Archive for the ‘aging’ Category

I can’t decide if this is good news or bad news: Hormones linked to regain of weight lost by dieting

According to the Associated Press, “Dieters who have regained weight are not just slipping back into old habits, but are struggling against a persistent biological urge.”

The study doesn’t sound like junk science, and it was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which adds to its credibility. And it was pretty rigorous:

Weight regain is a common problem for dieters. To study what drives it, [researchers] enrolled 50 overweight or obese patients in a 10-week diet program in Australia. They wanted to see what would happen in people who lost at least 10 percent of their body weight. Ultimately, only 34 people lost that much and stuck with the study long enough for analysis.

The program was intense. On average, the participants lost almost 30 pounds during the 10 weeks, faster than the standard advice of losing 1 or 2 pounds a week. They took in 500 to 550 calories a day, using a meal replacement called Optifast plus vegetables for eight weeks. Then for two weeks they were gradually reintroduced to ordinary foods.

Not surprisingly, once off the program and despite counseling, most gained some weight back in less than a year.

The scientists checked the blood levels of nine hormones that influence appetite. The key finding came from comparing the hormone levels from before the weight-loss program to one year after it was over. Six hormones were still out of whack in a direction that would boost hunger.

The dieters also rated themselves as feeling hungrier after meals at the one-year mark, compared to what they reported before the diet program began.

As a chronic dieter — and weight gainer — this has been my entire experience. I’m convinced I would be a lot thinner — and would have saved myself a lot of mental anguish — if I’d never started dieting, especially some of the extreme dieting I forced myself through. (Oh, to be as “thin” as I was in high school, when I thought I was a whale…)

At least the timing for this tidbit was fortunate. I had another one of my epiphanies last night: I decided that I was not going to SPEND ONE MORE MINUTE hating or rejecting myself because of how I look. I have wasted too much time and energy (and too many tears) for nothing.

Someone shocked me recently with this question (and answer): Did you know you can make yourself instantly much happier by doing just one thing? Lower your expectations. I think it surprised me because because I’d always bought into the old hang-onto-your-ideals-no-matter-what mindset. But some ideals must be questioned, especially if they come from society and not from within ourselves. I can’t and won’t hold myself up to a societal standard of beauty that I cannot attain.

I have to redefine beauty for myself. And that definition is going to include style, and integrity, and good health, and joy, and mindfulness, and a lot of other good things.

Absolutely Essential Update:

 

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The Associated Press had an interesting story today on “hot jobs for seniors” that caught my attention:

The number of U.S. workers 65 or older has grown 24 percent in five years, to 6.7 million last month. And that’s with the baby-boom generation just now entering the age group. More than half of that total were employed full-time, and nearly 1.3 million were 75 or older.

Seventy-four percent of those responding to a 2011 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute said they expect to work after they officially retire, up from 63 percent in 2008.

That’s astonishing: Three-fourths of us expect to keep working beyond the traditional retirement age. Sure, we can all recite the reasons: Layoffs, persistent unemployment, bankrupt retirement plans, inflation and continuing threats to Social Security. All of my peers are examining their pensions, bank accounts and portfolios — what’s left of them, anyway — and trying to calculate how they’ll survive.

And some of us are figuring it out. I know seniors who’ve were lucky enough to sell or rent their larger homes and scale back to a house and lifestyle more within their means. I also have friends who’ve turned hobbies and avocations into post-retirement careers. My friend Linda checked out of her library job at 62 and jumped full-time into her long-time, part-time bliss, interior design, and she’s very happy. It doesn’t feel like work to her.

The Spouse has negotiated three years of half-time work for his current employer that will not affect his ultimate retirement funding.  He can’t wait. Charlene’s mother cashed out her house, turned the equity over to her contractor son, who used it as the down payment on his new home that included a “mother-in-law” apartment with a separate entrance. Smiles all around.

I know, I’m making it sound easier than it really is. Things like dealing with precarious health, living in remote locations and struggling to keep job skills fresh after a few years (or more) of unemployment can dampen your outlook. Which is why I thought the AP story had some good points:

[S]eniors looking for work must examine their own skills as well as the labor market’s needs in order to find a satisfying job.

Retirees typically have the advantage of being more interested in a job than a career, notes Bill Coleman, vice president at RetirementJobs.com. “They can be a good resource, bringing 30 or 40 years of work experience to the table and not looking to squeeze every last dollar out of a position,” Coleman says. “That can be very appealing to an organization.”

