Life In The Country of Old Age Is Feeling A Bit Like Sysiphus Pushing His Boulder

An endless uphill struggle

Janice Macdonald
5 min readMay 13


An uphill struggle (author’s photo)

Sisyphus was the cunning and ingenious king of Ephyra, renowned in Greek mythology for cheating death. Twice. That didn’t sit well with the gods so they condemned him to endlessly push an enormous boulder up a hill. When he got it to the top, it rolled back down and he’d have to start all over again.

A never-ending and pointless task that left him exhausted and without hope. Kind of the way I feel when I slap on Clinique anti-age serum, cover my grey roots with Fabulous Fawn and ride my stationary bike to ward off physical decline.

Welcome to Life in the Country of Old Age. Or at least the way it feels right now. I used to vow that I’d never be the type of old codger who blathers on endlessly about aches and pains — now I’m 78 and blather on to my partner about my assorted maladies and he, less often, blathers on about his. It’s a difficult topic to avoid.

An aching back, for example, can focus the mind to the exclusion of much else. Mine aches, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. It’s my Sisyphean boulder. I do exercises meant to strengthen and relieve the pain, get up from the desk at regular intervals to stretch. I’m even considering a rubber mat for the kitchen. It’s supposed to lessen back and leg strain caused by slaving away at a hot stove — which I do occasionally.

I also pop ibuprofen like candy. I brought huge amounts of it back from the States because France only sells pain relievers in ridiculously small quantities and the village pharmacist suspects I’m a drug addict when I keep going back for more.

Here’s where things really feel Sisyphean though. Just as I think I’m making headway with the back pain boulder, it rolls back down to make way for a new and bigger boulder. This one is called Sciatica. I’ve been dealing with it since I got back from the States and, pun intended, it’s an uphill struggle.

The pain is both relentless and capricious. One day it darts up and down my right leg, the next it hangs out in my knee or groin. Sometimes it moves down to my foot, then creeps on up to my calf. Today it’s joined forces with…



Janice Macdonald

At 68, I started a new chapter in my life: I moved to France. Alone. It turned out to be quite the page-turner. Still is — even when age insists on a part.