By Danna Downing
Our body is our job – now more than ever
“When you approach the care and feeding of your body as a job – a second career equivalent in value to all the other ways you pay the bills – you are channeling a farmer’s work ethic. I liken fitness to farming. A farmer does the same two things every day: show up for work and adapt to what he finds there. A farmer’s life – raising animals, milking cows, cultivating crops – is the quintessential physical life…. The farmer usually persists in this life well into old age … because there is sensory delight in growing things and a renewal in each season. The farmer’s rewards far outweigh the grinding rigors and unwelcome surprises, and, in fact, are more precious because of the hardships met and overcome.”
These are the words of Twyla Tharp, world famous dancer and choreographer, and appear in the book she wrote at 75 years of age. It is called “Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life”. It is an inspiring read. The goal is not to become a pole vaulter at age 82 or go on stage to dance. Her advice is to just keep reaching beyond the comfort zone of the familiar. Make change your habit and free yourself to be whatever and whomever you need to be in your aging process. Combat procrastination by asking “What can I do to just get started?”
“The wealth of our past does not entitle us to anything other than, with luck, another shot at tomorrow,” she cautions. On the more positive side, any baggage from the past is over as well. Learning how to recognize when something is over and being ready to move into the future is key to keeping it moving.
One of the chapters in “Keep It Moving” is entitled “Hope Less, Plan More”. Tharp points out that the older we get, the more we need motivation to keep going. Resting and relaxing has its limits. Without something good to anticipate, life can be boring and unhealthy.
Our brains are wired to seek a reward. When we think ahead, anxiety about things going badly and hopes they will go well are the two basic feelings generated. The best way to translate either feeling into action is through planning and preparation.
For some reason, while reading “Keep It Moving,” I suddenly remembered Paul, our horse farrier many years ago. His favorite saying was: “No hoof, no horse.” It struck a chord with me, because I have always had trouble with my feet and resented what I needed to wear on my feet to keep moving (expensive shoes, less fashionable shoes, etc.) Over the years it has morphed into a more generic meaning and I use it in reference to anything that requires adaptation and planning to get the reward for which I am aiming. In particular, I notice my feet are getting worse with age and require even more planning and orthotic support so that I can take long walks with my dog and participate fully in other adventures I enjoy that require comfortable standing and walking. I see how the investment contributes to my mental and physical health as well as my sense of well-being. I see how lucky I am to have the resources to address this health challenge. I appreciate all the people I have met along the way and the new things I learn with each walk. I feel good about the way walking helps to reduce my carbon footprint.
I just completed my covered annual Medicare wellness check-up in November. I have always taken a small measure of pride in cholesterol numbers, but this time I found my total cholesterol and bad cholesterol were starting to climb. Like the farmer who makes a new discovery on the family farm, it is time for me to make some changes in what I eat and increase my levels in physical activity so I don’t acquire any chronic condition that will keep me from treasured time with family and friends. I look forward to the challenge.