Friday, November 30, 2018

Who Has More Fun, Us or Dogs?

We have a new neighbor on our hill. I met him the other day when I was taking my beloved old puppy - whose arthritis prevents him from getting a walk - out for his drive. My neighbor was walking his three pups down the hill, so of course as mutual dog lovers, we had to stop and have a conversation. One of my neighbor’s dogs only sported two legs; he had a wheeled contraption that took the place of his back legs. Another of his dogs rolled around gleefully in a doggy-perfected wheelchair with his three legs, and the last of his cuties had the more common four legs, of which three are of the regular kind, and a bionic titanium hind leg! Despite their differences, all three dogs were obviously happy, healthy, enthusiastic critters.

And my sweet 14 year old Ringo, despite his creaky hindquarters and sagging back, enjoys his car-rides enormously, muzzle straight into the wind like any self-respecting dog.

What a wonder our animal-friends are! They don’t complain about much of anything. Certainly, if an animal is mistreated or abused, they suffer, but under normal conditions, our furry-friends accept their condition and enjoy life as it is. Right then, right there. Even the small lizard that I’ve come to recognize because he has half his tail missing, plunks himself on my deck to enjoy the sun, tail or no tail.

What is it with us humans that we complain about the least little ache and pain? It doesn’t make the pain go away, actually, dwelling on pain usually makes it worse. Yet here we are, moaning and groaning while three legged dogs hop around happy.

I am reminded of six dogs that were rescued recently in North Carolina. Trapped in their cage, about to drown in the still-rising flood-waters, the dogs were set free by rescuers. The pups ran out of their cage through the water to dry land, wolfed down the food given them by their good Samaritans, and wagged their tails: “Now what?”

Unlike us, the dogs did not revisit their recent trauma, complain about their days without food, no doubt scared and cold, they simply – once rescued – resumed their doggy lives. Now granted, sometimes revisiting the past is helpful, even necessary, for us. Process the experience, sure. Look for a solution or resolution, absolutely. But what we don’t need to do is complain about it.

So I’ve decided to give myself a most unusual present this Holiday Season. I’m going to quit complaining. At least as often as I can catch myself doing it (there’s a challenge for you!). And I invite you to join me, if you like, in ditching the complaining.

After all, who seems to be having more fun, us or the dogs?!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sixty And Me: When Injury Strikes After 60, Will You Give Up or Get Going?

(Note: For more great articles and advice from Sixty and Me, go to

My knee hurts. I don’t know what I did in dance class last night, what awkward move I made to stress the darn thing, but bottom line is – it hurts.

As I tape it up before going to sleep, I grumble about it, which, of course, does no good whatsoever. I wake up in a foul mood, trudge down the stairs with a slight limp, still grousing.

But when I sit with my morning cup of tea, seeing the brightness of a new day, hearing the birds sing, I shake myself. What am I doing? I know better than to be complaining, moaning, and groaning.

I know, from umpteen studies and scientific research, that what we think has almost immediate impact on how we feel, how our bodies function. And the worst possible thing I can do, relative to my knee, is feed my body pessimistic thoughts.

How You View Your Injury Impacts How Fast You Heal

A recent study done specifically on 60-and-older individuals found that how people think about their aches and pains shows up in how quickly and well they heal – or don’t.

Those who think pessimistically tend to experience decreased mobility and greater likelihood of more disabilities. Those who think optimistically experience better mobility and a decreased likelihood of further disabilities. What you think, matters.

Ann McGowan is a stellar example of one who thinks optimistically about her aches and pains. A National Senior Games champion, who at 93 won a silver medal for the long jump and a bronze medal for shot put and discus, Ann persevered despite her back surgery and a recent mastectomy.
She sees no reason to stop doing what she has enjoyed for over 40 years. Had Ann thought that back surgery or a mastectomy were permanent obstacles or that they spelled the end of the sports road for her, she would never have gone on to win these – and many other- – medals.

But most importantly, she would have needlessly deprived herself of her passion.

How can we think optimistically about our aches and pains? Here are two easy ways:

#1: Temporary or Permanent Injury?

