Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Put On Speed

 "To those who said to Diogenes the Cynic 'You are an old man; take a rest', 'What?' he replied, 'if I were running in the stadium, ought I not to slacken my pace when approaching the goal.  Ought I not rather put on speed?'" - Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers

One of these things the last month or so has convinced me of - now that I seem to be pulling out of my tailspin of a significant birthday - is that I need to get my head back on straight and get going with things that I have decided my life needs to be about.

To be fair, I think we as a society are probably about to go through the same thing.  We have gotten used to economic good times and in some aspects have gotten a bit sloppy or even lazy with how we manage our time and money - the fact that by and large we value recreation to the exclusion of productive activity (and not all productive activity is a job; they are two different things).

But it is not  just economic or productive necessity that should impel me.  What I need to fight against as well is the insidious creep of "Taking it easy".

I am very conscious - now more than ever - that this is the point of the program where the body starts rebelling against us in one form or fashion.  I am starting to experience that now: my right knee is starting to have "words" with me and I am still working towards a sleep pattern that does not involve me waking up multiple times.  But even this are facts, not excuses, to still do something.

One of the biggest challenges that I see as I have watched others confront this is adaptability the changing circumstances:  physical, mental, even economic.  The reality is that even as some of these things become larger issues, other things become lesser issues.  The skill needed is to pivot in the direction of those things that I can still control or grow in.

Some people give up - if they cannot do the thing they used to do in the manner they used to do it, they simply refuse to do it at all.  For others, they find ways to do some of the things they could do, or do it differently, or do it similarly: if I cannot run,  I can hike - and even when the day comes that I cannot hike, I can still walk.

My goal - if it can be said to have one  - is to be my great grandmother who was sharp as tack when we visited her at 96 years old (she repainted her living room at 94) and lived to 99, living on her own and cooking breakfast for us every morning when we were there (fried eggs prepared on the bacon grease, thank you very much).  Or the orator Isocrates, who, at 98 had lived through the entire Peloponnesian war, the rise and fall of the Sparta Hegemony and then the Theban Hegemony, and the rise of Alexander the Great  - and wrote almost up to the point he died.  Or even Diogenes, sprinting in the virtual stadium and living a consistent life right up to the end.

There are many things that may go awry and prevent this, of course.  But the possibility of such things is no reason for me to not try.

The time has come, as Diogenes said, to put on speed. 


  1. Anonymous2:59 AM

    This, yes. That is what I was looking for...

    1. The quote is almost unique in my experience - as a side note, I am finding that Laertius has a lot of these which have made it into the common parlance but no-one really quotes where they came from.

      We (and by we, I mean "mostly me" need this sort of thing to push myself instead of the "leisure and retirement" culture so often propagated, at least in the U.S.

  2. How does one work towards a wakeless night?

    My biggest fear is having the physical body to live until 98 but not the mind. Having the mind but not the body doesn’t scare me so much.

    1. Ed, I am stumbling my way towards a wakeless night. For example, liquids after 8 PM is a bad idea. Ear plugs help. I have not figured out the correct body wear to regulate temperature, but what I am using is not helping.

      The body outliving the minds is a real fear for me too. That said, all I can do is keep the mind active and take care of my health and (literally) hope for the best).

    2. One thing that has helped me is just getting up earlier. Most of my poor sleep occurs towards the last couple hours so instead of pushing it, I just get up. It has actually freed up a lot of time by allowing me to get my blogging/reading done before the kids get up and so I can get more done and feel more tired at the end of the day.

    3. Yeah; I've hit that "I used to be able to do that" stage. My attitude has been to continue doing what I can, and graciously give up what I can't do anymore. At any given time, "I am what I am and I ain't what I ain't." Knee-grinding mountain biking? Not anymore. Multi-mile power walks, gardening, an ham radio? Sure. Why not? It's actually somewhat liberating, not being expected to physically bust my ass all day. We need to accept ourselves where we are in life. We're still very much men, but also "men of a certain age..."

      I've wobbled into the wakeful night scenario over the years myself. Yes, I can take the Temazepam the doctor prescribed for this, but it pretty much flatlines me. If called to "alert status" suddenly, it takes entirely too long to figure out where I am and what's going on. Ear plugs? I'm still the man of the house. I don't want to be "the last to know" if something goes bump in the night because I can't hear the bumps. The best compromise I've come up with is Valerian pills and magnesium. I take both, and USUALLY have a fairly good night's sleep, minus the drowsiness.

      No caffeine after noon.
      No liquids after dinner aside from a little water. I've also found that certain liquids keep the water running all night and others don't. For me, the biggest no-no is, believe it or not, an orange squeezed into a glass of club soda.
      No sugar late in the evening.
      No alcohol in the evening.
      No workouts in the evening. This one actually bugs me, as this is when I have spare time. If I work out though, sleep doesn't happen...

      ...As always, it's a work in progress...

    4. Anonymous1:28 PM

      This seems a common theme among men as we age gracefully. Sometimes I'll find a new sport, and think "WOW, this is great - so much fun. I wish there were more adult beginners." Then I look around and see the majority of men my age are in front of the 'tube, (either TV or You) or stagnating themselves in other ways, such as drinking scotch etc.

      The sleep thing started happening in the last glimmer of my 40's. Now I pay more attention to stopping caffeine intake around lunchtime, magnesium & valerian supplements before bed really help, and I have melatonin on hand if I need it.

      Exercise is double edged. Weight lifting definitely helps me sleep. A long walk (which I enjoy with my dogs) sometimes interferes with sleep, but sometimes doesn't.

      I wear an Apple watch these days and closely monitor my resting heart rate as a rough gauge to my fitness and general health. I have no cardiac issues as far as I know. My background is in science, so if it's not measured and tracked . . . I will observe an elevated heat rate if I drink alcohol with my dinner, and my bladder might interrupt my sleep.

