Unexpected health setbacks can happen at any time. Just ask the poor barbecued tree frog the repairman hauled out of my gas fireplace this morning. If he had recovered — the frog, not the repairman — I guarantee the poor little fellow wouldn’t be able to find anyone to listen to the story of his ordeal.
“Never tell people your troubles,” old time comic Bob Murphy used to say. “Half the folks don’t want to hear them, and the other half’ll be glad you got ’em.”
It’s often and annoyingly said that “age is just a number” and with the right attitude, we should be able to keep on as we are forever. So at the beginning of summer, when my left hip completely gave out, refusing to carry me one step further, I naturally wanted all the sympathy I could get. I couldn’t get much. It’s hard to find a receptive listener. When someone foolishly asked, “How are you?” I even more foolishly began, “Well I can’t sleep and …” You’d be surprised at how fast people can walk backward to get out of the room and away from the “organ recital.”
I know this is not an unusual problem. I am comforted to recall that even the great Lewis and Clark expedition was delayed for days when the whole Corps of Discovery became terribly sick. As William Clark wrote, “On September 20, 1805, after gorging on camas when guests of the Nez Perce,” Clark wrote, “I am very sick today.” By Sept. 23, Clark wrote, “Several men so sick they were compelled to lie by the side of the road.” And he added that Capt. Lewis was too sick to ride even a “Jentle horse.” That probably explains why you don’t see camas much anymore. I bet they couldn’t get anyone to listen to their problems either.
So I’ve given up answering the “How are you?” query. If you’re nice enough to ask how I’m feeling today, I’ll be nice enough not to tell you.
I’ve discovered a trick that seems to work so well I’d like to share it. I’ve found that if I assign a percentage number to my state of well-being each day, as an answer to health queries, most people will immediately stop walking away backward and take an interest. When the day starts, instead of regaling friends with the hours I didn’t sleep, I do a quick tally of how much of my life is still going right, and it’s a surprisingly high number. So if you do ask how I am, I’ll probably say, “Oh, I’m at 75 percent.” Or even “87 percent.” Unfailingly, friends and strangers stop and take interest.
“Not bad at all,” they’ll say. “Wish I felt that good“ or “As long as it doesn’t get below 50 percent, you’re all right.”
There’s a lot of medical support for the idea that spending time inventorying and reporting on all the things going wrong just makes a person feel worse and may even slow recovery.
Yesterday I received a video of my great grandson who is on a soccer team this year. The pictures show him running on to the field to the proud cheers of gathered family. He is 6 years old. Just looking at the video boosts my “wellness” percentage at least 10 points
If I can get to tai chi or other regular exercise, I add 10 percentage points for each session.
My daughter the nurse says that visits from friends can actually help with pain management and add points. My friend Peggy has been battling cancer for a long time, but she’s taking the time to create wonderful little soft stuffed red hearts to be passed along to others who are suffering heartbreak. I figure her wellness score must run close to 100 percent all the time.
A tai chi buddy offered me marijuana cream for my recalcitrant hip (perfectly legal in Washington ). I’m just not sure how sure how that would go over with my kids. I mentioned this dilemma to one of my health care team and he worried “They’ll think you’ve gone over to the Dark Side.”
Oh, good. The Dark Side shows my best angle anyway. Age is just a number you know and I’m up to about 97 percent today.
Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. Follow Dorothy’s blog at itsnevertoolate.com. Contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont WA, 98327. Phone 800-548-9264, email Dorothy@itsnevertoolate. com.