Independent. Mobile. Sharp Mind.

Beltane and the Living in the Mountains Moon


Monday gratefuls: Kate. Always Kate. Mary. Mark. Diane. Hamish. Tom. Bill. Mario. Paul. Alan. Rebecca. Rabbi Jamie. Luke. Leo. Kep. Solar energy when I need it most. Cruises. Simple fun. Health. Aging. Learning lines. View from a Bridge. Odd Couple. Macbeth. Acting. Lessons.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Health

Tarot: King of Stones, The Wolf

“King of Stones asks: What does wealth mean to you? What packs do you run with? Are you comfortable in your natural surroundings? In what ways do you celebrate memories of the dead?”


Fascinated by an AARP/National Geographic survey about aging. In particular about how those of us now past 65 have begun to redefine health. The three key markers of health identified in the survey are: Independence. Mobility. Sharp mind.

I’m intrigued by this. It conforms to my experience. Both mine and Kate’s. Her health (using this definition) really began to decline when she could no longer drive or easily navigate in the house. When she could no longer work in her sewing room, her health had become a problem.

This was long after she went on oxygen full-time. Long after she had been hospitalized several times. Up until that point her mobility allowed her to do the things she loved most, sewing and quilting. Going out to see her friends. Yes, I had to drive her, but she could go, walk in, sit with the Bailey Patchworkers, the Needle Workers.

She maintained her sharp mind up until the end. But she lost independence when she had to depend on me to go to appointments, drive, cook, often help her with showering, with her feeding tube.

Combining the loss of independence and mobility meant a quicker decline in her health, then the crises that ultimately ended in her death.

But note that well before she could no longer get to the sewing room she had lost her ability to eat anything but bland food, was on 24 hour oxygen, had a feeding tube attached, and needed me to drive her places. Yet, she still had functional independence, mobility, and a sharp mind. We were happy. Stressed? Sometimes. Sure. But that’s part of life.

What I really like about this new approach to health is its recognition of how life actually is. I’m not my medical conditions. I’m not cancer guy. I’m not paralyzed diaphragm guy. I’m not diaper guy or suppository guy. Yes, these are medical issues with which I have to deal. But they do not, per se, make me unhealthy.

As long I can go to acting lessons, visit my friends online and in person, workout, read, learn, make my own decisions, hike in the holy Valley, watch movies, see and be with family, I’m healthy. In my case I give myself marks for excellent health. I even said this to Kristen Gonzales, my PCP. I feel like I’m in excellent health even though I have prostate cancer.

Unconsciously I’ve been using these criteria. I’m independent. I’m mobile. I have a sharp mind. Which equals this: I can live my life on own terms.

Do I wish I didn’t have to deal with expensive and often harsh drugs? Sure. Do I wish I didn’t have the sequelae from the prostatectomy and the radiation? Sure. But the reality is that I only think about these things when they present themselves as an issue. And even then only to make sure I’m handling them well.

In a sense this turns the old paradigm on its head. The doctors define our health. No.  We define our health and use medicine and doctors to help us keep it. But only help. As has always been the case, doctors cannot live our lives for us. They can intervene when possible, but even their best efforts cannot make our lives meaningful, fruitful, worth living.

This finally answers the question Steve Miles asked about his dying grandfather, “What constitutes health in a dying person?” That’s all of us, all the time. Until we die.

So. I’m working on those things that keep me independent, mobile, and sharp. In other words, healthy.


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