Is your glass half full or half empty?

As I look out at the plum tree in our backyard, I notice tell tale signs of the coming spring. Green buds that will be flowers are filling out the branches and I see a smattering of blooms already venturing out. Though predictable, the suddenness of this burst of new life which was absent just one week ago is always astounding and sometimes a little unnerving. Another spring is springing, the clock keeps ticking, and time marches on.

 

As I get older I cannot help but wonder what this year holds in store. Will we see a rebound in the economy that we all hope and pray for? Will someone finally figure out how to help the long-term-unemployed and those victims of the mortgage debacle or will these folks be forced to continue somehow surviving on their own? How far out is the next bubble and what will fill it this time? How will we be physically or mentally different a year from now?

 

Wow, re-reading the last paragraph I notice a rather negative line of thinking. It has been a challenging few years but there are good things as well as bad. Optimism and pessimism are sides of the same coin.

 

So I thought what about taking a look at things from the perspective of that old glass of water, the one that we often refer to as either half empty or half full. If I was a negative person – aka glass half empty – what might I be concerned with as another year is added on? Will this be the year that:

1.    I become too old to beat my son at racket ball?

2.    My vision gets worse and I struggle just to see the TV at times

3.    I have to reduce the weights I lift by some amount while working out

4.    I decide that I will no longer bend down to pick up a dime but only stoop for a quarter or higher

5.    A hearing aid enters the picture

6.    I lose someone close to me

7.    I develop some long term ailment

 

Unfortunately this list can go on forever.

 

What if every one of these potential negative events occurs this year, how could I respond? Albeit that would be a nasty year by any standards, it is not impossible. How might a glass half full perspective help to survive and in fact continue with a desire to live more?

1.    My son is getting better and faster and stronger growing into a man and along the way his skill at racket ball has grown to exceed mine. I gladly hand over the crown.

2.    I can quickly be fitted with a stylish pair of spectacles and my vision will be as good as when I was a kid, maybe even better.

3.    I am still working out to maintain my strength, balance and stamina – never surrender! So I cannot lift as much now – who am I trying to impress anyway?

4.    With inflation over the years, a quarter is worth today about what a dime was not long ago so nothing has really changed here.  🙂

5.    With a hearing aid I can better follow conversations around me and minimize my “pardon me, can you repeat that?” requests. And people can hardly detect that I am wearing one.

6.    I learn to never take for granted the people who are important to me, I learn to treasure each moment today since tomorrow is not guaranteed, and I learn that pain is a part of life that no amount of optimism will ever erase 100 percent.

7.    Similar to #6, I live each day as best I can and appreciate each breath that I take.

 

Keep on blooming you plum trees! I will enjoy you today for all you are worth.

 

Bring it on life – no one said it would be easy.

 

I can think of no better way to end than to share a poem from Ralph Waldo Emerson who had it figured out when he wrote the definition of a successful life. I believe that living such a life – a glass half full life – is within the reach of each of us. It’s all about our attitude and how we choose to view the world.

 

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

5 stages of grief applied to aging

With each day that passes, our population is aging as it always has nothing new, no surprise there. However the magnitude of those entering the ranks of senior citizens is truly impressive. With 10,000 of us reaching the age of 65 each day, by the year 2030 for the first time there will be more over the age of 65 than under the age of 17. A tsunami of gray haired baby boomers is just starting to hit the shoreline which for the next 20 years will show no sign of letting up.

This monstrous wave of retirees-to-be cannot be escaped by simply heading for the hills. The entire world is being impacted and none more so than those individuals who are now entering and populating the ranks of the 65-and-older crowd. We baby boomers are not known for merely taking life at face value – we want to have our unique say – and I think it is safe to say that accepting aging will be no different.

Recently, I was reading an article on the 5 stages of grief when I realized that this model was directly applicable to what boomers and members of our aging population may go through as we come to grips with our inevitable aging. Since recognizing where you are today and having some insight into what lays ahead may be helpful in navigating the retirement jungle,  I took a trip through this model to create a 5 stages of aging analogy.

Where do you think you might be today?

Denial – how can I be getting old? Just yesterday I was graduating college with the world at my feet, nothing too impossible, dreams just waiting to be realized. Sure some years have passed since then but old? Not me. It just doesn’t make any sense. It cannot be – I won’t let it!

