A warrior spirit in an aging body
Time marches on, and nothing can stop it. We can slow it down a bit, but we can’t stop it – at least not yet. As I pass the 74th “notch” in my slide down the razorblade of life, I look back at where I’ve been and think about where I’m heading. I’m slowly moving into unknown territory. I say that because the males in my immediate family (father and grandfathers) passed away far too early. I have already outlived all but my maternal grandfather, but I’m rapidly nearing his (75). Will this affect my chances of reaching a healthy and happy 100, which is my goal? Will I live to see my 14-year-old son have children and make me a “second grandfather (my oldest son has two children)? I certainly hope so, but only time will tell, so I remain positive. Hope springs eternal!
Entering a new phase
I’ve always been physically active and quite healthy. I’ve pushed and challenged myself from one crazy adventure to another. When I think about it, I haven’t really been kind to my body. I’ve always told myself I’ll deal with all the aches, pains, injuries and operations when I get old. “When I get old” has always been the operative slogan, but I’ve never been able to define when and where “old” starts. I still can’t, but I do feel that I’m entering a new phase of life. And I must admit, it scares me a bit. But it challenges me, too, and I love challenges. I’m at a stage where my brain and mindset continue to urge me to undertake any challenge that comes my way, blindly promising me that I can complete whatever it is successfully. And for the most part, this has been true. I’ve done the most amazing things, had the craziest adventures and completed some of the world’s most competitive programs and challenges. But is the 74th “notch” going to be a point where my mindset begins writing checks that my body finds increasingly difficult to cash? I certainly hope not, but if it does, I will adjust.
Taking stock of things When I look back, I shouldn’t complain. I’ve had a great run for my money so far. After all, I’ve had 20 knee operations (and replaced both knees), broken my arm twice, my thumb once, a rib once, both collarbones, my nose (4 times), had a hernia operation, a hand operation, an elbow operation and several concussions. I’ve failed miserably in my two most recent difficult challenges. In Swedish “Survivor” (at the age of 70), I injured my left knee severely after two weeks and was medically removed. In Swedish “Alone” (at the age of 73), I injured my right knee severely and was removed after 26 hours. Both injuries resulted in complete knee-replacement surgeries. These were two devasting blows to my ego. Yes, I learned a lot from both of those failures, but that doesn’t mean they left me unphased. My focus now is to build on recent these piss-poor performances and continue to live my life by the concepts that have served me so well.
Remaining young at heart
Throughout my life, my primary goal has been to remain young at heart regardless of my physical health. That’s not to say that I’ve neglected my physical health. On the contrary, I’ve worked hard to stay fit for my age. There are three concepts that dominate my life. You are what you believe you are. Die young as late as possible. Make sure you’re still alive when you do die. All three are dependent on a positive, growth mindset. Most of the time I have no real idea of my chronological age (soon 74) but find myself hovering in the 50-55-year-old category. At least that’s the mental image I have of myself. A quick glance in the mirror reminds me that this is definitely not the case physically, which is why I spend little time in front of mirrors. So, the question is where do I go from here? How do I keep the “fire in my gut” raging? Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?
Only so many hours in the day
When I was a young man, I used to feel sorry for old people. At some point, I began to realize that just reaching old age (however you define that) was a tremendous accomplishment. It was a privilege not granted to many. And now here I am. I think most people would consider me old, and I’m perfectly OK with that. It’s what I feel inside me and believe about myself that counts. What I’m not OK with is the growing feeling that any future adventures and challenges might need to be less physical than in the past. Ouch! That hurts but it’s realistic. I continue to work out at the gym, bike and walk. As soon as I feel that my knee rehab will allow me, I’ll start to jog (slowly!) again. Yet, there are only so many hours in the day, and only so many hours I can spend working out at my age. Admittedly, my focus is shifting toward improving my balance and flexibility, not just my biceps, pecs and a few other muscle groups, but I’m OK with that.
Never out of the “fight”
Aging is an unavoidable natural process of the body. I remember the lyrics from an old Tom Petty song. “I don’t know, but I’ve been told, if you never slow down, you never grow old.” As I see it, that means mentally as well as physically. One of the great advantages of accumulating years is that you have a much better understanding of what works for your body, whether it be physical or mental exercise. As I wrote in “Forty Tools For Life,” years may wrinkle the skin, but giving up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. I will not allow that to happen. I am never out of the fight. I may have lost some skirmishes, but I haven’t lost the battle. As I age, I have two choices. I can sit down and have a pity party. Or I can just get on with it. I choose the latter!