It’s hard to tell with rescue pups, but my vet figured that my beloved Ringo was about 2 years old when he came into my life. This makes him now about 12.
So, it was no big surprise when he stopped launching his 95 pounds onto the bed, having not quite made it the last couple of times. But it hurt my heart that he couldn’t sprint up and down stairs with his former gusto, despite me giving him all the recommended nutritional support.
When I was bemoaning the fact to a friend, she asked me, “Is he happy?” That gave me pause.
He certainly seems so. He basks in the sun, barks at squirrel and lizards, horses around with his brother, loves his food, asks for cuddles. Other than his less-than-agile hindquarters, he’s still his frisky, “ain’t-life-grand” self.
Whereupon my friend said to me, with great solemnity, “A snake is not a disabled lizard.”
I totally cracked up. I realized what she meant. Ringo is who he is – a 12-year-old dog doing his perfectly wonderful doggie things as he is, now. He is not a “disabled puppy.”
And then it hit me. We, who have passed the 60-70-80-year mark too often treat ourselves like “disabled” 20-30-40 year olds.
“I can’t run like I used to. My skin used to be so smooth; look at it now! Why can’t I bend down easily anymore? My knees creak and my joints ache; that never happened when I was younger!”
True! We’re not our younger selves. But that doesn’t make us disabled 20-30-40 year olds. We’re perfectly wonderful 60-plusers, doing whatever we do, however we like to do it, with whatever our current resources and abilities are, now.
Take, for instance, Georgina Harwood, who celebrated her 100th birthday with a sky-dive – her third since she turned 92. Sure, she has white hair, wears glasses, and walks with the help of a cane. That doesn’t stop her from looking forward to her next adventure – a cage dive among great white sharks in the ocean.
Georgina sees no reason to miss out on whatever she would like to do, and advises us all to go out and experience whatever calls to us in life, regardless of how challenging it might be. No disabled lizard here!
And what about Gill Williams, now 72, who discovered the joys of a trapeze when she was 50 and signed up to be the only adult in a class full of children. Never one to let that daunt her, she forged on and is still in love with her flying trapeze – and the rollerblading she took up at 55! Gill is who she is – with gusto, with enthusiasm, with verve for the life she is living as she is, now.
Now. That is the operative word. There are few things deadlier for your happy healthy longevity than looking behind you with regret to what was.
All it does is lead to depression, self-loathing, even contempt for the changed body you now inhabit. Which in turn impacts your cardiovascular health, which, considering how critical good heart health is to your overall well-being, is mighty important.
An American Journal of Cardiology study of nearly 1,500 individuals who had an increased risk of early-onset coronary artery disease found that those who stated they were cheerful, relaxed, satisfied with life and full of energy had one-third fewer coronary events, such as heart attack, than those who weren’t similarly happy campers.
Cheerful, relaxed people who are satisfied with their lives are optimists. Optimists are those who have a hopeful and confident attitude toward their future. They are healthier in general, have terrific heart health, and live longer than their more pessimistic counterparts.
As optimists grow older, they do not see themselves as disabled lizards. On the contrary, they are ever looking forward, accepting how they are and who they are, right here, right now.
Make a spectacular New Year’s resolution for yourself. Whenever you are tempted to dwell on your “faded youth” with regret and sadness that you’re not who you were, pull yourself up by your emotional bootstraps, remind yourself that you are most certainly not a disabled lizard, and move forward with joy in your now moment. You will then, truly, rock your way into this New Year!
How do you respond when aging feels a bit overwhelming? What steps are you taking to feel energetic and confident in your attitude towards getting a bit older? Do you know of other inspiring people like Georgina Harwood and Gill Williams? Please share with us in the comments.