But if the doors to a past career seem closed, or if you need a new challenge, AP has five areas to recommend:

1. Healthcare

Home health aide and personal aide top a Bureau of Labor Statistics list of job fields expected to grow the fastest by 2018. The pay is modest — median wages of roughly $20,000 for each in 2008. But caregiving work can be a good fit for those looking to work 20 to 25 hours a week and do something meaningful.

My mother had a “senior companion” for a year or two, an older woman who would stop by twice a week, do light housework, play cards with her and even take her to doctor’s appointments and to the store. She really enjoyed her company, and it seemed like a good fit for both of them. Later on, Mother needed home healthcare, which was considerably more physically demanding, and later she was in a nursing home. I worked in a nursing home as a college student, and it can be hard, brutal and often discouraging work, so I wouldn’t recommend it. But being a personal aide or a health aide still would be a good possibility.

2. Retail

Retail jobs are popular with older workers. Openings are frequent, hours are flexible and many part-time opportunities are available.

Many retailers welcome seniors as customer service employees or cashiers because they have found that older workers are very good at making customers happy, according to Coleman. Other retail jobs available for seniors may include retail manager, floor supervisor, stock-room associate, greeter or food company demonstration worker.

I know: Cue the Walmart greeter jokes. But, seriously, I find an older retail employee much more approachable and helpful than some surly over-tattooed teenager. And you could likely follow your bliss here: The ladies at the knit shop where Mother bought her yarn were always after her to join them. And my friend Diane has an engineer husband who would like nothing better than to prowl the aisles at Home Depot with a customer, looking for that perfect screwdriver or paint color.

3. Government

Two government agencies in particular — the Department of Veterans Affairs (www.va.gov/jobs) and the Transportation Security Administration (www.tsa.gov/jobs) — are known for seeking older workers. Both agencies have openings requiring little or no experience.

I don’t know much about either of these agencies (although the TSA jobs at the airports look a bit strenuous — and possibly boring — to me). But you should be better protected against age discrimination with a government job. Municipal, county and state governments might also be fruitful sites.

4. Computer work

One of the most popular profession switches for older workers and retirees is going into computer-related work, according to Jim Toedtman, editor of the AARP Bulletin. The jobs entail such tasks as data entry or working with data communication systems and networks.

Specific training to learn new skills is required. Anyone looking to get work in another speciality in retirement should seek out low-cost training opportunities at a community college or elsewhere.

I think those of us who have been employed in any aspect of business during the last five years probably have sufficient computer skills already. But I know there is a premium on even part-time jobs now, so I expect the competition in this area would still be pretty fierce.

5. Temp agencies

Retirees have been flocking to temp agencies. Like seasonal retail work, temporary help in an office or elsewhere can be an ideal match for an older worker and employer. The worker offers flexible hours and experience and gets the opportunity for new challenges and limited-term working assignments that sometimes lead to full-time positions.

I have had experience, although not recently, with temp agencies, and it was all good. I was a “trailing spouse,” quitting my job to follow my husband to his new job in a new city. After weeks of pounding the pavement with no success, I signed up with the first temp agency I found in the phone book. And it was great. The pay wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but they put me to work immediately (that one semester of typing I took in junior high really paid off), and I got a job offer from every office I worked at. I was able to work until a position opened up in my field. I wouldn’t hesitate to try it again if I needed consistent employment.

What are my plans? I’ve always wanted to work in a bookstore, but after the recent Borders bloodbath, I think that might not be a possibility anymore. I’ve also thought about trying to monetize my blog, but I think I got into the game a little too late for that. (And I don’t think I’d be very good at shilling products I don’t use.) After looking over the options, I may delay my retirement from my day job for a year, spend what my Social Security benefit would be and then just bank the rest. I’d earn more that way than I would trying to work part-time for several years. I’m not crazy about the idea, but it could work for me.

How about you?

I don’t have a lot of fears about aging. Oh, sure, I’m considering getting rid of my magnifying mirror in the bathroom because it does such a good job — make that a GREAT job — of reminding me of the March of Time across my sagging face. I’ve resigned myself to several more years in my colorist’s chair to hide the gray that started innocently at my temples and is now marching relentlessly over my scalp toward the nape of my neck. I toy with the idea of going to the local vein clinic to chase away all the spiders nesting on my legs and ankles. (And at the though of spending at least $200 a session, believe me, I’m still toying.)

