What annoys you as you go about your day? (That’s a “what,” not a “who.” We’re not going down that road today!)
Maybe it’s a kitchen cabinet that won’t stay closed. Or a squeak in your car or a drain that’s slow about half the time, so you forget about it until there it goes again. It’s amazing how a small irritation can sap your energy, even when it doesn’t get in the way of what you’re doing. It invades your thoughts in that moment, and the next one, and the one after that…and every time you beat up on yourself for not remembering to fix it.
Here’s a thought: just take care of it!
That closet that’s so dark every time you open it you have to go find a flashlight to find what you’re after? Get one of those stick-on LEDs that look like a light switch: $5.99 at Staples, Ace Hardware or the UPS Store. Buy three and light up other spaces. Dark closets be gone!
Maybe I’m easy to entertain, but I’ve learned that when I take care of a little annoying thing, I enjoy a sense of accomplishment and when it doesn’t happen the next time, it’s a bit of a thrill. Three months ago, I spent 20 minutes fixing two kitchen cabinet doors that had rebelliously swung open for years. Such a little fix, and I still rejoice every time I close them, and they stay that way!
Irritations come in various shapes, sizes and degrees of urgency, but every one of them will distract you from the task at hand, consuming energy that could be used in much better ways. Every time you fix one it clears a little space in your mind, and this is a gift you should give yourself every day. An uncluttered mind has space and energy to invest in a hobby, a book, a nap or something brand new.
Speaking of things brand new, there’s good news about our timing; we grown-ups of today have plenty of time left to enjoy our lives! Statistics from the Social Security Agency say that a man reaching 65 today has 22 percent of his life ahead of him, and we 65-year-old girlfriends have 25 percent of ours left. Wow, here we are just starting the fourth quarter of our lives; what exciting things might lie ahead?
Have you ever heard someone say, “If I’d known I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself?”
How fruitless is that statement, a tragic lament for a past that cannot be changed. Here’s a thought: don’t look back; start taking better care of yourself right now. Why wouldn’t you? Here we are, surrounded by excellent healthcare resources and countless activities with which to enrich our lives: dining, learning, entertainment and the arts. This is no time to go lazy in the personal maintenance department.
If I’ve lost you between the kitchen cabinets and longevity, here’s the operative phrase that connects: Just take care of it. Whether it’s a toilet handle you’re tired of jiggling or a health screening you know you need, your life will improve if you just take care of it!
So, now I’ll go to meddling. What annoys you about your health? Do you see your physician and dentist regularly, and if so, do you do everything they tell you to? If you say yes, you’ll lie about other things as well, but if you can claim around 85 percent compliance, that’s a passing grade. Many of us fourth-quarter folks are here because we really did take care of ourselves over the years. Others have some lucky genes to thank, but the fact is that we’re just not as “old” as our grandparents were when they were our age.
We fourth-quarter grown-ups are fortunate to have left some things behind. We’ve survived the statistical range of sudden death from heart attacks and several deadly cancers, and most of us no longer smoke, because we either quit for our health or got tired of being outcasts everywhere but in our own house. If we had cancer, we’re now a survivor, and it’s more of a condition to be managed than a death sentence. We have our share of high blood pressure and diabetes, but as long as we take care of these, our long-term outlook is good. Our worn-out joints are replaceable, our blood is thin-able, and our hearts are stent-able. What a great time to be alive!
So, what’s left to take care of? Four small things that are huge. I’m not going to throw out statistics. You may find all you want on the Interweb. I’m just going to preach. If you’re in the choir, congratulations and please help by singing these lessons out loud everywhere you go
Four Small Things that are Fourth-Quarter Huge
1. Bone density
Girlfriends, confession time. I had a cavalier attitude towards osteoporosis because I run/walk 6-12 miles a week. Yeah, but there are weeks that this does not happen, and I didn’t pay attention to that get plenty of calcium thing for the last few decades. My first DEXA scan in November informed me that (a) I’m shorter than ever (down two inches since my prime) and (b) I have osteoporosis. That last one hit me hard, but when I realized that the treatment included healthy eating and continuing run/walking, how could I complain?
And the best part? My doctor prescribed aggressive management because… wait for it… I am so young! Girlfriends ask your doctor if you need a DEXA scan (you do), and then, just take care of it. This is like the easiest medical test ever. You don’t have to remove any clothes and it takes 30 minutes, door-to-door. Broken hips take lives. Take care of this and build yourself a healthier fourth quarter.
Boyfriends, if you’re not working with your doctor to keep your PSAs done, then you’re lazier than my old striped cat. This is just a simple blood test and the reason you need it is because after the age of 50 your chance of having prostate cancer increases substantially and the majority of prostate cancers are found in men age 65 and older. Get the blood test when your doctor says to, and if you wind up needing surgery, embrace the day; you may start playing like a sixth-grade boy: my friend Lee says once that prostate’s gone, you can knock a urinal off the wall!
Talk about easy-peasy! As grown-ups we don’t need nearly as many shots as (it seemed like anyway) we got as kids. All we need are (a) annual flu shots, (b) a pneumonia shot when our doctor says to get one, and (c) a shingles shot once we’re over 50. These are all available at the health department either for free or not much. Heavens to Murgatroyd, buddies. Go get stuck! Do not pass Go and do not collect $200, just realize that these little preemptory pricks are exponentially simpler than any case of these miseries would be and go take care of them.
Stand back folks. I saved the best for last, and I’m an expert on this one, having done professional stand-up comedy on the topic. When your friends say things like, “I was asleep for the procedure, but the prep was horrible,” ignore them; they’re just whining. Don’t you ever let the perceived inconvenience of a 24-hour clear-fluids-and-laxative prep stand in your way of a life without colon cancer! Eight hours on the potty? What on earth is that when compared to major surgery followed by months of chemo and radiation? I mean, really. When your doctor says its time for your colonoscopy, just take care of it. You’ll lose about 5 pounds, have the greatest nap you’ve ever had in your life, and the best part is that self-righteous glow you’ll wear for weeks, knowing that this test is (ahem) behind you for a while.
If I’ve stopped preaching and gone to meddling, that’s fine because it means I touched a tender spot. And I’m glad if that happened because I care about you, treasured reader, and I want you to stick around for many more GRAND columns to come. It’s so much fun to joke around, but in a serious moment I urge you to make my list your own, consult your doctor and then go Just. Take. Care of it!
*Facts calculated from www.ssa.gov/planners/lifeexpectancy.html