Saturday, July 06, 2013

Thoughts on Aging and Attitude

The photo is from four years and almost nine months ago. I made it on the way to join my friend Rick Reed who was completing his climbs of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks on Whiteface that day. It was my pleasure (and honor) to present him with a 46er pin when he reached the summit (see for an explanation of 46ers). I post it today because it is the same peak on which I finished climbing the 46 in 1993 and I will be repeating the climb as a 20th anniversary hike on the 17th, a little less than two weeks from today.

In the process of preparing to do this I have on occasion suffered a bit of self doubt, thoughts about being 20 years older, can I still do this, etc. Upon expressing them I have heard some of them echoed by others. On the other hand, inside my head I hear my eldest brother Bruce who was known for saying "there's no such thing as can't", On my daily walk this evening, which is longer than the distance up Whiteface, albeit not as steep, I pondered the business of age and concluded that there are three aspects to aging.

The first is chronological, the calendar, and you can't do anything about it nor in a larger sense does it matter. Time supposedly passes, that's how we experience things, but realistically all there is is NOW. The second aspect is physical. Our bodies do wear out with the passage of time but we have considerable control over how and how quickly they wear out. Abuse your body in any of a number of ways and it will wear out more sooner. Eat right, exercise (motion is good for you), generally take care of it and it will last longer. The third aspect is mind/attitude, the thing my brother was talking about. We have (almost) total control over that. I threw in the 'almost' because some of us will suffer from things like Alzheimer's. For most of us though, we choose our attitude when we wake up in the morning and with each encounter throughout the day. We can stay interested in life and the world, we can stay positive or  not. It is our choice. I've known people who were young in mind well into old age while others were mentally old at 40. Research has shown that learning new skills (learn to dance, learn to play a musical instrument, learn a new language) keeps our minds young.

Our attitude is key for keeping our bodies in shape but I think there is a part of our brain that is like Hal in Space Odyssey 2001. It has a 'prime directive' to preserve our body which it interprets as seeking ease and comfort above all  else. Unfortunately, that is not always what is best for our physical well being. The Hal part of my brain tells me it's too hot to go for a walk and I have to shut 'Hal' off, listen to Bruce's voice instead and go anyway. So my thought for the day is ignore the calendar and adopt an attitude of caring for yourself and the world, and a attitude of "I CAN". See you on the mountaintop.

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