My idea of a good time now is a nap, and my morning laps around the local track are getting noticeably longer. I can’t find anything at The Gap that wouldn’t make me look ridiculous. (Sigh…) The Offspring think I’m hilariously outdated, although The Spouse still thinks I’m cute. But he’s seriously overdue for getting his glasses upgraded, so maybe he’s not a good judge. And he has his own issues with aging. I asked him recently if I could borrow his hairspray and he laughed hysterically. (I guess you need HAIR to need SPRAY.) I really hadn’t noticed.

I can handle it, I tell myself, humming “The Circle of Life” in my head. It happens to everyone, doesn’t it?

But I do admit to One Great Fear.

I have an old acquaintance, not really a friend, but someone I worked with occasionally years ago, a very bright, articulate and driven woman who retired a few years back. I haven’t heard from or about her for a long time. But recently a mutual friend alerted me that my old coworker has recently become obsessed about some religious tangent and has alienated herself from most of her friends and family. I went online and found a sort of manifesto she had written and saw in it not the clear arguments of the well-educated and well-read woman I remember but the ravings of someone who I believe is in the early stages of dementia.

I was horrified. In her online treatise, she is so reasoned and persuasive and at the same time so utterly mad. I was reminded of John Bayley’s poignant description of his wife Iris Murdoch’s decline into Alzheimer’s disease in Elegy for Iris. One of the great literary minds of 20th century Great Britain, Murdoch remained blissfully unaware of her gradual collapse into chaos, leaving friends and family to pick up after her. (Judi Dench played her so tenderly in the movie, it made me cry.)

Bayley has been criticized for his unflinching portrayal of that decline, as has Margaret Thatcher’s daughter for chronicling her mother’s illness. (A NYTimes article on Thatcher has an ironic picture of the Iron Lady with President Reagan, whose mental deterioration reportedly began during his last days in the White House and was covered up by his staff.) It isn’t pretty to look at.

The specter of this terrifies me. Losing your mind and your memory would be such a blow, but to not realize that it’s happening would be something straight out of Kafka. I sometimes have nightmares where I’m trying to get home but the landscape and the people around me keep morphing and changing so much that I can’t find my way. That must be what it’s like, I think.

So I obsessively read all the articles and blogs on how to avoid Alzheimer’s and do my crosswords and anagrams and Sudoku puzzles daily to keep my mind active. I succumbed to some of the more curious recommendations, like avoiding spray antiperspirants with aluminum derivatives and taking ginseng for years before both were disproven as factors in developing dementia.

But none of this is any guarantee that, when it’s time, that biological button won’t get pushed. And so many of us will have to depend on the kindness of family and friends — and in some cases, even strangers — to guide us through those last confused years.

Sorry to be so grim, but I spent a lot of time thinking about my old acquaintance, who is probably baffled over everyone else’s inability to see what she thinks she sees so clearly. She’s looking into a funhouse mirror, with its waves and distortions, and doesn’t even know it.

NOTE/DISCLAIMER/WHATEVER: This is an update of a previous post in my old blog, Adventures at Midlife.

Anatomy of a fall

Posted: September 8, 2011 in aging, health

Every year, thousands of post-menopausal women are seriously injured in falls. Don’t be one of them.

Saturday, July 16: I’m at the airport in Minneapolis, waiting for the last leg of my flight home. I’ve spent the last four days visiting my delightful eight-month-old grandson. I’m rushing out of a restroom stall, just having congratulated myself on never having broken a bone (I am not making this up), when the combination of an unstable wheeled carry-on bag and a stylish but equally unstable pair of platform wedges that no sane 50+ woman should be wearing makes me lose my balance. I stumble across the aisle, half-twisting and gaining momentum as I fall, and I end up smack on my fanny in front of the opposing toilet, which, thankfully, was unoccupied. I hit the cold cement HARD. I am writhing on the floor, almost incoherent with pain. After I come to my senses and can sit up (and change my frackin’ shoes), I am helped to my feet by a female security officer. I wave off any assistance, except for a cart ride to my gate, and somehow endure the flight home on nothing but Tylenol and copious amounts of caffeine.

Monday, July 18: After spending Sunday in bed, being waited upon by my most excellent and sympathetic Spouse (a true Tender Mercy), I get up and go to work. Seriously. (Because I’m a martyr and an idiot.) Just getting showered and dressed reawakens the pain, which has pretty much driven in the entire buffalo herd and staked a claim on my lower back. I go home early and endure the rest of the day on an ice pack.

