Advancing age and creeping cowardice

Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

I’ve been noticing something in myself over the years that I suspect is fairly widespread, but doesn’t get discussed much.  I have an idea it’s a sensitive subject with older men.  I first noticed it in myself with an unexpected, irrational difficulty breathing and something akin to panic in situations I wouldn’t have been bothered by in the past.

I’ve done a little spelunking, gone into more abandoned mines than I could count and always got a thrill, a surge of enjoyment doing it.  But late in the 1990s Mel and I were looking over a couple of mine shafts from the 1800s, one at the ruins of Golden, New Mexico and another near Magdalena.  The first was the vertical shaft at Golden.

We carried all the right equipment up there, went prepared to go down the shaft 100 feet without any particular risk.  Mel was troubled by claustrophobia he’d acquired going into some tunnels in Vietnam, so I was elected to go down that shaft to collect some samples.

But as I lowered myself down that shaft I hadn’t descended thirty feet before all I wanted was to get the hell out of there.  I couldn’t breathe.  The prospect of going deeper into that hole quickly became a non-option.  I stayed on a ledge of rock trying to calm myself and get control enough to go deeper, but after a while it was obvious this was no longer a pleasure trip.

Mel taunted and heckled me about it the entire remainder of the jaunt, and I thought about it constantly, trying to understand what had happened.  Completely unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

There’s another vertical shaft near Magdalena we’d both fallen in love with and I definitely was determined to go down it.  I was sure I’d be able to if I worked and thought about what had happened at Golden enough.  But a couple of months later the attempt resulted in an identical failure.

It was easy not to think about it during the years afterward, and I didn’t.  But a while back I found I experienced something too similar to be much different when I was working on the Toyota RV, crawling around under it.  Same thing, near panic, difficulty breathing, an irrational need just to get the hell out from under there.

I’ve talked about this with some other old guys lately and have been surprised by their admissions they’ve experienced exactly the same thing, mainly in tight spaces.  When I described it they knew exactly what I was talking about, and they’d also never experienced anything akin to it when they were younger.

I don’t know what’s going on with all this, but seems to me if anyone has any guts anymore it ought to be old men.  This doesn’t bode well at all.

Old Jules

12 responses to “Advancing age and creeping cowardice

  1. Had have two MRI’s. Had them drag me out both times at the beginning. Had a mask type thing on one and my breath was coming back on me. I was surprised at my reaction and it was two twenty minutes periods of pure hell. One of the hardest things I ever did.

    I agree with you. I have to go underneath my home and there’s not much room. I’m pretty sure it will be fine though.

    • Hi One Fly: Another old guy, one of the ones I mentioned in the post, had a similar experience with MRI. Might be a lot of that going around. Likely it will be fine. gracias, J

  2. I have noticed increased apprehension and anxiety has slowly taken the place of fearless guts in myself as well. I attribute it to general wear and tear. My body aches and creaks and refuses to do all that it used to and my energy level is also on the decline. I am thinking that our nerves also wear out after a while. My husband notices the same thing.

  3. I’ve noticed this with my 85 year old father. He used to be non-chalant and devil may care about most things in life. The past few years, I’ve noticed that he has become qute timid in many respects. This behavior might have something to do with his advancing macular degeneration and lessening strength. It’s rather disconcerting to me, sometimes. Perhaps knowing that the chances of survival for much longer are diminishing contributes to this lessening zeal? I have a 92 year old friend who is just the opposite. He has become more bold (within age related physical restraints) in his later years. He’s not particularly religious nor outgoing. He seems like an average “regular Joe”.

    • Hi Swabby. Sounds as though it’s a common enough experience to have drawn widespread notice. As for the rest, I’m not sure I’d be able to make the connection… my shortness of breath seemed to be more about not being able to breathe than it did about dying. Same with just wanting to get out of there… not to keep from dying but to keep from being in that place. I don’t recall dying even being a remote consideration. Gracias, J

  4. Oleo Acres Resort and RV park

    I reckon that high hormone levels in a young buck creates too much background noise in the ears… that we/they are unable to hear the soft voices of reason. Later on in life as we age the background noise subsides and a real awareness is allowed to take over the mind..

    Or something like that.

  5. Don’t have a problem with tight spots, yet. Dealing with heights on narrow trails has begun to bother me — haven’t turned back yet, but could happen around the next ridge.

    • Hi kenneturner. I haven’t noticed it on narrow trails… I won’t include the word ‘yet’ because I ain’t allowing myself to think I’ve got it coming. I’ll stick with tight places, given the two options. Gracias, J

  6. It doesn’t just happen to men.

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