- Aging & Longevity
Choosing To Live Longer By Living Simply
I have been up now for about two hours. I wake up each day at 6:15 and then go through the daily ritual of eliminating as many aches and pains as I can before I begin writing. Such is life when you are sixty-three. No, there is nothing major wrong with me. I’m just aging and with that comes the inevitable sore joints and muscles that require time before they will loosen up. I don’t particularly like it but there is very little I can do about stopping the aging process.
Or is there? I may not be able to stop the process but I can at least slow it up some and that is what I want to write about today. I have been quite lax about taking care of myself. I think in the dark recesses of my mind I always thought my body would remain young and so I’ve done very little to guard against the day when nature had its way. Maybe that constitutes self-deception and maybe it is just desperate thinking but the day has come when I can no longer deny the fact that if I don’t make some changes then the next twenty years are going to be more painful and more debilitating and that simply will not do for me.
I really have been blessed. I have only been in the hospital once, for an operation on a bulging disk in my back. That was over twenty years ago and I have not had a moment of trouble with it since that day. I am rarely sick and then only a touch of the flu or virus that goes away quickly. My blood pressure is fine, cholesterol is within healthy limits and my weight has not fluctuated more than ten pounds in forty years.
Whoever my birth parents were they passed on some seriously healthy genes and considering the hell I have put my body through it is a minor miracle that I am as healthy as I am. In fact, it defies logic. Consider for a moment that I am an alcoholic and yet did not do any noticeable damage to my liver or heart. Consider that I played sports for forty years and yet never sustained an injury. Consider that I have eaten in ways that would make a vegetarian cringe and run for shelter and yet I show no signs of the poor health one would expect because of poor eating habits.
And yet I cannot deny reality!
My shoulder has now developed arthritis as a result of thousands upon thousands of pitches thrown in high school, college and adult baseball. My sore body takes seemingly forever to loosen up in the morning and then grows tired much too quickly when I’m doing yardwork. My sedentary life as a writer means eight to ten hours in front of a computer and I can now tell that my stamina and endurance are less than they once were.
I do not like what is happening and so I have chosen to change it. Maybe not stop it but at the very least change my approach to life so that I can slow this damn aging process up a bit.
Just as I believe one can choose to be happier I also believe that one can choose to be healthier with regards to those things that are within our control and that is what I aim to do as of June 1st. No, this is not one of those silly resolutions that are discarded once things become tough. I do not do resolutions! I make decisions and then work towards their resolution with a dogged determination.
Allow me to tell you where I have come from and then I’ll tell you where I am going.
AN ILLOGICAL APPROACH TO GOOD HEALTH
I have never really given much thought to good health. My eating habits have always been guided by one principle: if it has feet, wings or fins I will eat it; if it comes from the ground or a tree I will not eat it. Pretty simple philosophy and very easy to remember! If you think I am kidding then drop Bev a line and ask her. That poor woman and the love of my life has taken on the challenge of somehow preparing meals that please me and yet have a semblance of nutritional value. Can you say Mission Impossible?
Conservatively speaking I have eaten poorly for forty years of my life. My body loves processed foods. I was listening to a radio talk show this morning and they were talking about white foods being bad and colored foods being good. In other words, white sugar, white bread, white potatoes, all were bad for you. I could only listen and laugh because I have lived white most of my life.
I am an alcoholic! How’s that for a recipe of a short life? I began drinking when I was twenty-six and for the most part stopped when I was forty-four. Those eighteen years were marked by heavy drinking and incredibly poor nutrition that often accompanies excess consumption of liquor. Since 1992 I have relapsed several times but only for a week at a time; it is safe to assume that whatever damage I have done to myself was done prior to 1992 and yet I show none of the health signs of an alcoholic. The only time my drinking became seriously unhealthy was in 2006 and then I almost died after a one week binge that had my blood pressure hovering in the life-threatening scale. Again, though, almost six years later I am healthy as a sixty-three year old horse.
I never go to a doctor. True, now that I have no benefits it is only logical that I would not go but for decades I have made it a point to self-diagnose myself and treat any abnormalities with my own unique brand of health care which simply means I ignore what is wrong and wait for it to go away.
As I said earlier, my good health is illogical and can only be explained by damn good genes.
And yet I cannot deny reality!
THE SIMPLE TRUTH IS INESCAPABLE
At one time I climbed mountains and ran half-marathons. I played a variety of sports and treated the outdoors as if it were my own personal playground. Now I couldn’t jog a half-mile if you put a gun to my head and I haven’t played a competitive sport in decades. Alcohol played a huge part in this negative transformation but also I have to blame complacency and a certain acceptance of advancing age.
No longer! Although I know I cannot stop aging I can certainly slow it up. I have too much to live for and for the first time in a very long time I love life. I want to be able to enjoy life to the fullest with Bev and I want to once again be a positive, contributing member of society. I want to buy the farm of my dreams and be able to fully appreciate it once Bev and I purchase it. I cannot do any of these things if I continue to treat life with the ho-hum attitude of my past.
And so it is time for a change!
IT BEGINS JUNE 1ST
I watched my dad grow old before my eyes. By the time he died at the age of forty-nine he appeared to be an old man, worn down by hard work and a lifestyle that was not conducive to a long life. I refuse to let that happen to me. Yes, I refuse! It is my choice! Of course there are things I cannot control; there may be a hidden time bomb ticking in my body right now that I do not know about. Being adopted means having no clue about family health history but I won’t spend a minute worrying about something I have no knowledge of. However, there are certainly things I do have knowledge of and I can control.
I took a huge step in the right direction six years ago when I finally gave up alcohol for good. I live a stress-free lifestyle now, following my passion for writing and deciding to simplify my life over the past six years. I also made a decision to be happy and I believe with my entire being that happiness will prolong life.
But that is not enough! And so I will change! I will begin an exercise program to get this old body back in shape. Bev wants me to begin yoga and I will do that. I will extend my walks and hike more this summer. I will, God forbid, begin eating colored foods and eliminate white foods. Again, God forbid, I will eat more vegetables and fruits and cut back on my staple diet of meat and processed foods.
I do this all for Bev because I love her beyond words. I do it for my son because I want to remain for as long as possible his father and support system. I do it for myself because I love myself and want to extend this life for as long as possible. I still have things I want to do; I still have things I want to accomplish.
I want to wring out every ounce of living I can in my remaining years and I want to grab life by the short hairs and live each day like it were my last.
I refuse to slowly fade away. It is time to get back in the saddle and celebrate living rather than accept aging.
Life is for living, not just existing and today I make the choice to live! I now have a voracious hunger for all that life has to offer and it is time to feed that hunger. Today I celebrate life and I am ready to completely embrace it!
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
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