Tuesday, July 19: An x-ray at the doctor’s office shows that one of my lumbar vertebrae looks significantly shorter, especially when compared with a past x-ray. My doctor prescribes hydrocodone and and suggests — but doesn’t insist — that I get a MRI. “You could just monitor your pain for a week or two, and then decide,” he says. So I crawl away, fill the script and… Honestly, I can’t tell you much about the next two weeks because I am gorked-out on pain pills. My discomfort eases up some, but doesn’t go away. Any effort — taking a brief walk, trying to do the laundry, going up a flight of stairs — is painful.

Thursday, Aug. 4: I arrive at the local hospital for the MRI I didn’t want to have. Although I’ve managed to grit my teeth and get through the previous two days without a pain pill,  a half hour lying motionless in that cold silver coffin sends me back to the bottle. A specialist will look at the results, so I don’t expect to hear from my doctor until Monday.

Friday, Aug. 5: The phone wakes me up at 7 a.m. It’s my doc, calling to tell me that I have an acute lumbar fracture with a 25 percent reduction in the height of the vertebrae. And it’s fresh, so it’s most likely the result of my little gymnastics routine in Minneapolis. No lifting of any kind, he says. None. Calcium and Vitamin D supplements for life. Sit up and walk straight so the fracture heals properly. Schedule a bone density scan, although the last one showed no bone loss. Get up and walk around, even if it hurts. (It does.) And seriously consider having the fracture “glued” together, he says. (It’s called a vertebroplasty, the x-ray-guided injection of a cement polymer into the fracture, and it’s gotten mixed reviews.) It isn’t a cure, but it might reduce the pain. I promptly google “lumbar fracture.” I am not pleased. According to Medscape, “Vertebral compression fractures are associated with significant performance impairments in physical, functional and psychosocial domains in older women.” Gee, no kidding? I’m in persistent pain, I can’t do much of anything, and I am depressed.

Wednesday, Aug. 10: I ask my doc for a non-narcotic pain medication, since I’m becoming much too fond of the hydrocodone. (I’m right to worry: According to this Associated Press story,  it is the nation’s “second-most abused medicine, linked to murders, celebrity overdoses and a rising tide of violent pharmacy robberies.”) I admit I’m still on the fence about the vertebroplasty. Shouldn’t I be able to find some way to to manage the pain? “I think you’re just being brave,” he says. (I am.)

Thursday, Aug. 18: I meet with an interventional radiologist who shows me the images from the MRI. The vertebrae in question is seriously misshapen when compared to the rest of my spine, and bone splinters are clearly visible.  But the angle of the injury makes me a good candidate for the vertebroplasty, and he believes that I have a better-that-good chance of being pain-free and regaining most of my lost ability.

Thursday, Sept. 1:  I arrive at the hospital, where I am lightly sedated and placed face down on a narrow table in an operating suite. The radiologist, guided by a fluoroscope, drills two ten penny nail-size incisions into my first lumbar vertebrae and injects the cement substance, which hardens almost immediately. After regaining my wits, I am sent home with instructions on how to deal with the two incision points (no stitches) and a warning not to lift anything substantial (like my grandchildren). Other than that, I’m done. No rehab, no therapy. Within a couple of days, the inflammation from the procedure is gone, and my back pain is reduced, but not gone. I plan to patiently work on getting rid of the last of the pain with as little medication as possible. Light exercise seems to help, and in a month or so, I plan to visit my chiropractor.

But the experience leaves me utterly, completely terrified of falling again.

Conclusion: Quit hurrying. Get rid of your “stupid” shoes. (You know which ones I’m talking about.) Use handrails. Stay alert. Exercise. Get your bone density measured. Take supplements, if necessary. And stop telling yourself that it will never happen to you.

Last Leap

Posted: August 26, 2011 in aging, mental health

I had cheerier things I was going to blog about, but I’m haunted today by a story from the SF Bay Citizen via the NYTimes:

On Wednesday, May 25, at 8:05 p.m. Barbara Sue Beaver stood on the Golden Gate Bridge and used her cellphone to e-mail Denis Morella, her Oakland neighbor and best friend.

“Can you come and check on Jondi for me?” she wrote, referring to her affectionate pit bull.

Then, at 8:07 p.m., Ms. Beaver, 55, jumped off the bridge to her death.

“I’m just too lazy to navigate further,” said a letter found at her home, which had been left tidy and mostly emptied of belongings. Notes detailed how she had settled her affairs.

“She didn’t want her death to be a burden to anyone,” Mr. Morella said.

