Last week, despite my best intentions and professional drive to meet a deadline, I just couldn’t make it. Felled by side effects from the second of two shingles vaccines, I lay on the couch with fever, chills, aches, headache, fatigue and a very sore shoulder. Sounds delightful, no? Seriously, this is the first time I’ve had any type of reaction to a vaccine and it was miserable. I’ve since learned it’s common after the second shot, but oh how I wish I’d known that. I still would have submitted to the shot, but at least I might have been prepared. Or, maybe not.
The unexpected nature of my reaction served to remind me that, while I am aging well and take good care of myself, just like any stage of life there are challenges. In addition to the shingles vaccine (which, thankfully, is now done), there are adjustments in what and how much I need to eat to stay at a healthy weight, recovery from physical exertion sometimes takes a bit longer, my sleep is often disrupted and other things. That’s in addition to the annual mammogram, pelvic exam, thyroid check, blood work, and the infrequent (yet dreaded) colonoscopy. All rather unpleasant, but necessary.
When I was young, everyone smoked, including my parents. Somewhere along the line, my dad quit cold turkey, followed by my mother’s struggle to eventually rid herself of the nicotine addiction. But her journey to quit smoking led to the gradual creep of excess weight until in my teen years, she was pretty heavy. She ignored her annual reminders to schedule checkups and physical exams. About the only regular health care she practiced was seeing the dentist and eye doctor. She died at the fairly young age of 69 due to complications from a heart transplant she received 13 years earlier (an amazing story for another day). And while we all like to say she died from grief following my dad’s passing, the fact of the matter is she neglected some significant self-care. I vowed to do better for myself, and I have.
This reflection is not designed to chastise my mother for neglecting her health care, nor to pat myself on the back for my diligence. Rather it is a reminder that, to a large extent, our fate is in our own hands. Every day we face choices about how to proceed through life. The decisions are both large and small, significant and mundane, righteous and self-serving. The ending is the same for all of us but the game plan is ours. I hope I have enough self-awareness to allow for some of each of the choices; to celebrate the significant but cherish the mundane, to pursue righteousness but set healthy boundaries and above all, to live large and not sweat the small stuff.
What challenges do you face each day, and how do you deal with them?