Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Word of the Year: Build 9: Health

Crowley Rice Festival, Louisiana. October 2014.
Crowley Rice Festival, Louisiana. October 2014.

In July, I said ....

If I visualize a long trail such as the Appalachian Trail, there are sections, each with different geographic and climate features. I can divvy up my through hike into sections, too:
  1. Money
  2. Health
  3. Relationships
  4. Service and activism
  5. Creative life
  6. Rootless goals I want to achieve

This month is about building health. 

Not just physical health, but emotional and cognitive health, also.

Healthy aging

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health aging as follows (with long version here): 

"... the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age. 

Functional ability is about having the capabilities that enable all people to be and do what they have reason to value. This includes a person’s ability to:

  1.     meet their basic needs;
  2.     to learn, grow and make decisions;
  3.     to be mobile;
  4.     to build and maintain relationships; and
  5.     to contribute to society."


To be more concrete, in visualizing my 90 year-old self, I:

  1. Live in a universal-design environment and in a walkable community.
  2. Move myself around my living spaces, unassisted or with the help of a cane, walker, or wheelchair.
  3. Manage my finances responsibly.
  4. Engage in regular physical exercise that promotes muscular and skeletal strength, stamina, flexibility (range of motion), and balance.
  5. Adopt any tools that are accessible to me (e.g. financially) to optimize my sight, hearing, and dexterity.
  6. Carefully consider the risks and benefits of any meds that a doctor wants to prescribe to me, and decide if the RORI (return on the risk investment) is worth potential compromises in my quality of life physically, emotionally, or cognitively. 
  7. Contribute to and receive quality-of-life support from a solid support network of both family and friends. 
  8. Can say to myself when I go to bed: If I die tonight, I will have no regrets, as I have lived the best life I knew how to do. 
  9. Say yes more than I say no.
  10. Am fearless, as I know that, statistically, my demise is relatively imminent.

I've already done some good prep, for which I needed outside help.

  1. Quit smoking with Chantix about 10 years ago. In effect, this drug allowed me to go through nicotine withdrawal while I continued to smoke.
  2. Whittled myself down to a healthy body weight from morbid obesity some years ago (and am sustaining the weight loss) with the aid of the 12-step program, Overeaters Anonymous
  3. Did some growing up with the guidance of Overeaters Anonymous, Al-Anon, and intermittent counseling
  4. Learned (and continue to learn) to dance.
  5. Take risks that require me to stretch physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
  6. Take risks that might result in rejection. Ouch.

But just so's you know, I was like the vast majority of humans in that I didn't take the above life-changing actions until I was over 40.

I subscribe to the axiom that (most of us) don't change until our backs are against the wall and the wall is on fire. There was that for me, and also the prize offered by the 12-step path: To be happy, joyous, and free.

So I've traveled pretty far in my physical and emotional walk, but this path doesn't end til I end, and I've got more stuff to do health-wise if I don't want to leave my well-being entirely to chance as I age.

My biggest challenge: I do not have a discipline of daily physical exercise. Before COVID, I could cover this up with dancing. 

But, while it was good exercise, dancing did not replace a discipline of walking, stretching, and resistance/strength-building.

If I want to increase the likelihood of achieving the lovely vision of my 90 year-old self, I must build the discipline into my daily routine. It needs to be as regular as brushing my teeth.

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