I nearly wept. Her picture showed an attractive, intelligent-looking woman.  Ms. Beaver, who worked in the book industry until it began collapsing, had been unemployed for two years and was without insurance. I seriously doubt she was “lazy.” While the article didn’t mention any family, it described a circle of affectionate friends whom she called her “dollbuckets.” She wasn’t a recluse. While clearly depressed, she doesn’t sound mentally ill. She had just somehow reached her limit, or thought she had.

She’s the case study in a story about growing numbers of suicides reported at the Bridge and on the CalTrain transit system, a trend some experts blame on the economy:

“We have noticed many more people mentioning the economy,” said Eve Meyer, executive director of San Francisco Suicide Prevention, a nonprofit group that operates the city’s suicide hot line.

“We constantly hear, ‘I’m going to be homeless; I would rather be dead than be homeless,’ ” Ms. Meyer said.

Studies have shown that suicide rates tend to increase about 18 months after an economic decline. “Benefits run out and the crises begin to multiply,” she said.

Apparently there is a plan in motion to put a multimillion dollar safety net along the Bridge to catch the growing number of jumpers. But the article contained a stat that depressed me even further: “Suicide rates in the United States tend to be highest among people age 65 and older.” We’ve had a few murder-suicides locally in the last year, all with a heartbreaking familiarity: One elderly spouse desperately ill, the other at the end of his or her abilities to care for them.

I understand despair, those dark nights of the soul when pain and loneliness magnify mistakes and failures so that they blot out any successes. I’ve lived through depression and anxiety. I’ve worried about disability and dependence. But I cannot imagine, in the midst of that darkness, methodically organizing your life and navigating yourself to a site with the full intent of never returning. She cleaned her apartment, gave away most of her possessions, wrote and left letters of explanation, and exited her home. What did she wear? Was it something red, her favorite color? Did she put on makeup and do her hair before she left? Did she enjoy a final meal, a glass of wine? Did she drive there, passing familiar landmarks and places she’d loved and enjoyed? Or did she take public transportation, sitting elbow to elbow and maybe even exchanging polite but meaningless pleasantries with other passengers who would never know they were among her last human contacts? Was she conscious that she was doing all these thing for the last time?

I see her walking out onto the bridge, passing the usual tourists and joggers, maybe even a police patrolman. Did she make eye contact with any of them, exchange a hello? Where did she stop along that long, windy span? Did she look out at that magnificent vista, and at the cold, rough water so far below? At some point, she stopped and called a friend to make one final bequest, a kindness for her dog who was witness to her despair and to her careful preparations and who was likely still at the door, waiting for her to come back. Did she crawl over the rail and stand on the exterior railing before stepping off, or did she leap from the top of the rail? Did she hesitate, even for a moment? Did anyone try to stop her?

And — once she was airborne, was she sorry? I watched an equally disturbing documentary on the Golden Gate Bridge last year that included a tantalizing little fact: Of the handful of people who jumped from the Bridge and who survived, ALL of them said that, once they let go, they were immediately overcome with a sense that their lives weren’t really so bad and that they could still fix them if they had the chance. Was she one with them? And did anyone find her body, or did she disappear completely, as she wished?

I have no answers.

Go with God, Barbara Sue Beaver. I’m so terribly sorry that our society had no safety net to catch you. I hope you have found peace.

Aging with Style

Posted: August 22, 2011 in aging, beauty, style

Someone has managed to put a dollar figure to the vanity of the Baby Boomers, says the NYTimes today:

The market research firm Global Industry Analysts projects that a boomer-fueled consumer base, “seeking to keep the dreaded signs of aging at bay,” will push the U.S. market for anti-aging products from about $80 billion now to more than $114 billion by 2015.

That’s a chunk of change, especially if it gets spent on of snake-oil — and there’s LOTS of snake oil out there, as anyone who watches cable television advertisements can attest. Fortunately, the experts quoted by the Times extol the old basics:

“Our culture places great value on staying young, but aging is normal,” the [National Institute on Aging] says. “Despite claims about pills or treatments that lead to endless youth, no treatments have been proven to slow or reverse the aging process.”

Its advice for aging well is basic: Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, don’t smoke.

“If someone is promising you today that you can slow, stop or reverse aging, they’re likely trying hard to separate you from your money,” said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago’s School of Public Health who has written extensively about aging.

“It’s always the same message: ‘Aging is your fault and we’ve got the cure,'” Olshansky said. “Invest in yourself, in the simple things we know work. Get a good pair of running or walking shoes and a health club membership, and eat more fruits and vegetables.”

