There are only twenty four hours in a day, seven days in a week. Our time is limited by the constraints of nature and the demands of living. We are only able to do so much within the boundaries that define the rotation of our planet. Each of us must prioritize and compromise based on the activities that we must do and those that we want to do. We are rarely completely free to determine how to allot the minutes and seconds of each moment of our existence. There is always work to be done, much of which determines of our ability to simply survive. In our modern world we are continually on the move, sometimes teetering near exhaustion and often setting aside personal goals in favor of service to the people in our sphere of influence. We tell ourselves that soon, very soon, we will devote a portion of each day to pursuit of very personal goals, but all too often we set them aside in favor of doing for others. The hours and days and months and years go by and we realize that we have neglected to fully develop our dreams or even to be good to ourselves. It is in our natures to be self sacrificing and to often put our own needs at the end of our list of things to do.
I recall taking a required physical education course in college. Somehow my high school had been able to give me a diploma without ever asking me to develop my body as well as my brain. The idea of finding balance between the physical and the mental was foreign to me. I somehow saw the activities that would strengthen my bones and my muscles as being frivolous and of little merit. The physical education class that I was forced to take in college was an annoyance but one that I had to endure. Interestingly my teacher was a quite learned man with a doctorate. He appealed to my interest in learning and I grew to truly enjoy the course. He explained that if we are to be whole persons we must be strong in both the physical and mental aspects of our being. The healthiest individuals tend to be those who understand this very simple fact. Sadly if we must parse our time between many masters we more often than not choose to neglect the care of the bones and muscles and organs that house our brains. We tend to be more willing to keep our homes and our cars in good running order than the vessels that house our hearts and our minds.
His directives and suggestions for happy, healthy living impressed me at the time but like so many I soon enough began moving the care and feeding of my physical self farther and farther down the list of my daily routines. I had children to raise, a job to perform, a home to run, a mother over whom to watch, a husband to love, a host of sacrifices to make. I was very much like everyone else that I knew. By the time that I had accomplished all of my required duties I was exhausted and simply didn’t have the desire to contribute to the well being of my physical self. I did what so many of us do. I made resolutions to do better but something always managed to work its way in front of taking care of myself.
As this new year dawns I am more determined than ever to rejuvenate myself by following the lead of far wiser people than I am. My friend, Trish, spent all of last year pushing herself to be her very best. Fitness became a top priority for her on a daily basis. She began an exercise regimen from which she refused to deviate. Rather than constantly changing her schedule to accommodate the needs and demands that always seem to dominate our lives, she refused to let her program slide. It became an integral part of every single day. For her it was like breathing, eating, sleeping. It was something that she had to do. Failing in that aspect of her life was not an option. She had learned that her young body was already beginning to show signs of degeneration and she decided that it was time to take charge. She accompanied her daily workouts with a change in diet. No longer would she take the easy fast food route. Instead she introduced healthy options into her meal planning and eliminated the elements that were slowly poisoning her body. She shared her progress by chronicling her ups and downs in a blog. By the end of one year she had lost weight but more importantly her yearly check up showed that the ills that had once plagued her were gone. She had a healthy heart and a stronger mind.
My grandson, Andrew, has understood the importance of balance early in his development. As a first year student at Purdue University, a campus known for its rigorous coursework and grading, he created an ironclad schedule for himself that included two hours of focused exercise each and every day. He chose healthy food options in the cafeteria and stuck with his plan throughout the semester. He managed to make excellent grades in some extremely difficult classes because he understood the need to care for every aspect of his being.
I have admittedly let myself go over the years. I tend to volunteer my time to various people and causes without hesitation. While this is certainly laudable behavior it often means that I have to set aside plans to focus on myself. I have all too often abandoned care of myself in favor of helping someone else. Now I find myself at a crossroads. I understand from observing people like Trish and Andrew that caring for my physical health is as important as the mental and spiritual exercises that I never allow to lapse. I have a single resolution for this new year and it totally revolves around a concerted effort to reclaim the physical agility and strength that I have always taken for granted.
Because I read and learn daily my mind is as sharp as it ever was. Because I have neglected my body I have developed far too many aches and pains and ills that I might easily eliminate if only I decide to create a plan and stick with it. I somehow manage to write each day and travel to tutor young people in mathematics but I cheat myself out of time to care for my physical well being. That is a correction that I am determined to make regardless of how many times I may have to say “No” when a new venture tempts me to abandon my resolve. I have learned from Trish and Andrew that I have to be firm in my intent and push myself even when I would rather do something else. Becoming healthier is going to be the focus of my year and I know that it is going to be difficult in the beginning. I will have to clean out the cobwebs that have accumulated in my neglect before I will be able to renovate myself. It will be quite a challenge but I feel a sense of determination like never before and I have some great role models to follow.
Today is day one for me. I already feel the pull of activities that will divert my attention. I must be like I was as a student. If I had an assignment or a test I did the work for that before focusing on anything else. Learning was my priority. Now rebuilding my muscles and bones will become the centerpiece of my days.
I recommend to those of you who are young that you find balance in your daily rituals and make caring for both your mind and your body a way of living. It will pay you big dividends in the long run. If you find that you have neglected yourself remember that it is never too late to begin anew. Trish will tell you that we can recreate ourselves if only we keep the promise of caring for all aspects of our being every single day.