Anger – screw this! I don’t deserve to have to endure the weight of the years, the aches and pains, the challenges faced in what were once basic, simple endeavors. It’s not fair and I am mad as heck.

Bargaining – I am going to work out four days a week and eat only healthy food. I am going to get my rest, avoid stress, see my doctor on a regular basis, and give up drinking. I am willing to do all of this in the hopes that I can delay my aging. Okay? Will that work? I am committed to doing whatever it takes. Surely I can beat this thing.

Depression – there is no avoiding it, there is nothing I can do, I am doomed.

Acceptance – although I am aging with potential physical and mental challenges waiting around every corner, I am still alive. I can experience a good quality of life living within my limitations. So I will no longer be the fastest on the tennis court or able to bench press twice my body weight – I accept that. What I can do is live my life as it is to the fullest possible extent. I have learned wisdom with age and will gladly share my worldly knowledge with those seeking my advice. I appreciate the beauty of a song, can revel in the wonder of a sunset, marvel at the excitement a baby shows experiencing life’s moments for the first time, genuinely share the pain felt in the loss of a loved one, and appreciate my spouse for each and every detail, quirk, and habit that have been such a vital part of my life. I accept me for who I am. Old age – bring it on!

Getting old is not for sissies. But we are not the first nor will we be the last to negotiate the journey. Knowing that we are in a particular stage in a progression may give us hope as surviving each elevates us to the next, eventually ending with our acceptance of life as it is.

Not everyone over 65 is in stage five and some may never get there. But a quitter never wins and a winner never quits.

Whatever stage you are currently in, hang in there and have a little faith that things will get better. You have made it this far.

Would you donate a kidney?

The National Kidney Registry maintains a living database of kidney donors with a unique twist. In order to have access to the database and compatible donors, you or someone in your family must donate one of your kidneys to keep the chain going. With 200 transplants facilitated in 2010 they have literally saved the lives of people who without a kidney transplant might not be here today.

According to Katie Couric and the CBS News, every 90 minutes someone dies waiting for a kidney transplant and there are currently more than 87000 Americans on the waiting list for a new kidney.

Physically we can live with only one kidney. The actual transplant procedure takes about three hours. Modern medications to prevent rejection have come a long way and today donors do not necessarily need to be genetically similar to the recipient. A kidney transplant is considered a life-extending procedure typically enabling the recipient to live 10-15 years longer than if kept on dialysis. The bottom line is that for those with failing or failed kidneys, their life depends on a transplant.

As I learned more about this service and the incredible impact it had on families everywhere, I asked myself what would it take for me to donate a kidney? If someone I loved needed a kidney and I was a compatible donor, would I willingly offer myself or would I hesitate?

I think that all of us would like to believe that we would selflessly without hesitation say yes to immediate family members in need. Deep inside, we feel that we would likely agree to help out a close friend. But just how far is each of us willing to go? At what point would we say “no”?

I came up with a few questions to help me better understand myself and tried to answer them honestly.

  • Would I donate a kidney to my wife to save her life?
  • Would I donate a kidney to my child?
  • What about a more distant family member?
  • What about a good friend?
  • Would I donate a kidney for money? If so how much – what is my kidney worth to me in dollars and cents?
  • What unique or extreme circumstances might lead me to become a donor?
  • Would I ever unequivocally say no?

After thinking through how I would personally answer each question, I realized how difficult it is to make a final decision without actually being in the situation. For most of us it is a no brainer when it comes to family members and even close friends. But where would we absolutely say no? Without intimate knowledge of the people involved and their lives and their particular story, I don’t think we can know for sure how we would react.

I like to believe that for any given situation people will make the difficult choices to help their fellow human beings. Blood is thicker than water but love conquers all! Why else is it that we get a tear in our eye when we hear of the struggles of poor children around the world or the impact of disasters on the innocent? Why do we stand united against injustice and abuse? It is because we are basically good people and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

After I completed this exercise, I took a look at the list of those I would be willing to donate a kidney. I realized that these are the most important people in my life. Important enough for me to theoretically undergo an operation and donate one of my organs! But when was the last time I reached out to them, when did I last offer a good deed to these most significant in my life?

Although we may be fully willing to donate a kidney to someone we love, the likelihood is we will never be called upon to do so. So we need to show our love in slightly less dramatic ways. However we choose to show that we care is up to us. Just remember the fact we FEEL the love is not necessarily apparent until we SHOW the love.

Who would you add to your list?