• The secret to a longer fuller life

    I am currently reading a fascinating book (now that I'm fascinated with health stuff, finding out how my body works and what makes it work best--so personal and urgent has that subject become, so interwoven with my every day life). It's called The Metabolic Plan: Stay Younger Longer by Stephen Cherniske.

    In it he explains his lifelong scientific search for the causes of aging and his discoveries that have come as a result of turning assumptions on their heads: not "oh you are getting stiff joints because you are getting old," but what about "getting old" contributes to stiff joints, and how to prevent the getting old (and thus the stiff joints).

    He explains why free radicals cause cancer and heart disease, and what to do about it (e.g. get LOTS of antioxidants). Why oxygen embodies a profound paradox, being both the source of life, and the cause of death (oxidation), and what to do about that (e.g. don't overcook your food). Why caffeine is so bad, keeping the body in a "stressed" state, and that the caffeine headache when attempting to withdraw is actually the blood rushing back into previously constricted blood vessels in the brain! (That information is enough to keep me off the bean, I hope.)

    One of his chapters, as you might imagine, in on stress. And, as you might also imagine, that one was of particular interest to me, since I am one of stress's many victims. I was reading this chapter on the plane next to Steve on our way back from skiing in Salt Lake City.

    Sitting on the other side of Steve (he's always so sweet to take the middle seat!) was an older woman who seemed to look about her with alertness, had a gleam in her eye, seemed interested in us, and most surprising, sat for most of the 4-hour flight doing nothing but sitting, seeing, thinking, so contentedly. She struck me as wise, and I finally overcame my reluctance to put down my book and began a short conversation with her (yes, across poor reading Steve). It crossed my mind that here was a specimen of a long full life before my very eyes, exhibit A of the book I was reading, and I half planned to ask her what her secret was.

    She had been visiting a niece in sunny Phoenix hoping to kick a cold, but ended up hitting some bad weather and wasn't quite over it, though she'd had a good time. When I suggested she go back soon, she revealed that both the going and the coming involved travel upheavals and missed fights and late nights. "But it doesn't bother me," she said. "I take things in stride." She said that a couple times.

    We took a break from our conversation (and leaning), and I contemplated asking her what her secret to longevity was. And then I realized that she had already told me. "I take things in stride." I don't get stressed out. Stresses happen--missed flights, clingy colds--but I don't let them get to me. I put them in their proper place. I take things in stride: I keep walking, allowing for life's craziness but not succumbing to it.

    Later when I forget the details of my book and have to refer back to remember terms like glycation and alpha lipoic acid, I can bet I will still remember this Lady of Contentment and her lesson for me.

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