      The ability to compare notes about our experiences and what helps is wonderful.

    5. Ed, that is actually a solid idea. I know my body well enough now as well that if I am up earlier (say 0430), I am likely not going back to sleep. I just need to figure out a way to get better sleep.

    6. Pete, that is probably the key: graciously give up that which we cannot do and find that which we can. I have seen plenty of examples in Throwing of men that will effectively destroy themselves physically trying to do something they could do 20 years ago, or even 5. It has been a powerful visual reminder to "know my limits", or at least accept them.

      I am trying to put off - as long as possible - any sort of medication (one of the first things that one learns in the biopharmaceutical/medical device industry is "all drugs have side effects". I usually have zero problem going to sleep any more, it seems to be the staying asleep part that is challenging.

      A lot of your suggestions mirror my own: no caffeine after noon (really, after 10 AM), no liquids after 8 PM, no alcohol. Interestingly, exercise does not seem to have an impact on my ability to sleep.

    7. Anonymous - I think part of it is also that one has to be humble enough to be a beginner. I wonder if for many men, that is a sort of put off, especially as one gets older.

      Yours and Pete's recommendation of magnesium interests me. I will definitely look into it. I vaguely recall Valerian as being good for sleep (again, will need to look into it).

      Exercise for me - between weight lifting and Iaijutsu - seems to help immensely.

      Are you happy with the Apple watch? My daughter has one; the physical monitoring would be interesting (although not sure how happy I would be about the other monitoring).

      And yes, it is good to be able to exchange information. One of my great arguments for the power of the Social Internet.

    8. I use a Garmin fitness watch myself. I'm kind of a geek in the fact that I like to log things. The watch helps a lot. I used to wear it to bed to monitor my sleep, but realized after a while that it as telling me what I already knew.
      Watch the melatonin! It does work, but it can have the nasty side effect of causing UNBELIEVABLE diarrhea! It doesn't do this to everyone, but it does do it to me. It usually takes a few days to a week to manifest itself, and when it does, it takes about TWO WEEKS to subside! If you try mel, go with a low dose and work up; not the other way around! Otherwise you'll be yelling "HOT SOUP!" all day!

    9. Thanks for the feedback Pete - Can you give me some ideas of how the watch specifically helped you?

      Good to know on the melatonin. I have used it in the past and always on the "low" dose, but I will definitely keep that in mind.

  3. Oh yes, we cannot surrender to age-related aches and pains! I ended up in physical therapy last fall due to some hip issues. The therapist made it clear that more, rather than less, activity is the way to go!

    When my father stopped reading and being engaged, his slow spiral into Alzheimer's epicked up speed; a step-mother who refused to get him any medical help, when it might have helped, finished the job. Count me in the group that doesn't want my mind to go first!

    1. sbrgirl - I still do a lot of things because I fear if I stop, I will lose the ability (physically at least, mentally as well). And I did notice the same thing with my parents as well.

      Engagement of the mind in new things is one of keys (from what I read) to fighting Alzheimer's.

  4. Good food for thought as usual, TB. I'm especially impressed with your idea to "get going with things that I have decided my life needs to be about." I'm definitely giving that some thought and I appreciate the challenge.

    1. Thank you Bob! I have the tendency (and ability) to be lazy about things that I should be doing. Happy that is has provoked some thought!

  5. A belated Happy Birthday to you, TB. God bless.

    1. Thanks Linda! It was (as they usually are now) a quiet one, but a good one.

  6. Rats. I thought using a different browser would let me comment from my google account, but alas, on your blog at least, I can't!

    I think the key is one's attitude toward aging and being older. It seems as if all of society has a notion that older people are to be treated like invalids. "Take it easy," "Do you need help lifting that?" "Can you make it?" "You shouldn't do that by yourself." (All this from strangers).

    Also, I think there's a tendency to fulfill this notion in ourselves, in things like posture, activity level, and walking gate. Yes, the change in energy level is real, but we can maintain strength, activity, and endurance, even if it's at a slower pace. (Why is everybody in such a hurry anyway?)

    I think people who stop being engaged intellectually and physically deteriorate more quickly than folks who choose to be interested in life and actively pursue it. It's something of a self-fulfilling prophecy that doesn't have to be.

    1. Leigh, if it makes you feel any better, I had to fiddle with my settings for a while before I was able to comment as I was before (it appears Google is no rush to fix the issue). So boo. But thank you for persevering.

      You make an excellent point about attitude - it really is all about attitude. And my sense - and it is only a sense - is that "society" at large almost assumes that "Seniors" (have to be careful how I use the term; I fall into that category now) are of a certain mind set and physical ability - in a way, they are "cordoned off" into certain activities and assumptions.

      I wonder if it could also be that when Seniors finally retire, they are perceived as being in a physical and mental state of needing that help. Certainly when the term "Active Seniors" is used, the concept is really old people that are still playing board games or walking in the rest home, not people that are out still on their own and living life!

      Pace has a lot to do with - why did we get in a hurry? I suspect it has a great deal to do with the speed of our society anymore.

      My experience in terms of people stopping to engage physically and mentally - and the results - is the same as yours. In that sense, the current ideas of entertainment and the growth of the "watch" culture may be as deadly as poison.

  7. The key is determining what you can do with what you can make of yourself, not with legacy capabilities, but what you have right now.

    1. Indeed John - Doing what you can with what you have where you are at the moment. Again, something that oddly enough I have had to counsel far better Throwers about in Highland Games. You may not hit the numbers you saw 10 years ago, but now you are competing against 10 year older you - and after all, the important thing is that we are all out throwing, not setting records.


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