1. I’ve taken being able-bodied for granted my entire life. You hear it a lot, but it’s true. When insecure, stroppy teenage me started getting my whine on about my ‘fat thighs’, my dear no-nonsense Nana would bark: “Oh, shut it – at least you’ve got legs that work!” And I would roll my eyes, turn my back, and belly flop right back into my pool of angsty self loathing.
Now I can but laugh at my youthful idiocy. I’ve competed in triathlons, swum non-stop for hours and climbed mountains. But all that was small beer compared to the effort I had to muster yesterday morning when – having managed to shuffle from my bed to the loo – I found to my horror I couldn’t stand up again.
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry (or both) as I ran through a mental list of which friends might be both trustworthy and tactful enough for the task of rescuing me from my porcelain prison (before finally realising I’d left my phone on the bedside table anyway). Which leads nicely on to my next point…
2. Even the most independent people need others (and there’s no shame in it). It’s always irked me a bit that we receive so many messages about being independent and not ‘needing’ other people in our lives. I was raised in the cult of individuality, where admitting that we require help, companionship or empathy can be incredibly hard. It’s a badge of honour not to need others … and yet as a species we’ve survived and thrived for millenia mainly through forming communities with our fellow dudes and dudettes. I love my solitude. But without visits, check-ins and physical assistance from a couple of very cool humans, the last few days would have been pretty bleak.
3. If I grow so old and frail I cannot take care of myself, I may have some tough choices to make. The past few days have given me an idea of what I might become if I live a very long life. Some would say if I’m ‘lucky enough’ to live a very long life.
It scared the ever-living fuck out of me.
In some moments I can almost understand the case for having kids so they’ll look after you in your dotage (if it weren’t for the fact that (a) it’s monumentally selfish, and (b) any spawn of mine are likely to be uncontrollable hellbeasts).
Needing help to wash, having to be carried down staircases and driven around town, being forced to accept my body just won’t do what I need it to … I hate it. I’ve often half-joked that I hope I die before I outlive my usefulness, but now it doesn’t seem remotely funny. I can see a rising temptation to shuffle off this mortal coil on my own terms once my body starts to pack up.
But would that be fair to those who care about my fate? Would it even honestly be the right choice for me? Is my fear of frailty nothing more than the inevitable narcissistic byproduct of all the messages I’ve absorbed over the years valuing youth and beauty as the highest form of currency? Would it be better to be brave, and experience the full human condition – oogy bits and all?
Will I know the answers by the time I need them?
3. Vodka is more effective for preventing wound infection than Foban or Betadine.
4. If you’re going to use vodka to wash out a gammy wound, make sure you have a pillow to bite on. And a spare pillow, and someone to vacuum up the stuffing. Bonus points if they’re kind enough not to snigger as you roll around thrashing and effing.