By Stephen Doherty
July 25th, 2020
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” – Ann Lander
I recently returned from a 4,295 mile motorcycle trip with friends that can only be described as “epic.” The physical and spiritual beauty of seeing, up close and personal, fourteen Midwest American states in all of their glory from atop a motorcycle simply defies easy description beyond superlatives and childlike awe. It joins a handful of other adventures in my “for the ages” collection of vintage life experiences.
That said, there was a poignant moment on the 14-day trek when, after four nights of contorting and sweating my way through three-hours of sleep inside a tiny tent amidst the summer humidity and array of friendly insects–I made an important personal decision. I vowed that never again in this lifetime, would my body ever grace the inside of a pup-tent. Period. The rest of the journey was immensely more enjoyable as each day’s ride ended at an air-conditioned hotel versus a campground.
This is not (or should not be) a rare occurrence throughout our lives as we evolve through the many phases of living. A well lived life includes the discipline to concede those things that would keep us from living it well. For better or worse, our ability to manage risk as we get older has a direct link in determining whether or not we’ll live better and be happier. There isn’t one older person among us who doesn’t have a younger inner-voice imploring them to “go for it” in a vain attempt to recapture moments of youthful exhilaration. History teaches few more crucial lessons than the consequences of bad judgement and poor decisions.
I’m not old but I’m getting older. I was a former (fill-in-the-blank) whose life was checkered with perpetual flirtations with risk and danger. It’s called the arrogance of youth and was perfectly captured in Top Gun when Maverick’s Commander told him, “Son! Your mind is writing checks your body can’t cash!” I take great pride in the fact that I’ve reached this point in my life after decades of aggressive living and dozens of orthopedic surgeries–arthritis and virtually pain-free. (Knock on wood) Several years ago, five-words escaped my mouth that will live in infamy and likely coaxed an incredulous gasp from the heavens. “Let Daddy try the skateboard!”
The “moment” lasted mere seconds but my reward was a crushed shoulder and unimaginable pain! It took rotator-cuff surgery and years of rehab to restore my body and mind to something resembling the pain free enthusiasm I had possessed prior to that unprecedented moment of stupidity. I made a mental note to myself. “Large men in their fifties should avoid skate boards.” Luckily, fate allowed me that late errant judgement with little carryover pain or limiting remnants of my epic miscalculation.
In hindsight, prudence (hopefully) gently cuts the cords of our youthful endeavors while replacing them with more appropriate activities. This doesn’t imply abandoning life’s exhilarating moments, but rather replacing the source of the exhilaration in deference to the realities of our seasoning. Cliff diving was fun in our teens but living a healthy and pain-free life as we age is to show respect for the path you’ve traveled and to honor the means of transport. None of us are getting our deposit back but that doesn’t mean you have to drag it across the finish line in a junk wagon. Living well..in the end, means living well.
“None are so old as those who have
outlived enthusiasm.” ~Henry David Thoreau