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With Aging, It's About Finding Illness You Like
Every August, we rendezvous with another couple at a former summer haunt for Boston Jews called Nantasket Beach. Once we've lowered ourselves onto our blankets and beach chairs, we start by catching up on our kids. This couple's two sons and our two daughters are the same age to the week.
But this summer our children's news had to wait. The first business at hand was our health. Nothing life-threatening like cancer, thank God. Yet, we all shared a host of chronic, second-tier ailments not easily placated by traditional medical care. These needed to be aired to a sympathetic audience. It was time, in other words, for krechtzing.
Krechtzing is distinct from kvetching. One can kvetch about almost anything, but krechtzing refers to discomfort and minor ailments.
Leo Rosten defines krechtzing as: "To fuss or complain ... to make cranky, gasping, ambiguous noises; sounds of complaint, discontent, minor sadness."
There was certainly an undercurrent of complaint and sadness as we compared symptoms on the beach. Why had my friend's migraines gotten worse? Why was my bladder so testy? Three out of the four of us had insomnia issues, and we reminisced about the now-distant memory of an unbroken night's sleep.
We continued to lament our bodies' failings, as the four of us ambled down Nantasket's shoreline. Walking on soft sand, with the waves lapping at our feet, felt so restorative.
Humans in Flux
We love the ocean because it's buoyant and constant. We humans, on the other hand, are often in flux. We take our time gearing up, for a while we're in full swing, and then, suddenly, unexpectedly, we're in descent.
But a descent, as in an airplane, can be smooth or turbulent. As Mid/Yids, we're no strangers to the benefits that exercise, yoga, diet and relaxation can have on the aging process. Yet, even with all that, one system or another will sputter and flail. This is the age when we're humbled by our dwindling invincibility.
Our walk along the beach brought a sense of hope. It may not be our species' finest trait, but it's true that misery loves company; or, put another way, it's reassuring to learn we're not the only one with a problem.
As we dodged waves and picked up shells, we compared the failures and successes of our interventions. Our friends gave us the name of a doctor and a medical intuitive they liked, and we suggested some herbal sleeping pills that had helped my husband. By the time we wandered back to our blankets, our steps felt a little lighter.
When a little child falls down, usually all that's needed for repair is a kiss and a Band-Aid. As we get older, our falls -- and our internal disturbances -- require more attention. We all need a baseline of good, and timely, medical care.
But, sometimes, traditional medical care doesn't have a good- enough cure -- or it has one that's loaded with side effects. It's helpful to hear of alternative options that others with the same ailments are using to get relief.
Next summer, I hope our foursome will be able to switch the focus back to our kids. But I think it's in the nature of things that one body part will calm down and another will start to complain. As Jackie Mason once said, "It's no longer a question of staying healthy. It's a question of finding a sickness you like."
In the meantime, my sleeping has inexplicably improved. It doesn't even seem to be related to the herbal sleeping pills.
I'll continue to add my voice to any Mid/Yid krechtzing I come across. I can always profit from the communal resources and empathy, just as long as I don't forget to be grateful to those mysterious processes that, even without our control, help things go right again.
Mara Sokolsky is a freelance writer living in Providence, R.I. E-mail her with any comments at: [email protected].