Some people believe that I am crazy, but I get up at 3am almost daily to get some cardiovascular exercise in to begin the day. Zeus (my Dachshund mix) and I head to the small park across the street from our house to get some running in on the grass, some burpees (I do those while he smells stuff), and other forms of High Intensity Interval Training. I often see my neighbor Ray out there for his morning walk before it gets too hot. Ray is a 73 year old man who walks with a pronounced limp, his right leg completely locked and unable to bend without excruciating pain. A lifelong grocery store employee who lost his wife to cancer last year, Ray is always friendly and willing to chat on his walks and today was no different. I like to pick his brain because of all that he has been through (deaths, prejudice, and physical pain) to learn what I can from someone more experienced than I at life. Today we were talking about the importance of staying busy. Ray admittedly suffers from depression because of the loss of his wife and although he does not have the 8 years of college that I have, he understands physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health as good or better than I do. “I have got to stay busy or I think too much about my wife, how much I hurt, or how sad I am.” I stated that I hope to work my whole life in some way because I know its’ good for me. He said, “You don’t have to have a job. I stay busy with housework, yard-work, and volunteering. I begin the day with exercise and gratitude for all the years I had with the most wonderful woman in the world, for my retirement, and for my home. I like a clean house, a kept yard, and I enjoy completing the projects around the house every day.” I have to tell you, I felt like I hit the jackpot with knowledge on how to live a happy and healthy life. I often study happiness, fulfillment, and how it affects our health but I rarely truly get to see it in action. Ray is a walking testament to the journals that I read.
- He begins each day with gratitude and exercise. He does not entertain ideas of not doing this because it makes him feel better. He does not do extreme exercise or overdo work around the house. He manages physical activities intentionally.
- He does not give into the pain in his body or heart. Ray has severe arthritis throughout his body, lost his wife of 51 years last year, and admittedly struggles with depression. Despite this, he gives full energy and focus to how he can be happy and fulfilled TODAY. He does not worry about tomorrow or feel regret over yesterday.
- He understands the difference between fulfillment and pleasure. Ray does things throughout the day that help him to feel good about himself. While he does enjoy the pleasure of a good meal and other quick feel good things, he knows the importance of doing things daily that bring both fulfillment and pleasure to his life. Exercise, projects, and serving others are all keys to a healthy life, according to the research journals I read daily.
- He sees the good in all. Although he is in pain, he focuses on how lucky he is to be able to do so much despite his ailments. And despite the loss of his wife, he focuses on all the good years he had with her. He still shares experiences with a smile when he speaks of her.
- Giving up is not an option for Ray. Ray continues to live his life despite challenges, pains, and heartaches. He stays resilient and he stays healthy, fulfilled, and high functioning.
We all can learn from the simple, humble man that I see on his morning walks. Exercise, do things that fulfill your soul, serve others, and practice gratitude. See the good in all things and worry only about today. Live fully and intentionally like Ray does. BE YOUR OWN MIRACLE!