A Temporary Fix

Even though I could certainly use it, I honestly don’t think I’ll ever have any serous plastic surgery done.

It’s not that I’m morally opposed to plastic surgery, or don’t understand wanting to reduce the signs of aging.  We live in a society that values youth, and those of us who are in our late fifties (or sixties and seventies) are living much more active lives than our parents and grandparents did at that age.  So it only makes sense that we would like to look as young as we feel, which means that a quick “nip and tuck” starts looking very attractive.   Even someone someone like me, who is very nervous of medical procedures and used to faint at the mere sight of blood, can feel tempted to head to the nearest plastic surgeon’s office and ask for “the works.”

But the truth is, even the best of plastic surgery would be wasted on me.  And I know this because I have had a couple of minor procedures done (for health reasons) in the past couple of years, and I’ve already managed to ruin them.

For years I suffered from sagging eyelids, which combined with my chronic dry-eye, meant that I almost always had a sore on the outer corner of my eye where the tears would get trapped in the fold of skin.  I tried wiping the area regularly with tissues and even applying ointments, but nothing helped.  So I finally went to a doctor, who told me the best results would come from making an incision in the top of my eye lid and cutting away the excess skin.  As if.  I quickly asked for other options, and he said I could also do a simple eyebrow lift.  I figured I could handle that, and so I had it done.

And you know what I did last night?  While trying to pick up the TV remote in the dark, I managed to smack my head right into the corner of my night stand, just above the eye.  So now I have a hugely swollen eye socket and a purple eyelid, and, you guessed it, tears caught in the fold of the eyelid.  All that work undone in one moment of klutziness, and my life is nothing if not one long string of klutzy moments.

I have had problems with the veins in my legs for the past fifteen years or so, which finally morphed into full-blown varicose veins.  Which I had treated, repeatedly and somewhat painfully, armed with the knowledge that when I was done, I would finally have legs that didn’t look some kid had colored on them with red and purple markers.  After the initial spider vein treatments, my legs did look vein free….for a few weeks.  But it wasn’t long before I began bumping into things (steps, the open dishwasher door, whatever)  which would cause a bruise, which would turn into yet another cluster of spider veins.  I’m thinking I’ll probably get to enjoy the results of my recent varicose vein treatment for a little bit longer, like say, maybe six months.

So you see why I remain unimpressed by the best that plastic surgery has to offer.  But if the medical field ever comes up with a procedure to cure klutziness, I’d sign up for that so fast……

Middle Age Courage

I have never been a brave person.  Sometimes, if I am angry enough, I find myself acting bravely (if not stupidly), such as the time I was trick or treating when I was ten and two boys tried to take my candy away.  Even though one of them had a knife, I was so enraged at the thought of the bullies stealing my Halloween candy that I fought back…and kept the candy.  Luckily, the knife never came into the struggle.  I suspect it was a pocket knife they had brought along just to intimidate other kids.  And even though I was “brave” during the actual confrontation, I was terrified as soon as it was over, and that was the end of my trick or treating on that particular Halloween night.

But my strongest fear has always centered around anything to do with medical procedures. I got queasy just visiting people in a hospital, fainted at the mere sight of blood, and the reason I don’t have pierced ears is because the chance to wear pretty earrings was never enough of a reason to allow someone to shove a needle through my ear lobes.  When I was pregnant with my first child, my biggest fear about childbirth wasn’t the pain, it was the thought of having to be hooked up to an IV.  I remember having a heated argument about that with my obstetrician, as he insisted it was necessary for me to “have a vein open” and I insisted that it wasn’t necessary for him to give me an IV, or even to use such disgusting phrases as “have a vein open” in my presence.

Which is why I am so surprised (and a bit proud) that I recently had an eyebrow lift, which was an elective surgical procedure that was performed while I was awake.   For years I’ve had a problem with a drooping eyebrow on my left eye, because where the skin overlapped I would get a painful sore, right at the outside corner of my eye, which is not a good place to be putting an antibiotic ointment. One day I actually made an appointment with an opthalmic plastic surgeon who told me that an eyebrow lift was the least invasive way to fix the problem.  Of course, he wanted to do an eyelid lift as well, so that my eyes would look “perky and young again.” But since an eyelid lift involves cutting on my actual eyelids, I declined.  Very firmly.

The procedure actually wasn’t so bad.  I was awake, but numb.  I could hear the snip of the scissors cutting my skin, and feel the pressure of the stitches, but no pain.  They had given me a Valium which they said might make me go to sleep, but I was way too nervous for that.  Mostly, I sat there, listening to the chatter between the surgeon and the nurse, marveling that I was neither fainting or running screaming from the room.  Obviously, I have become a much braver person that I was all those years ago when I fainted just from seeing a full bag of blood at a blood drive.

It may sound trite, but I think I have become braver just through living my life.  I learned not to faint at the sight of blood the first time one of my kids cut themselves badly and no one was around to help them but me.  I got over my fear of hospitals when I had to spend time in them as a patient, or visiting hospitalized family members who needed me to stay and support them, and not selfishly wimp out.  And now that my body is beginning to show signs of wear and tear, I have the courage to patch it up a bit, even when that means a medical procedure.  I have a good friend who is facing a hip replacement next month, and I know that something like that could be in my future, too.  While I hope I don’t ever have to face that, I don’t find the prospect as overwhelmingly terrifying as I once would have.

As the saying goes, “aging is not for the faint of heart.”  But the good news is that, somewhere along the line, we acquire the courage to deal with it.