I recently was told that I don’t have to return for another colonoscopy for ten years.
Sounds like good news, right?
Well, my friends, human nature, being what it is, we can always find some chip in a dining room table, some flaw in otherwise perfect facial skin.
My immediate thought was simply, “Jesus, I’ve got ten years to sweat this thing out. Anything can happen in those ten years. I could get cancer. Then what? I’ll have to get chemo. All my hair is going to fall out. I’ll have to make out a living will. How will I be able to shit? What kinds of foods am I going to be forced to eat? Who’s going to take care of me?”
The simple gist of it all is that ten years is just too long to worry about anything.
You see how the mind works. My mind anyways. And I don’t think I’m that crazy.
Good news, especially about one’s health, is very much like someone being successful or enjoying a freedom you’ve lost for one reason or another.
I’m one of those guys who can certainly accept success, on some level. But success always comes at a price—the fear of failure; the panic of not being able to hold on to that success; the paranoia about the inevitability of time running out.
Release a guy who’s been in prison for twenty years and find out just how scary freedom can be.
Or talk to a young woman who’s been in an alcohol rehab for six months, walks out the door, climbs into a friend’s car, drives home to her parents.
“Well, honey, what are your plans?” her mother asks.
“I don’t know,” the daughter says.
And she really doesn’t know. The enslavement to the booze or to heroine took away her freedom. Now that she is initially free of her dependency, that freedom is the new normal. Now she has to worry about getting a job, reconciling with her family and friends, paying back some debts, looking for an apartment. Maybe even starting a relationship.
It’s very scary stuff.
Human nature always plays counter-intuitive tricks on us. We can throw a wrench of suspicion, or get a slight sensation in the pits of our stomachs that any good news contains the possibility of shifting into a horror show.
Positive results from a medical test bears the weight of many of our fears about the next time. Or, even if we are given a ten-year reprieve from another test, to worry about worrying for a longer period of time.
And, in my post-Social-Security days, it is not unusual to have this haunting sense that “Yeah, I beat the rap this time, but what about next year. Or the year after that?”
As I grow older—no, let me rephrase that—as we grow older, our bodies begin to show their frailties—teeth (if we still have them), legs, hips, knees, urinary tracts, hearts, brains, colons, bladders, eyes, feet, acid levels, cardio-vascular systems, intestines, memories—they are all ripe candidates for breakdowns.
So, it is not unusual for us old codgers, even with good medical news, to have this haunting feeling that something else is inevitably going to have to be attended to, at some time or another.
In our golden years, we are all like old cars—a muffler goes, a fuel pump dies, a battery stops working , the brakes begin to groan, or a windshield wiper suddenly starts spreading streams of oily water across our windshields.
Inhabiting any space and time for the elderly is not like the space and time of a millenial. Good news, for many of us in our seventies or eighties, is often accepted, stoically, for, like it or not, most of us knows there will always be a time when the news is just not good.