Fragility

2020 has been quite the year.

About three months ago my father had a heart valve replaced which put him in the hospital for almost two weeks.

A couple of weeks after returning home to begin the long recovery routine, his closest friend caught COVID-19. Each day his son posted updates on his condition, and things went from bad to worse until he passed away two weeks ago.

Another friend’s mother tested positive for COVID-19 the day after Thanksgiving. I spoke with another friend today who tested positive. It feels like every day we learn someone close to us has tested positive.

Last week it was my brother-in-law who was admitted to ICU with the virus. One day he’s making progress and the next he’s in bad shape. It’s one big terrifying roller-coaster ride of emotions.

On a much smaller less critical scale, I had my big toe fused to my foot with two screws last week during out-patient surgery. The recovery is a long 8-10 weeks, but I’ve already noticed a substantial decrease in pain so I’ll deal with the recovery just fine.

2020 has taught me how fragile life is. One day everything is fine, but the next can bring heartbreak. I’m so glad my father made it through his heart procedure, and I hope my brother-in-law makes it out of ICU soon and is able to recover at home.

Before this year I was more likely to text my dad or maybe call him if I had something important to share with him. But not this year. This year I like to FaceTime so I can see his face. He has lost over 100 lbs. this year and I barely recognized him when we started to FaceTime. Like, is that really my dad? I always see a bit of myself when I look at my dad, and that brings a lot of joy.

Man, am I glad to still have him around.

I hope in 2021 I can replace those FaceTime calls with in-person visits.

Turning Point

Many years ago, I purchased a step counter. It wasn’t much bigger than a postage stamp, and it hung from my shorts. I’d try not to check it all the time, but doing so was addicting. At least at first. Eventually, I dreaded checking it on days I didn’t move around much. Eventually, the washing machine put me (and the counter) out of its misery.

I thought back to that step counter as I began my walk today. I retired the counter, but have used various apps on my iPhone to track my fitness or lack thereof. Even when I walked or biked for miles or hit 10K steps in a day, I seldom felt joy. Sure, I hit a number, but that number held little value to me.

lava

Unlike this massive hill of lava.

See, the lava fields sitting just outside Snow Canyon are about 1.5 miles from my home just off a trail I like to take. When I don’t feel like walking, I tell myself I can at least make it to the lava. If I don’t feel like going further, I can turn around, and I will still have put in 3 miles.

I know 3 miles is nothing for most people. But right now, 3 miles feels like a lot to my body. Sometimes I turn around here and head home. And yet, I still feel like I accomplished something on those days. Making it to the lava feels good.

If I decide my body can go further, I remain on the trail and walk through the lava fields. Doing so nearly doubles the distance of my walk, but it feels further with several hills to traverse.

When I try this in the summer in 100-degree heat, I make sure to carry enough water, but today’s 50-degree overcast skies made for the perfect conditions to walk a little further.

The lava doesn’t count my steps, but it does something much more important.

Considering My Health

At the end of November I went in for what I figured would be minor surgery. I took a few days off work assuming I’d be back within a week at the latest. But sometimes your body has other plans, and I ended up being in bed for most of December.

I was able to read, watch Netflix and listen to podcasts during that time, but at about the two week mark I felt like my mind wasn’t holding up well. Getting up from bed and dragging myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth took every ounce of energy I possessed. I half-jokingly mentioned to Kim that I could understand how someone with a chronic illness that kept them down without hope for recovery might consider ending his or her life.

My mother and my mother-in-law have health issues that limit their activity and ability to move about at times. One of them is on oxygen and both use canes and/or walkers to get around. When I attended a funeral last year, my dad wheeled my mom around in a wheelchair because that was the safest choice. That was a shock to me as I hadn’t seen my mother in a few months and didn’t realize how much her mobility had been reduced. I’m happy my father is healthy enough to take her out of the home to the store, to church and to family activities.

It’s been about 2.5 months since my surgery which has given me time to consider my own health. I’ll be 50 in two years, and my health could be a lot better. Although the recovery has taken longer than I anticipated, I’m glad I got it done. My next issue to get resolved is my toe that’s caused me a lot of pain the past couple of years and has limited my physical activity. I’ve been to two doctors and both recommended surgery. I’m not looking forward to that, but the pain and limited mobility is enough that I need to have it done.

Back in 2006, I lost about 60 lbs over a very short period of time. I drastically changed my diet to the point that it wasn’t sustainable. But my body felt good, and I was able to do more physically demanding activities with my kids.

So my goal for 2016 is to find a balance between health diet and exercise that I can maintain for my life instead of merely a few months. If any of you have successfully found this balance I’d love to hear from you.