live as a / work as a / ache as a migrant


my brothers-in-arms, a century ago.

my brothers-in-arms, a century ago.

To me, growing old is great.  It’s the very best thing — considering the alternative. – actor Michael Caine, on turning 80.

I’m a solid 70… I’m not getting old, I’m getting dead – Sixto Rodriguez, also known as the Sugarman.

IF EVER we needed confirmation that we were well past the starting gate of Middle Age-hood and not far from Senior Years, this was it.  Sore back, stiff joints, clockwatching a minute after halftime, blisters and bunions on the weary toes, ankles and heels, and redness on the forearms caused by hot surfaces.  It might not have been that stressful if I’d done this twenty or thirty years ago, but when you get to be my age, you feel every pain, ache and soreness every day of the year, especially when the source of those aches and pains are from work.

I know how it sounds, but I’m not complaining, 21st century New Zealand is probably one of the best milieux to be working in, safety- and welfare-wise.  Despite the fact that I have been a white-collar worker most of my life back home in the Philippine, deskbound and unaccustomed to flexing my little-used muscles and stretching my untested ligaments, the legal and safety environment surrounding manual work in the Land of the Long White Cloud provides for every defense against potential hazard and long-term work-related condition, not just out of concern for workers but also to protect itself from liability when things get FUBAR..

I’ve mentioned it in this space so often it already sounds immodest, but at 47 I am reasonably fit, exercise as often as I can, obediently perform my household chores and moderately active as any person of my age.  I’ve fought against the norm of a medical family history of hypertension, cardiovascular conditions and diabetes (but who hasn’t?), likewise battled against sugary and fatty fast-food dominated diet (again, anyone out there who didn’t?) and emerged battered and bruised after decades of tobacco-choked, alcohol-slurred and sedentary 20’s 30’s and 40’s lifestyle (admit it, lots of us did).  For better or worse, I’m still standing.

Some people say it’s better to start a career of manual labor and intense physical activity while you’re young, the muscles are better acclimatized and become more durable when you stretch yourself (literally) while you’re still growing and elastic.  Since I don’t have the benefit of hindsight, and didn’t know I’d be performing physical activity rather than mental calisthenics for my bread at my advanced age, I can’t rely on that piece of wisdom.

Using all the tips and tricks, and toughening myself to the tasks and routine of my job, it had become a source of comfort that I knew how to warm up for work, rest at the appointed hour, listen to the signals of my arms and legs, and schedule work to be done when and where it had to be done.

each dot you see is a sore area for me :(

each dot you see is a sore area for me 😦

Trouble was, I was moved around in the workplace and placed in an unfamiliar post that required moving about more than I was accustomed to, where time was measured in the seconds and minutes rather than in the quarters and halves of hours.  I had little time for thinking and less time for reaction, and needless to say had to be quick on my feet and ready for an emergency, usually minor but sometimes major.

The result?  The activity I was used to doing in an 8-hour shift I sometimes did in 4 hours, I walked, sometimes ran the equivalent of a 3-k fun run before it was time to go home, and at least once or twice a shift I had to replace a shrink-wrap plastic roll that weighed around 20 kg.  It was good for a teenager trying to look buff for the ladies but torture for a fortysomething who never did more than sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks thrice a week in the bathroom.

As of now, the only therapy on the menu is Salonpas and extra long hot showers, which seem to iron out the kinks for a while, but long term I either need to lose weight, strengthen my muscles, or buy a few years back from the Creator.  Suggestions anyone?

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