Keeping a Healthy Perspective

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a great start.

Yesterday I had a follow-up appointment with one of the surgeons who messed around with my brain last year. I keep saying I came away with no lasting effects, but there are some who aren’t so sure. I make the most of it. Every time I forget something I just say, “That must’ve been in the part they cut off.”

Well, the verdict is in and my brain is just as intact as it was before the surgery. That, in itself, should be the greater source of concern. I’ve always been a little “out there.” The only negative effect, and it’s not from the surgery itself or even the condition that led to the surgery, is my right ear still has issues. Otherwise, I’m in pretty good shape.

I was reading an article yesterday about an interesting trend in health, or at least in our perception of health. In surveys, an increasing number of people my age rate their overall health as “good” or even “excellent.” And mind you, very few of those people are without health problems or physical limitations. Some are even battling cancer. Yet they still feel like their overall health is really good.

Younger people, on the other hand, are a little less optimistic about their health. In fact, an increasing percentage of them rate their health as “acceptable” or even “poor.” These are people who, for the most part, have never faced a life-threatening condition. Yet they don’t feel as healthy as people twice their age. Why do you think that is?

It’s all about perception. The older people aren’t any healthier – they just accept some of life’s aches and pains with a little more grace. When you reach my age, you go to bed earlier and wake up tired. Joints crack and pop. Daily discomfort is par for the course. You can’t run around the block and bending over makes you dizzy. That’s life.

But it’s something we accept, because we expect it. We know that, as we get older, our bodies won’t look or feel like the body of a twenty-year-old. So, when somebody asks about our health, we don’t make that comparison. Instead, we compare it to the perception we once had of people our age. You know – back when we were twenty and thought sixty was ancient.

But when you’re in your twenties or early thirties, and begin to feel the early effects of age, it’s all new and comes as somewhat of a surprise. You’re used to feeling perfect all the time, and sore joints, lower energy, and the occasional headache make you feel … well, old. Worse yet, you know this is just the start. And trust me, it is.

I think most people my age would pay good money to wake up each day feeling as “bad” as we did thirty years ago. But we know those days are long gone, so we adapt and make the most of what’s left. Instead of lamenting the fact that we can no longer run a 100-yard dash in 12 seconds, we’re happy to be able to walk from one end of a beach to the other.

It’s all about perspective. You’re as healthy as you feel. I’ve seen people much older than me fighting a terminal illness with full acceptance of their eventual fate, and when you ask how they’re feeling they smile and say, “I feel great!” It’s not a lie, and they’re not delusional. They’ve just come to terms with the fact that you don’t have to feel perfect – you make the most of what you’ve got.

This isn’t intended to be a slam on younger people. I remember that age, and thinking my aches and pains were a sign of rapidly declining health. Worse yet, I adjusted my lifestyle to accommodate my perceived infirmities. And, along with the physical changes, I allowed myself to grow old way before my time. I was grumpy, opinionated, and generally pessimistic about the world in which we live.

Now, my wife will argue that the grumpiness hasn’t completely gone away, but overall, I feel a lot more positive about life than I did thirty years ago. Since that time, I’ve had a heart attack, a few surgeries, and a lot of lower back pain. I wear bifocals and hearing aids, and when my gout flares up, I have to use a cane. And yesterday my surgeon said I may eventually lose hearing in my right ear.

And you know what? I feel healthier today than I have in decades. I know my limitations, and I adjust my lifestyle to fit within those constraints. But aside from those little aches and pains, I feel great!

It’s been said that what we perceive to be real is real. If you feel old, you’re old. If you feel sick, you’re sick. And if you feel young and healthy, you’re … well, maybe a little less old, but still healthy.  It’s all about perspective. Make yours positive!

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

When Seeing is Believing, Take a Closer Look

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

Now that the weather is a bit nicer, I’ve been trying to get out and take a walk more often. Lunchtime is usually a good time to get away, because it gives me a break from my desk, lets me get a little exercise, and keeps me from gorging on food I really don’t need anyway.

I work downtown, so there are always plenty of places to walk. And there’s never a shortage of people to make the walk interesting. Most simply walk past, give a brief nod, and maybe say hello. Some sit on a bench and look longingly at a world that seems to have passed them by. And then there’s the guy who was chirping like a bird and having a loud verbal argument with himself.

I wish I was making that up, but that’s what I encountered yesterday. Last week it was somebody else, waving his arms and yelling loudly at somebody who wasn’t there. Or, at least from my perspective. Who am I to say there was nobody there, just because I couldn’t see them? In his mind, he was in a full-blown confrontation.

It’s easy to form an opinion on what’s going on with some of these people. Drugs may certainly have been involved, but there are a dozen other possibilities that are much less nefarious. You could be looking at a military veteran who saw things in person that no network would ever allow us to see on TV. You just never know.

Perception is a tricky thing. It’s an important part of quickly assessing a situation in which our safety may rely on our ability to accurately perceive what’s going on. But it’s also a very biased opinion based exclusively on what we’ve experienced and learned to date. We think we know enough to assess the situation, but quite often we’re completely wrong. Worse yet, we may never know.

I remember in high school, walking through a loud and crowded hallway between classes, there was a guy with long stringy hair walking through, seemingly oblivious to everything around him. His head was cocked to one side, his mouth was open and slightly drooling, and he was clapping and snapping his fingers to a beat only he could hear. I was certain he was drugged into oblivion.

A couple of months later, one of my teachers was talking about human miracles and how we can overcome otherwise crippling handicaps to live a normal life. As it turns out, that student wasn’t on drugs. He was blind. He was able, in the middle of a crowded hallway, to listen to the echoes from his claps and snaps to know exactly where he was and what was in front of him.

I remember thinking what a miracle that was, the challenges he had to overcome. Imagine learning the floor plan of a large school so well that you know each doorway and what’s behind it. Water fountains made an entirely different sound, and I’m sure the echo off the lockers was distinct. And he was able to selectively shut out all the background noise to hear only his own echoes.

As I said, sometimes you just never know. It was probably my first big lesson in judging a book by its cover and, nearly fifty years later, I can still see him stumbling through the hallway to get to his next class. I often think about my first impression of him and how incredibly wrong I was. He wasn’t intentionally dulling his senses – he was using them to a level most of us will never achieve.

Every person you encounter presents an image that may or may not be entirely accurate. The young woman who looks like she was out all night partying, but in reality, nobody ever taught her how to apply make-up. The guy who’s nodding off at his desk because he has a severe case of narcolepsy. The overweight person who’s eating candy to ward off insulin shock.

It would be easy to form an opinion based on two or three seconds of observation. And, even when our opinion is accurate, there’s still a lot more we don’t know. Maybe that person is on drugs. But why? What have they experienced in life that’s led them to the choices they’re making today? More importantly, if we’d been in their shoes, would we have responded that much more responsibly?

We’re all very different people, and we all have unique gifts, abilities, troubles, and needs. And we all share this planet together. Instead of crossing the street when I saw a man having a fight with himself, maybe I could have helped talk him through it. Maybe I could have calmed the “other person” down. Who knows?

It’s been said that we should never judge a person unless we’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Until we do, we may never know how hard that walk might be.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved