’t know how or when my brain and body will merge and start to cooperate with each other. The brain is definitely the super-heavyweight in this fight, and my body is the light flyweight. The body will always be knocked out with the first punch.

So I stare curiously at older generations as if they will somehow give me a clue as to how this will come about. When I’m 80, I wonder, will I be driving a Lincoln Town Car and be shrunken up so badly that I can’t see over the steering wheel? In my twilight years, will I be wearing plaid pastel pants with white patent-leather loafers and matching belt? Who’s going to tell me when it’s time to stop wearing shorts and tank tops and jeans and worn-thin vintage t-shirts? At what point does wearing an Abercrombie and Fitch polo shirt look more ridiculous than a leisure suit and a bow tie? Will I ever own a car that is not a stick shift? When will I want to listen to Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby or Celine Dion CD’s? The music thing may have already started, given the fact that there are four Mandy Patinkin CD’s in my collection. But how will the rest of the transition take place?

I’ll tell you how it’ll happen. This body, which has been bullied all its life by my brain, will finally rise up, grow a pair and fight back. Well maybe “fight” is too strong a word. It’ll just let go of the rope. The body knows Depends and Levi’s are not compatible. It is aware that no one at the nude beach wants to see your colostomy bag. It understands that portable oxygen tanks are not allowed on roller coasters. Wheelchairs are not going to cut it during vacations to hilly San Francisco. My body will refuse to step out into the sun without forming some kind of ugly, suspicious growth. My teeth will rot and crumble, leaving my body only mashed potatoes and Gerber products to consume. And as the body grows bolder yet sicker, the brain will have no choice but to relent, throw in the towel, and start doing what the body says. Unfortunately, by then, it’ll be too late. The brain will merely exist in regret.

Meanwhile, my brain is reminding me that it’s been a long time since I’ve gone—and it’s only a four-mile drive—to the beach for fudge and salt-water taffy. And maybe a nice new pair of flip-flops.

Creative Commons License by Bill Wiley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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1 comment:

  1. I saw Warren H. a few months back, speaking of hairy ears. And his are even worse, and more gray!!!!!!!!!!! Aren't you looking forward to that? Do you think about him every time you pluck an ear hair???? :) MIssy