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by Carole Carson, AARP, November 21, 2008
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature . . . Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
My sister, Kay, who lives in Iowa, called me on September 11 as the events in lower Manhattan were unfolding. I rarely watch daytime television and was unaware of the drama. My husband and I turned on the television only to watch in horror the dramatic footage of two planes crashing into the World Trade Center.
Then our television went blank; our power was out! Were power lines being attacked in California? Without electricity, we huddled around a battery-operated radio, listening for the smallest scrap of news.
Our world seemed to be falling apart. Later we learned that the two events were unrelated; nonetheless, the illusion of invulnerability had been stripped from our reality. Taking life for granted was a luxury we could no longer afford.
Like other Americans, I was shocked by the terrorist attacks. Everywhere, I heard the same words: "Nothing will ever be the same." Like others, for the first time in my life I was fearful of the future.
In the accompanying sadness, I found myself shrinking from my commitment to fitness. Suddenly the effort seemed irrelevant and naive. I wanted to cocoon at home and make the world go away. What difference did my puny efforts make? I stood at a crossroads.
After reflection, I realized that just as I had been challenged in the past, I would be challenged in the days ahead. Facing the future as fit as possible would give me the strength, resiliency, and energy to deal with the needs of my family, friends, and community in uncertain times. Instead of retreating, I'd hang the American flag on our front porch each day and exercise more than ever.
My hero became Erma Ford, a Red Cross volunteer nurse who, at 74, worked on relief efforts at Ground Zero in New York. I didn't know if I would ever have to run from a burning building, rescue a stranger, raise a grandchild, suffer the loss of a family member, or help a teenager who needed a friend, but I wanted to be prepared. Instead of depending on others for daily care or dying prematurely because of a self-indulgent and sedentary lifestyle, I'd become healthy and fit so I could extend that care to others if needed. Instead of retreating, I'd move forward.
I knew the hardest part might still lie ahead. How could I be confident that having worked so hard to get to this point, I wouldn't slip back into my old ways? Once I had reached my goal weight, how would I maintain it?
Like brushing teeth, choosing to eat healthily and maintain an exercise regimen, day in and day out for the rest of my life, would have to become a nonnegotiable discipline. As world events reminded us, though, living isn't for sissies, is it?
Next: Carole is reminded that you gotta have friends.
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