One week ago, I celebrated my 43rd birthday. Age has never really bothered me. I’ve always said, “It’s not how old you are, it’s how old you feel.” I guess that’s what troubles me.
It’s a strange sensation because I’m more comfortable with who I am than at any other point in my life. However, I’m uneasy with the limitations that accompany aging. For the first time in my life, hard work alone is not producing the desired results.
Earlier this year, I started taking cholesterol medicine. Millions of Americans have high cholesterol, so it’s not an exclusive club. The rub is that I dedicated myself to healthy eating and exercise. I worked hard to cultivate a healthy lifestyle only to receive a kick in the shorts when my bloodwork returned. My lab report didn’t even have a number assigned: it just read, “gravy-like consistency.” The inertia of family genetics pulled my healthy lifestyle back to earth.
I also trained for a half-marathon last spring. For 12 weeks, I trained diligently, and I was excited about my progress. My hard work was indeed paying off. Then I noticed my big toe was inflamed the Tuesday of race week. It was more than uncomfortable, I was in real pain, so I made an appointment with my doctor (the same doctor helping me control my gravy-like blood.) The diagnosis: gout. Here is an interesting fact about gout: sans yours truly, no one under the age of 80 has been diagnosed with gout in the last 50 years. To be diagnosed with gout, you are required to have bursitis (whatever the h@ck that is) and to wear crispy, white New Balance shoes with an orthotic sole. The cure to gout is mainly dietary, so I made the necessary adjustments.
Two weeks ago, I ran my fourth half-marathon. My goal was to finish in under two hours. A two-hour half is a modest goal for many, but it’s been my white whale. I trained accordingly, as did many of my contemporaries, running hundreds of miles in the heat and humidity of summertime. I was excited for race day and felt well trained. I stayed with a group running close to my race pace until the eight-mile mark, where I met my wife to trade out water bottles. She asked me how I felt, and I told her, “I’m dying. I love you, and the kids and the life-insurance paperwork is in the filing cabinet. Also, I’ve always said that I want you to date or remarry if I go first, but that was a lie. I don’t want you to date anyone else. If you go against my wishes, please make sure he’s not a complete tool, or I will come back and haunt you.” I think I shared our online banking information with her before stumbling off into the morning mist. I’m sure you have already surmised that I didn’t finish under two hours. I missed the mark by over 10 minutes, and I walked around the next five days like I had a severe case of rickets (I’m too scared to ask my doctor to run a test for rickets. If it’s a recessive trait in my family, I probably have it.)
I’m not a cynic, and I know I’m blessed. Bumps, bruises, and illnesses from the Napoleonic Era aside, I’m in good health. I have an amazing family, a great job, and I’m generally able to do whatever I want to do. I’ve been blessed with 43 years on this earth, and I look forward to many more. While I’ve experienced diminished returns on recent efforts, I plan to milk every bit of potential from my mind, body, and spirit during my remaining years. Even (and especially) if it does not produce the desired result. Truly, I’m learning that the measure of success is to simply do your best, even if you fall short of your original goal.