A while ago a friend suggested she was surprised at how much I revealed about our lives in the pages of this retirement blog. I admit it gave me pause for thought. Is it possible I’m being too honest* about our retirement experiences? My idea about the content of some of these blogs was that I would share, as I stated right at the beginning, the good the bad and the ugly of retirement. My ambition in doing this was twofold, one, to maybe make some people feel they were not the only ones to whom ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’ things happened so there would be some comfort in this for these other people whoever they may be. As my grandma used to say, misery loves company. One of her many ‘sayings’. And second, that I would tease out the funny side of these unfortunate and embarrassing life events. Again, as some wise person said, comedy is merely tragedy plus time.

Not sure I want to literally live by this dictum. Tragedy sounds a bit heavy, I’m more thinking of discomfort and yes, embarrassment. And there has been a fair bit of that in the last nearly five retirement years. I’ll give you an example that happened to me a couple of days ago. But first let me set the scene – again. About two months ago I wrote about a very unsatisfactory visit to the health professionals about my diabetes. I won’t repeat it you can read about it if you wish. The simple facts of the matter were that, after a couple of years of being on insulin, things were not going well health-wise. My insulin intake was going up but so was my weight. Something wrong there methinks. A vicious cycle I believe it’s called.

You can read the whole story elsewhere but the short version is that I decided to make my own decisions about my health and my diabetes. Having read a book about controlling diabetes with a calorie-controlled diet that’s what I embarked on. It’s worked quite well – so far at least. In that time I’ve lost nearly two stones and for the last two weeks I haven’t taken any insulin at all having gradually phased it out. One of these days, when the results are a little more solid, I will write in greater detail about the whole programme. It’s too soon to get anywhere near smug about it. And I haven’t spoken to any of the professionals in my life who are sure to pour cold water on the whole strategy.

So far so good you’re thinking. Well, yes but then again isn’t there always a downside to every upside? Here’s my cold water. My body is shrinking and not in a way that feels good to me. Is it just men who lose weight or body mass off their shoulders or is it just men who worry about doing so? And it gets worse because it’s not just mass I’m losing but strength as well. I know it’s unlikely that I will be engaging in any serious physical labour in the near future but it’s nice (as a man??) to feel you have a certain amount of strength should one need it – to avoid being mugged in the street for example. Too dramatic? Yes, I know but in my weird head it makes sense.

This is where it gets embarrassing. Have you heard the story about the dog that got stuck in the cattle grid and the owner who rushed to save it from its pain and then got stuck too and had to be helped himself? You haven’t, well you’re about to. So Archie, like the dumbo he can be at times, ran across the grid and got all four paws wedged between the bars. I ran, yes actually ran, to help him. I managed to lift his front paws out of the grid. Mrs Summerhouse with a much cooler head grabbed him by his harness, which goes around his whole body, she wasn’t pulling him out by his collar, and pulled him out. Was he psychologically or physically damaged by this dramatic experience? If his rolling around on the grass was anything to go by, I’d say not.

All good except I now found I couldn’t get up. This didn’t seem to worry Archie, although Millie a much more sensitive animal, was worried. She stood looking at me with pity and little yelps. It didn’t help me nor that the bars of the grid were round rather than flat (nothing to easily push on had I been able) and that the depth between bars and ground beneath was too great to enable me to step out, oh and I got my foot stuck at one point. One way and another I couldn’t push up. I had no strength in my arms – see above, and nothing to lever myself up with anyway. I felt, and probably looked like, a beached whale lying across the bars. All I could think was, please God, or whoever sorts all this stuff out, don’t let there be anybody watching this farce.

I eventually got off the grid by shuffling along on my back and side not helped again by having my coat trapped under me. Anyway it was all very embarrassing and indeed upsetting. Even off the grid it took me all my time to get up. I’m not good on my knees (which are buggered) either, which doesn’t help a person getting up off the ground but that’s beside the point. The point was / is that I feel weak. Not trim but a weakling.

The question is what do I do about it? Have I got to start lifting weights (as above and no that’s not meant to be me), to restore my arm strength, something I haven’t done since my teaching days in special education 40 years ago? Am I not suffering enough trying to keep my calories down to about 1200 a day? Should I stop losing weight before I waste away entirely? Who the hell knows, I need to give this some further thought but all I will say at this stage is that I’m very pleased with the insulin result but not happy with the side effects. I thought it was only drugs that had side effects, not a, seemingly healthy, strategy like losing weight. Just goes to show I suppose, life, it’s a funny old business. I reckon, especially retirement life.

*A recent comment from a reader said she admired my candour so maybe I’ve got it about right.

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