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October 22, 2021

Old Lady Shoulder

I broke today.

As in…broke down.

Because..well, as it happens, I am actually a bit broken. This breaking down occurred, of all places, in public, in front of my physical therapist.

Who, coincidentally, is very un-broken, and quite attractive. And there I was sniveling and slobbering and almost ugly crying. Sigh.

Seems that lately I am collecting issues and  medical personnel for one thing or another. It is almost like coming out of a non-addictive state of being into an addictive one…is that possible? To have none of the above and then all of a sudden have pocketfuls? I now possess charts with my name listed next to a few kinds of therapists, a surgeon or two, a gyno, a couple of NP’s, an orthopedic doctor…you get the idea. Am I collecting them..or are they collecting me?

My shoulder just up and decided to freeze. As in concrete..

In TCM ( Traditional Chinese Medicine) this affliction is referred to as “ old lady shoulder” Isn’t that fucking awesome??  Who even knew that was a thing?? Certainly not me. I was way too carefree in my formerly active and exuberant living apparently, totally taking for granted my body’s constant state of giving me whatever I wanted and never, ever letting me down. I’ve birthed nine babies for chrissakes, with barely a moment’s worry and always bouncing back without trying. Run five miles with no training? Sure thing!

Until one day it did. And it meant it. My body is now fighting me back and it’s pissed. Shoulders are freezing, joints are aching, blood is flowing when it needn’t be, some parts are overly happy and others are mean and angry, crying happens way more often than I have ever previously allowed.

I have never been one to sit around and say ( or think) “ oh well, i am _______ old, so i guess i should expect to fall apart soon!” So this recent turn of events feels like a slap in my otherwise “you are only as old as you feel” face.

The hormones wreak havoc, the hair turns gray overnight, the moods swing wildly, the violent reshuffling begins. I am being reorganized, traded in for an older version of my mind’s image of Me.

I guess you could say I am beginning to feel the years. “ Oh this is what women are talking about” I think to myself one night as I ready myself for slumber in a  very non-sexy way. I mean face cream, and shoulder ointment and foot lotion are not exactly  “come hither” beckon-ings, now are they?

“This is the crisis..the midlife unraveling”… “Now i get it”..

I broke through the exoskeleton of my mid-forties on my last birthday. I am 46 years old, and until two months ago I felt pretty damn young! Now, without warning, all of a sudden I kinda feel old, a bit crusty, gray and unbecoming. But i guess that is what this phase is… an un-becoming of my younger self and a rebuilding (albeit with scarred and twisted, frozen parts) , if you will, of whom I will be moving forward. It’s painful and humiliating and hard work to break the shell of your mid-forties and come a struttin’ out in all of your stained, scarred, bruised, bloody, and insanely beautiful glory – lemme tell ya. Some days it’s more like a slow crawl.

But I am here for all of it. Present, plugged-in, and paying attention.

“Naked and bleeding on the ground”, as Pink would say it.

No truer words have ever been spoken.

Some days I just wish for things to be as they were. Even at that, as I move through this transition, and fight it with whatever parts i have that aren’t frozen yet, I do notice a peculiar feeling, almost like pride, or accomplishment, and kind of a raw, primal beauty coming from deep within, earning it’s rightful place. for this next Act. And a certain sense of gratefulness for having been gifted the opportunity to be able to experience “growing older”.


You know what I don’t want though? A steaming hot cup of toxic positivity poured for me from a well-meaning friend or acquaintance who doesn’t yet have her unraveling badge of survival, or the code for entry into the club of middle age. I do not wish to hear “ Don’t let the worry take the joy out of your moments”, or the god-awful, “hang in there!” generic sentiment. Though these come from possible and probable well-meaning reservoirs of encouragement, I feel a fire rise up when I hear them.

What do I want, you ask?


I wish to hear “ Bitch, YES, i got you, this part sucks. Let’s go get some wine and talk about it”.

For starters.

Forty-something, fifty-something, sixty-something Bad-Ass Bitches out there?


Hell yeah. We ALL GOT THIS. We are making our way through the messy middle. To the good stuff. Because there IS more good stuff. We are headed toward dessert, Ladies! Appetizers were amazing. Dinner was incredible. But dessert is gonna knock our middle-aged socks off, I can just feel it.

So, let’s show up. With our gray hair, achy joints, stretch marks, saggy arms and let’s get busy!

Now, pass me the ibuprofen.

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Heather Herrick  |  Contribution: 1,225