It sometimes amazes me how much of life goes by unnoticed.
Oh ... I am not talking about the big stuff - big stuff is generally seen and sometimes promptly dismissed or forgotten. But big stuff hits your personal radar - usually.
No, I am talking about the small, the inconsequential, the minor details that sometimes barely touch our consciousness. The kind of little red flags that seem to grow slowly over the years, becoming common place and accepted ... and limiting.
Here is an worrisome example in my mom's life and mine ...
Watching mom over the last 7 years, I realized the simple act of getting out of bed was getting not so simple for her. In the final months at my home we had to install bed bars - not to protect her from falling - but to give her a hand hold for pulling herself up with her arms to get out of bed. Now in assisted living, she has a bed strap that she grabs to help with rising or adjusting herself in bed.
Her torso muscles - those "core" muscles we hear so much about - aren't used for the function of rising out of bed anymore. She uses her arms to do the work. And last week, as I was sitting beside her - she in her recliner and reclined - she tried to get up but collapsed back. She couldn't sit up. She wanted me to lift her forward. I reminded her she could adjust the recliner electronically with the touch of a button to help her sit up. And she did.
None of this is news. For her this is "normal" now. Accepted. It didn't happen over night, however. At some point in the past she must have noticed more of a struggle to do the simple action of rising from bed. Or maybe not. Maybe she wasn't paying attention.
But here is the "bone shivering" part of the story for me.
One morning about a month ago I was laying in bed and I started to sit up. I promptly rolled back down. The first effort was a "fail." On my second try, I was successful. It took a bit of an effort and I didn't seem to remember that effort in the past.
But as I sat on the side of the bed I thought, "Not good. Not good at all." Visions of my mother floated through my head.
I vainly tried to explain away the episode to myself as I looked in the bathroom mirror and brushed my teeth that morning. Years ago I was instructed by a physical therapist to always roll on my side and push my torso up with my arms when getting out of bed. And I dutifully have done that for about 10 years to help with back pain.
But what has that small action resulted in today? What will getting out of bed look like in 10 or 15 years? Will there be a strap hanging off the bed post to help pull me up?
Since that morning I added some core exercises to my routine. At first those exercises just K*I*L*L*E*D me!! Many unrelated muscles from my neck down to my knees tried to help with those core exercises to spare my abs from working. Those lazy suckers just didn't want to work at all! But I am nothing if not stubborn!
Recently the exercises seem easier to do. There is an improvement in some things that abs are supposed to help with ... functions that were slipping and I hadn't noticed yet. And now I can get out of bed without the use of my arms (unless the back muscles are cranky.)
I am not going for a flat belly or a "rack" ... the usual goal of most doing core exercises. I just want to get out of bed without help when I am 85.
We all share an aging journey. But each of us moves through these years differently. I am aiming for a different journey than my mom. And the only way I can do that is if I am paying attention - to her and to me.