I reject the notion that aging is a pathology that can somehow be cured. It’s okay to use hormone therapy or even a little botox if it really makes us feel better, but we have to get over the idea that growing older makes us less. Less useful, less admirable, less human. What about wisdom, experience, life skills, friendships? They all grow stronger and deeper with time. I feel richer every day.

Come on, Boomers! Let’s show ’em how it’s done! Let’s be nothing but fabulous, regardless of our condition!

The Way We Were — and Are Now

Posted: August 17, 2011 in aging

Facebook provides a perfect platform for reaching out to high school friends. But do we really want to?

One of the more social media-savvy members of my high school graduating class created an exclusive Facebook site where we former Tigers can gather electronically, swap life stories and revel in the good old times. The site has grown quickly, and it has turned into a bit of a brag rag where we list our many accomplishments (spouses/children/grandchildren/jobs/homes/travels/honors) since our big graduation celebration in May 1970.

Most of the women in my class are recognizable in the accompanying photos (perhaps because it’s socially correct for us to keep ourselves up), but I strain to recognize many of the balding, paunchy, red-faced men as the young studs we all swooned over so many years ago. Yeah, Time’s beaten me up pretty badly, too, but my blonde hair and blue eyes still give me away. I don’t think you need to find a yearbook to figure out who I am/was.

The very curious thing about the site is that, despite the savagery of time, we’re still those very same 18-year-olds — to one another. Like ants trapped in amber, we haven’t changed. The labels seem still to be in place: jocks, homecoming queens, rich kids, brains, band (or choir) geeks, clowns, babes, misfits, drunks. In particular, the social strata that we were locked into in high school clearly still exist, especially to those who sat on top of that pecking order. The people who are the most active on the new site seem to be those who peaked somewhere around the 12th grade.

And, as a result, while I found the first few weeks of the site interesting and even fun, I’m now avoiding it.

Looking back, I knew I could never be a babe or a beauty, so I became a brain. I was well-enough liked, I suppose. There was always a girlfriend to share a locker with, or sit by at lunch or at an assembly, or stand around with at the after-game dances. But to the boys in my class, I wasn’t a dazzler. I was good for a telephone study group or for a few jokes in class, but I just wasn’t someone a guy wanted to be seen with. I attended a few awkward parties, and I asked a couple of “safe” boys to the girl’s choice dances, but I didn’t date until I got to college. Most of the time all I ever got from the high school boys was a muted “Hi” in passing. If that.

But I left high school laden with scholarships, graduated from college, traveled abroad and went to work. I married happily, became the mother of sons and made some warm bonds with male friends and colleagues over the years. And I thought I put all that high school social crap behind me.

A member of our class recently died from cancer, and his death really lit up the conversation on the Facebook site. What a great guy. Everybody’s friend. He make everyone feel better about themselves. Do you remember when he…? What a riot! We were all lucky to have known him. Didn’t you just love him?

Really? Although we had plenty of mutual friends, including my pretty and popular locker-mate, this guy never gave me a second glance. I don’t ever remember having any sort of conversation with him. He was one of the ones who didn’t want to be seen with someone like me.

As I read that online conversation, for just a brief distressing moment, I was back in high school, walking down A Hall, hoping the bell would ring and I wouldn’t have to talk — or not talk — with anyone. I exited Facebook immediately. Those high school memories are bad enough without having to experience that angst all over again.

I don’t mind looking back, but I’d prefer to use it as a way to look ahead. While some others on the site have been trying to reassert their high school superiority, I’ve been reading between the posted lines, and it’s pretty compelling stuff. Some of us have triumphed while some could use a little help, and some of us have stories that need to be told, and remembered, like:

• The twice-divorced beauty queen who is hoping for another chance at love by returning to an old, familiar playing field.

• The candidate for student body president who finally lost a very public battle with the bottle, but who managed to reconcile with his family near the end.

• The seemingly aloof young man (who was in reality cripplingly shy) who somehow found the courage to move out of himself and find a life, and who wants to connect now with friends that he was incapable of having as a teenager.

• The now-old men who are haunted by the memory of Vietnam, either from their own tours or from their memories of friends and family members who never came back, and who would like to talk about it and exorcise old ghosts.

• The drunks and misfits who pulled themselves together, overcame the challenges that formed their teen-aged years and went on to have successful lives and families, and who want to recast their old profiles.

• The formerly fit and seemingly immortal class members who are now facing frightening health challenges, and who clearly need support and encouragement.

• And, of course, the 60-something woman blogger who wants to forgive — but certainly not forget — the past, savor the present and embrace the future.

I’m ready, even eager to participate in that conversation, online or in-person.