Not if, but when

Last year I wrote a Viewpoint column about realizing, in retrospect, we’d past the time for participating in certain activities. For example, with life just flowing along naturally and becoming aware that say, skiing (which perhaps we did regularly for years) due to a relatively minor knee issue that isn’t even bothersome during daily life will prohibit a strenuous activity. What?!? Never ski again? Maybe not a good example for you (and not a personal one for me either; my knees are fine) but you get the idea. Well, the idea actually is to minimize those realizations. When we stay ahead of the disappointment of retrospective realizations by preparing ourselves, we’re obviously making our lives and the lives of those who care about us better.

I re-read that column recently and it led me to this: no matter how well we take care of ourselves with our nutrition, maintaining our comfortable joint range of motion, consistently building new lean muscle tissue, keeping our body fat percentage low in a healthy range, etc., we still have challenges ahead. Our individual genetics, lifelong wear and tear, natural breakdown of our body’s tissues, our hair (what’s left of it) loses color, we need glasses to read, hearing aids to stay able to interact and communicate, procedures to help us with our gums and teeth and more.

Accidents, for instance. Dementia. All of that is a result of living. Longer. As individuals and as a culture, we are. In 1900, life expectancy in the U.S. was 47 (sounds strange but it’s a fact). By 2000. it was late 70s. With so many of us living so much longer than previous generations, we can expect to deal with more “challenges.” Inevitable. The only way to avoid some of them is to die. Hmmm…

Wait! Am I saying it’s a losing battle? No, no, no, not at all. I’m saying reality is often inconvenient but absolutely not a reason to avoid Doing All We Can to spend as many years as possible free of pain and discomfort. Yes, we’re going to have some challenges. But if we are consistently Doing All We Can, we minimize those challenges and simultaneously prepare ourselves, mentally and physically, to deal with the ones that will slip through.

Well, in February, one “slipped through” for me. If we’re fortunate (and I am), we’ll have some practice with challenges to our quality of life first before more serious challenges to life itself. Given the vast amount of qualities our comparatively easy life has, we have plenty of opportunities to practice. And to adapt. I’m writing this in late February so when you read it I will have put one of those challenges of living longer behind me.

While my details are mine to address, I found it very helpful to step back, Accept the reality of it, Adapt as needed and Appreciate all we have in today’s world (including modern medicine). February was a rough month personally that required the views in this paragraph to keep it in perspective. I’m kind of sharing a bit of it now because not if, but when, your next challenge shows up, maybe this Viewpoint will be helpful. Hope so.