Let’s take my knee as an example. Is it a temporary or permanent injury? I can look at it either way.
I can say to myself, “Well, it’s not the first time I’ve done something unfortunate in class, or stumbled, or tripped, or in some other way hurt my knee. I’ve always recovered. It may take more or less time, but when I do the things I know to do – physical therapy, tape my knees, use ointments, take it easy, stretch more – my knee heals.”

Or, I can say to myself, “Well, so much for dance class. That’s over. I can’t dance with a bum knee, that’s for sure. It’s my own darn fault, trying to do things older people shouldn’t even consider.”
With that, I don’t do any of the healing things I would have if I had looked at my knee as a temporary hurt. I accept the permanence of the hurt, and with that, my body gets this message: “Don’t bother trying to heal. We’re done.”

Thinking optimistically about aches and pains is to think of them as temporary, not permanent. Just like a child who falls down and skins her knee doesn’t think of the injury as permanent. She simply gets up and keeps on going. Kids know – we know – the body heals.

#2: Bump in the Road, or the Whole Road?

I can look at my knee and think, “Well now, that was interesting. Fortunately, I have another knee, plus the rest of my body that’s doing pretty OK. Maybe I can work with my dance instructor, so we don’t stress my knee while it’s healing, put some emphasis on the other things I need to learn.”
And with that thought, I’ve categorized my knee injury as simply a bump in my dance road, not the definitive end to that particular journey.

Or, I can think, “Oh, no! I’m over 60, it’s all downhill from here. My knee is the first to go, next it’ll be a hip – or two,” and that’s it. I don’t expend any thought, effort, or energy in actually helping my knee heal, I abandon it – literally.

My body, obedient servant to my mind, responds with, “As you wish,” and sure enough, I would lose more mobility and be prone to further disabilities as the above study showed.

Don’t let your aches and pains turn into permanent misery or put a stop to whatever it is that you love doing. Think of them as temporary, a mere bump in the road, and you’ll be back on your happy way soon enough.

What kind of injuries have you experienced that took a long time to heal? What motivation techniques worked for you to get back on your feet after an injury? Have you had to readjust your life after an injury? How did that affect you? Let’s discuss the things we do to adjust when healing from an injury.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Don't Play The Comparison Game This Thanksgiving—Be Thankful For Who You Are

With Thanksgiving, our attention turns to all those people and things for which we are grateful. A wonderful tradition, indeed. However, there’s a sneaky little devil that sometimes gets in the way of our ability to truly appreciate . . . and that is, comparison.

Uh-huh. Comparing your 10-year-old dirty car to your neighbor’s sparkly clean new one. Groan. Or your not-even-remotely-in-shape body to the ripped, buff, sleek body working out on the elliptical next to yours; you’ve barely figured out how to coordinate your arms and legs. Or comparing your toddler’s wobbly steps to your sister’s same-age toddler’s zipping around the room.

Need I go on? Take inventory sometime of just how many times a day you compare yourself or your life to someone else’s self or life, and – more importantly – find yourself wanting. You may be (unpleasantly) surprised at how often you judge yourself to be defective. Not good enough. Swift enough. Smart enough. Thin enough. Rich enough. Talented enough.  Every time you ding yourself with a “less than” comparison, you hurt yourself. You send an unfortunate message to your entire being that you can’t, that you aren’t. Whatever it is, you don’t measure up. Your body and mind take that message quite literally, and with that, you make it more difficult for your body-mind to accomplish whatever it is you desire.

One of the most powerful messages you can give yourself is “I’m good enough.” Not perfect, but not deficient either. Simply good enough. Ah . . . sweet relief! Because from a position of “good enough,” you can appreciate yourself, and your life, as it is. You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else to figure out if you’re good enough, you can adopt it as your basic stance. Try it! Say “I’m good enough” to yourself often as you go about your day, and you’ll feel more confidence flow through you, which in turn, allows your body-mind to function at its current best.

If you really want to rock your world, try thinking “You’re good enough” of others as well: your wobbly toddler, your husband with his affinity for clothes that never match, your whiny neighbor. “You’re good enough” takes you out of the world of comparison and negative judgment, freeing you up to enjoy and be grateful for others as they are.

Now you can truly celebrate Thanksgiving, reveling in the “good enough” in yourself, your life, and all those around you. Enjoy!