Last week my husband and I faced the day every pet owner dreads. After consulting with the veterinarian and going over lab results, we made the decision to euthanize our elderly cat. Even though we knew it was the best decision for her, sparing her what would have amounted to few weeks of pain and suffering, it was still hard to sign those final papers. She was the last of the original 4 Persian show cats we had adopted after their breeder retired them from being shown. The maintenance for that breed of cat is something you cannot imagine until you bring one into your family. Although I can’t sat I will miss the work involved, I miss my cats. They were my husband’s physical therapy companions. They had witnessed and been part of over a decade of life in our home.
Since Krista died last week, I have heard some of the usual comments concerning pets. “They love us unconditionally.” “They always greet us when we come home, and they are happy to see us no matter what mood we’re in.” “My dog/cat doesn’t care if I gain weight or if I lose my hair or if I don’t have makeup on or if I wear something really stupid. They love me anyway.” “When I feel sad, my pet will instinctively stay by my side and comfort me.” “They make me feel better without having the ability so say a word.”
After hearing all of the well known statements about how our cats and/or dogs love us unconditionally and comfort us without question, it occurred to me: Isn’t that they way we should treat one another? Maybe we can learn a lesson in how to treat our loved ones simply by watching our pets.
Whenever I mention my elderly relatives, someone will ask me if I have ever picked up on secrets to their amazing longevity. I had a great uncle who was very overweight and smoked and drank in excess, yet lived to be well into his nineties. My 101-year-old great aunt is the deadly apple shape, which is supposedly the telltale clue to early death. My aunt, who turned 90 today and who looks amazing for her age, is the most health conscious of the group. She can usually be found at a fast food restaurant. While much of their astounding fortune at playing health roulette was probably just genetics taking over for their horrible habits, I refuse to play that game. While I am far from being a gym rat, and I very likely will never be found in the petite department shopping for my clothing, I have paid close attention to something they have all done right. They love trying new things.
When we think of a typical old fogy, we think of someone who is grouchy, stubborn and set and in their ways. One way to keep our brains sharp and our outlook young is to try new things. So what if we make a total fool of ourselves! It’s not like we haven’t survived looking stupid in the past. In recent years I’ve added things to my “new” list; refinishing old furniture, photography, yoga, trying recipes using ingredients I’ve never used or heard of before, and writing this weekly guest blog post for a childhood friend. What’s the worst that can happen? Something I was going to take to the curb anyway has to be taken to the curb because I mess it up; a photograph is blurry or doesn’t look quite right; I realize I’m not as flexible as I used to be; I cook something and don’t like the way it tastes; I write something that stinks. So what? Really, that’s what not succeeding at something new boils down to: So what? Unless skydiving is on your short list of new things to try, the risk of failure pales in comparison to the thrill of doing something new or outside of your comfort zone. Trying new things seems to be what has kept some very interesting old folks I know from becoming bored with life. It has kept them excited about the prospect of living another day.
It’s a new year. Well, almost. This year I am making small changes that shouldn’t be that difficult to implement, but will have big payoffs for my mental and physical health. For anyone who reads these Mid Life posts, maybe some of my small changes will be ones you can try as well.
I hate to eat in the morning. Always have. Coffee is about all I can stand. Even though I always cooked breakfast for my family, I rarely ate any of it. I know this isn’t healthy, but until recent years it didn’t seem to matter. I know I am not alone in this, because I know many people who view a travel mug of coffee as breakfast. It’s not.
Over the past year, I noticed a lack of energy and sometimes a dull headache in the early afternoon. Not feeling hungry, I didn’t link it to the fact that I hadn’t eaten all day. Not that I am one to not eat; I just happen to start feeding myself after, say, 4 PM. Then one day the TV was on as background noise to my cleaning the bedroom. A doctor was on, saying that you should feel hungry in the morning. If you don’t then it probably means you aren’t used to eating breakfast. Your body doesn’t know the difference between starving and stupid eating habits, so your metabolism slows down in an effort to hang on to those calories. Humm…… when I thought about that it dawned on me that if I skipped breakfast I didn’t feel hungry all day, but on days when I did eat something I was hungry by lunch time. I also notice that on those rare days when I eat before late afternoon I have more energy.
My New Year’s resolution #1 is this: Eat breakfast. I am going to have to see what I like and don’t like. I am going to start small, maybe a hard-boiled egg or some yogurt. My goal is to work my way towards a more healthy meal. Some days I find myself rushing out the door, and on those mornings I will at least have something portable to grab on the way out. Even if that is a Ziplok bag of Cheerios or a handful of dried fruit, I am going to eat something before noon. Not too big a goal, but one that has the potential to make me feel much better throughout the day.
Culture is what people think and do without thinking. Disney Cast are taught from day one (even earlier actually) that excellence is the only acceptable standard. Boomers, if you’ve never worked or lived in this type of environment, it may be challenging to understand or comprehend.