The theory goes that young people are fearless because they think they are invulnerable. I remember that time in my life. The before time, when I couldn’t conceive of anything bad happening to me . . . to other people, sure. I’d see it on the news all the time, but that would never be me. There is no one moment when my identity switched from invulnerable to vulnerable. I can trace the gradual process back to starting in my mid-thirties and becoming more solid by my mid-forties. Even now, I have a trace of the invulnerable, but it is only a whisper. The louder voice tells me bad things not only might happen, but WILL happen to me.
Where once wishing parting friends or family a safe trip home was a formality, now those words carry the weight of a prayer.
Where once I had little fear of falling, knowing I’d get up with maybe a scrap, or sprain, now I fear the more serious aspect of falling and breaking a bone. I even fear I might not be able to get up at all without help.
Where once I thought having a cell phone was just a cool toy, now I see it as a lifeline and I panic when I’ve left it at home.
Where once a cold meant a few annoying days of coughing and sneezing, now I listen intently to my body for signs of an MS flare-up.
Where once I had little fear coming home late at night by myself, now I proceed with caution, checking the area before I get out of the car.
Where once I only sporadically wore my seatbelt, now I use it 99.99% of the time.
Where once I feared verbal taunts by young men on the street for being fat and female, now I fear physical violence just for being in that place at that time.
Have I really become that much more physically weak and defenseless? Has the world really become a much more dangerous place? Aging accounts for some of it. The barrage of media reports of violence has a cumulous effect, I suppose.
My spiritual well is shallow, so thinking about death, specifically my death, does not lend itself to volumes of word. When I was younger, my death was unthinkable. I had always been and could not truly understand a time of not being. Now this amorphous image of my death is taking on a greater firmness of shape. I cannot see it, but I can smell it. It may be years or decades away, but it has a measure of time I can comprehend. “Tomorrow or next week” was forever as a child. Now tomorrow too quickly becomes last month.