A Message on my 74th Birthday
Well, at least I am within two weeks or so of the 75th time I will see April Fools Day – close enough, and I have fond hopes that I can make it to the first of April.
At times, it has been a rather bumpy road getting to this point. While studying for my pilot licenses, I suffered an engine failure of a single-engine aircraft at night while traversing the Tehachapi Mountains in California – I came out unscathed. Weeks later while chasing a traffic violator on my police motorcycle, a left turner took me out totaling both the motorcycle and the car. On impact, I flew through the air over two busy traffic lanes, did a mid-air flip, and landed flat on my back two traffic lanes over on very busy Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto, California. I suffered nary a scratch, split my motorcycle helmet down the rear, and did not even so much as tear my uniform. I got up, brushed myself off, and was good to go for the next adventure.
During my career as an airline pilot, I dealt with numerous emergencies including 6 engine failures (there seems to be a pattern here) and scratched neither an aircraft nor myself or any passengers in the process. As a skydiver, I suffered two near-death experiences during my 657 skydives (you can read those accounts by searching through my blog archives on the main page of my blog). As a bicycle racer, I suffered a broken neck (C1 – oftentimes fatal), and had a couple of other trips to the emergency room due to crashes on the bicycle. Medically, I fought and beat a rather serious malignant melanoma (two operations and numerous scans and follow-ups with the oncologist over an extended period). I have a tattoo of a Grim Reaper on my right shoulder with the Reaper’s scythe imbedded in the scar left from the operations symbolic of my triumph over this disease.
Well, I am still here, going strong, and I feel like a million dollars and sometimes wonder who that craggy visage belongs to that I find staring back at me from the mirror.
What have I learned from almost three quarters of a century of life experience? Lots! In past blogs I have discussed the aging process and strategies for living a healthful vigorous life. I’ve preached about the importance of regular medical care including being your own medical advocate, the importance of exercise both aerobic and weight training including regular stretching to stay limber as you age. I’ve discussed the importance of good nutrition and intelligent supplementation and the importance of adequate rest/sleep. I’ve discussed the importance of nurturing friendships and relationships both of which have been shown to have a direct correlation to longevity and successful aging. Today, however, I want to discuss something that I have recently discovered to be just as important as the foregoing. And that is the ability to turn to the next page in the book of life!
There is a tendency by most to stay on both good and bad pages. We all know of people in abusive relationships who choose to remain or return to those destructive bonds. We wonder to ourselves as to why they simply do not move on – or to use my analogy, turn to the next page of their life. I’ve discovered, however, that it is just as important to be willing to turn the page when you are in your comfort zone. It enriches and enhances your life!
Let me use myself as a case-in-point. I have enjoyed a very successful competitive cycling career over the last few years commencing when I was 65. I have not lost a race in years, and have enjoyed setting numerous state and national cycling records. This past season, I was faster than ever! Our society seems to venerate successful athletes and as a result of my athletic pursuits/success, I have gotten much more than my 15 minutes of fame and share of attention. As a matter of fact, the good people at Growing Bolder discovered me after I won the 2007 Masters Athlete Comeback of the Year award. I have been featured in numerous TV & radio programs, been written about in numerous magazines and newspapers, and 5 books. I have received and continue to receive numerous free items including bicycles, clothing, supplements, accessories, computers, sunglasses, and have been sponsored by the largest manufacturer of bicycle lubricants.
I’ve got to tell you, that all of the above is rather exciting and ego fulfilling. Now anyone who says that they are not interested in recognition is being disingenuous. One philosopher that I know opines that we need three things in life, 1) Food, 2) Water and 3) Recognition. It’s addicting and it’s fun.
Now it certainly must be impossible to turn a page in a situation as described above. Anyone would love to find themselves in that position. Well, I chose to do it a couple of months ago, and I feel like I have been set free! I decided to retire from cycling competition. In order to maintain a national class competitive level, I was training 3 ½ to 5 ½ hours every day of my life. For a considerable amount time, I was averaging 350 miles a week on the bicycle and in addition to that, I was training with weights three times a week. At one point, I was shy of not missing a single day of training on the bicycle for 2 years, by a mere couple of weeks.
Now, realizing the importance of exercise, I have backed off to short 20-mile rides, and more often, I run which takes a fraction of the time as a bicycle workout with multiples of the conditioning return. I have time to enjoy other pursuits such as my latest passion of photography. I don’t worry about missing workouts, and now when I travel, I am not burdened by the necessity of lugging along my bicycle and ancillary gear. I am free, and I cannot remember when I felt this good! My significant other has informed me that I am noticeably easier to live with now!
My message to you today is enhance your life by trying new things – turn to the next page whether you find yourself in a bad or wonderful story. Don’t become a one trick pony. Enjoy an eclectic, free, exciting, varied life. Try everything and extract yourself from both good and bad ruts. Take chances and learn new things. You will be happy you did! I am!