It's your life. You may not be able to control it, but only you can live it. You were born into a time and place not of your choosing. You were born with a certain set of genes that determined, among other things, your race, your general size and shape, your blood type, even your propensity to certain diseases. You were exposed to acts of cruelty or love, to hurricanes or droughts. And through it all you endured and changed and grew.

The person you are today is a complex blend of inherited traits and environmental influences braided together into the unique individual that you are. Every morning as you rise from your world of dreams and begin your day, you assume once again the burden and the glory of simply being you. Once again, you will smell your own peculiar smell, see the familiar face looking back from the mirror, recall the places and events that have contributed their parts to making you who you are.

And you will go on with your day. You will make decisions about what to eat and how much, about whether to help someone in need or to turn away, whether to express your feelings or to hide them. It is for you to decide. Nobody else can do it for you. It is your right and your obligation. You must decide and act even though you can't always foresee how events will play out.

And tomorrow you will do it again. And the next day also, just like everyone else. It's your life, the only life you have, and only you can live it.

Activity

Write a short response to the passage above, especially as it relates to your life right now. Feel free to reject any of the statements above or even the whole premise, but be sure to reflect on how your present life has been, and continues to be, shaped by conscious choices and decisions made by you. Include some examples. Share with a friend or post in your blog.

Maybe from your childhood you remember "the buddy system," where you never went hiking or swimming or engaged in any especially challenging activity without a buddy to turn to for help when things got tough. Well, what could be tougher than aging? You should buddy-up.

If you already have a spouse or a partner, you may be in good shape. If you don't, look around at people you know and trust, perhaps a longtime family friend, someone from your church or your neighborhood. This doesn't have to be someone to live with, though it could turn into that, but at the very least someone you can call for help with a small problem or in a time of crisis and who will feel free to call on you in the same situation. Someone to share holidays and hugs with, triumphs and tragedies.

Activity

List at least four people you might be able to buddy-up with. Try extending yourself to them in friendship. When the time feels right, explain the buddy system to at least one and ask that person to be your buddy.

There are certainly people who have no addictions--not to fear or gambling or coffee or cigarettes or nail-biting or television or alcohol or sugar or prescription drugs or  . . .. If you have no addictions, skip this item and move on. But many are not so fortunate. Addictions come in many forms and many levels of intensity, but what they have in common is that they are compulsive patterns of behavior that are generally detrimental to a person's well-being.

It's true that people often speak of positive addictions such as exercising, keeping clean, or practicing a musical instrument. Without quibbling about words, we could say that even these activities can get out of hand if they become compulsive and obsessive, thus turning a dedication to weight loss into anorexia.

The essential questions are: Who is in charge here--me or the behavior? Is this behavior having a negative impact on my life or the lives of those around me? In some cases--smoking cigarettes, for instance--the cigarettes almost always control the smoker, and the smoking negatively impacts the smoker and those who inhale the secondhand smoke. Other borderline cases like watching too much tv are not so clear cut. Maybe the entertainment value and the sharing of the experience with others offer personal benefits. Maybe the watching is excessive, but not compulsive. And maybe hour after long hour practicing the piano is necessary to eventually produce a Mozart.

In facing up to and conquering possible addictions two qualities are essential: honesty and commitment. First be honest about the extent to which you may be practicing detrimental addictive behavior. Identify your addiction. Then make a commitment to conquer it. Both steps are difficult, but especially the second, and especially if the compulsive behavior involves alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. Yes, conquering an addiction is difficult, but it can be done. And you will be amazed at how much your life changes for the better once you have beat it.

If necessary, get professional help from a counselor. Or consider joining a group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Nicotine Anonymous.  For some, an addiction treatment center like those featured at http://addiction.utsandiego.com may be the solution.

Activity

How has your life been affected by addictive behavior, your own or that of others? What role if any does addiction, or compulsive behavior, play in your life now? What addictions have you conquered? What ones remain? Do you have any "positive addictions"? Any borderline addictions? What could you do to take charge of the situation and break free? Write this out in a few paragraphs, and if and when you are ready share it with a "buddy."

"Net" is a good word here because it suggests a web or network composed of nodes and connective pathways. Unlike a chain, which is no stronger than its weakest link, a network can reshape and reconfigure itself if a link goes bad.

To apply this network concept to your life-support system, consider your needs and how you meet them. For instance, how do you meet your need for food, shelter, and medical care? For companionship? For spiritual guidance? 

In meeting these needs, what role is played by the government through Medicare and Social Security? Your pension? Your place of worship? Friends and family? Where can you turn in a time of crisis? What specific people can you contact for help if necessary?

If for some reason your current living situation becomes untenable, what alternatives are available? How can you investigate and choose among these alternatives?

This isn't a kind of thinking many of us like to do, but it's important to be aware of the choices and resources that are available so that you can make informed decisions, especially in times of crisis, about matters that affect your personal safety and well-being. In the long run, you'll feel more secure and comfortable in your daily life if you know you have a secure personal safety net in place.

Activity

Write a short paragraph describing your personal safety net. In that paragraph, answer some of the questions above. When you finish, share and discuss it with a friend.

Generally accepted ideas of a healthy diet have changed over the years, yet in many ways they've come full circle. Today most experts would agree that natural whole foods--unrefined and grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers--are your most nutritious and safest choice. And this advice, too, may sound familiar: avoid sweets, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoid animal fats, eat slowly, don\'t stuff yourself.

Along with such familiar axioms come some newer recommendations:

  • Eat a good breakfast to boost your energy for an active morning when you can burn off those calories as without storing them as fat.
  • Eat low-carbohydrate, high-protein snacks between meals. Peanuts, walnuts, and toasted soybeans make excellent snacks. If you crave something sweet, eat an apple or an orange--or maybe some raisins or dates.
  • At meals, keep the portions small. Drink a glass of water a half hour before lunch and dinner to signal your stomach that food is coming; then eat slowly, chewing your food thoroughly before swallowing. Forgo dessert.
  • When you eat carbohydrates, consider their glycemic index value. Eat whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables. Because they contain dietary fibers, you digest them more slowly than their refined counterparts, with less likelihood that your insulin will spike and more likelihood that you will burn off the calories as energy rather than storing them as fat.
  • Speaking of fat, some is okay, even essential, to include in your diet. But not saturated animal fats. The Omega 3 fatty acids found in many cold water fish, such as salmon and sardines, are good for your circulatory system. Use cold-pressed vegetable oils, especially olive oil to replace butter whenever possible, including cooking. Flaxseed oil contains an excellent ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids and is very good for you. And avoid all foods containing trans fats or hydrogenated oils.
  • Eat a light, well-balanced supper. Then get up and move around. Wash the dishes. Go for a short walk. Do some gardening. Just don't, please, sit down in front of the tv and snack away the evening.
  • If you must snack after supper, have something light and healthy before retiring.

Activity

Keep a food journal for a week. In it, record what you eat each day and what time you eat it. At the end of the week, write a paragraph about your eating habits for that week and how you think they impact your overall health. If you find this activity helpful, do it again the following week. You can keep this food journal in your Blog.