I recently celebrated my last birthday, you know, ever – my 29th – and aging suddenly has become a relevant topic for me.
While I may not be over the hill, it is time to take a long-term view.
That’s certainly what the doctors I see on a consistent basis are telling me. A healthy diet and exercise must move closer to the top of my list, and I need to do what I can to reduce stress.
But as I begin to learn more about what lengthens or shortens my time here, I find that some factors, such as heredity, are out of my control.
My plan to live to 100 could be thwarted by a variety of things. That’s why I was drawn to an article by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s senior medical correspondent, who recently tackled aging in his book and CNN documentary, “Chasing Life.”
Gupta discussed his pursuit of the secrets to long life. While there were no big surprises, he cited Dr. Thomas Perls, an expert on aging who has developed a formula to calculate life expectancy based on lifestyle and family history.
I went to Perls’ Web site, www.livingto100.com, but after staring at the screen for several minutes, I decided against finding out how long I may live.
There’s going to be a finish line. But because science can’t account for everything, there’s no way to know for sure when I’ll reach that finish line.
What’s important to me is not to rush toward it. So, rather than wait until middle age or retirement, I’ve decided to slow down now.
Actually, the pace began to slacken about a year and a half ago when I got a dog. I noticed a few things right away. Pippa takes good care of herself. She never skips meals. She gets plenty of rest. She goes outside at least twice a day. And under no circumstance does she multitask.
In short, my dog is far more humane to herself than I am to myself.
I started taking cues from her. After making adjustments to my routine, I began to wonder what other areas might benefit from this approach.
The car came to mind. Do I need to drive in the left lane everywhere I go? Do I need to pass people so often? Do I need to sit at a light as if I’m waiting for the green flag at Daytona? No, no and no. Am I calmer when I reach my destination since coming to these conclusions? Absolutely.
Have I reduced the accident? Most likely.
The last big change was a fortuitous accident. A link fell out of my watchband. I have always worn a watch, but I’ve heard of people who don’t. I call them free spirits, but not in a good way.
But when I didn’t get the watch repaired right away, I began to see the light. Without one, it’s so much easier, literally, to stay in the moment.
You stop thinking about where you have to be next. You more fully enjoy what you’re doing or whom you’re with. And that nagging sense of urgency that persists at all times? It’s put in its place. It has been more than six months, and I haven’t missed a minute by not checking my wrist.
As I approached my birthday, all of this was about stopping to smell the roses.
But as I look around at older friends and family members battling diseases and ailments that are symptomatic of our driven culture, I see that quantity and quality of life are remarkably intertwined. I think 29 is the perfect time to get out of the fast lane.
So much for chasing life, as Dr. Gupta put it. I’d prefer to casually pursue it.