The third stage – maturity and resiliency.
My Grandpa Lee died peacefully in his sleep in his mid 80’s. The day he died, he played two sets of tennis before he took an afternoon nap and didn’t wake up. Well into his 80’s, he still did pull-ups every day (or ‘chins’ as he used to call them) and played tennis three times a week. He loved to garden when the gloomy Seattle weather allowed. He was fit and active, expressing his physicality through the activities he loved and he didn’t drink, smoke, or curse. He was also gentle, kind, and humble. His only weakness was ice cream, which eat ate every chance he could! Grandpa Lee lived a lengthy and healthy life without a deteriorating quality of wellness. It’s a model we all aspire to – the long cycle of life with a very short last cycle. The word for this life is resilience.
There are many ways to define the word resilience, but it isn’t an aesthetic quality. Ultimately your health, wellness, and fitness is not quantified by what you look like. But that’s not the message you are bombarded with every day – the concepts of younger, sexier, leaner, bigger, faster, and stronger dominate our attention spans permeating every facet of pop culture. Whereas the qualities of health, wellness, grace, and beauty and linger in the background. Resilience is the real definition of what it means to be healthy, well, and fit. Unfortunately, the concept of resiliency resides in the background as well.
Regardless of your definition of fitness and what stage you’re on in the cycle of life, resilience is one the quality of health we all should aspire to. Resiliency is what it means to bounce back. Resilience is the ability to keep going after a set back, when you’re starting over again, and after you’ve met your goal. Resiliency is the ability to recover, get healthy again, and maintain your original shape or form. Synonyms for resilience include bouncy, flexible, elastic, springy, and stretch. In short, resilience is what it means to do your best and be your best for as long as possible.
As people struggle to define their own health, wellness, and resiliency, many turn to fitness as an answer. But by and large, the fitness industry often lies somewhere between the intersection of fad and gimmick, all the while touting their most clever marketing ploy – the before and after photo. Make no mistake, the before and after photo is a myth - your looks and the shape of your body are a simply a temporary destination. But the fitness industry would have you believe that fitness is some 30 day challenge in reverse aging - a diet, a trick, a quick fix to more defined and younger looking. Apparently the exercise physiologists that supposedly comprise the fitness business missed the physics part.
We have been hoodwinked into believing that there is some fountain of eternal youth and moreover that looking your youngest is somehow the ultimate way to self-satisfaction and bliss. But while it may run counter to cultural sentiment, aging truly is gift, not a curse. Sometimes I have to remind my aching back and my chronically sore hamstring of that fact, but the truth is, every living being on the planet shares this precious cycle - Introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. Still, marketers want you to believe the convenient and profitable fallacy that you only exist in the first two stages of introduction and growth. You don’t.
The reality is those first two stages go by pretty quickly (if you’re lucky). The real work of life lies in the third stage of maturity. The third stage is defined by set backs – health concerns, your body changing, lost jobs, failed relationships, losing those close to you. But the third stage is also where you really find out who you are and what you’re made of. As you mature, you truly display your toughness, grit, and grace. The third stage is where the gratifying work of living an authentic life becomes your ultimate task and focus. Sooner than later I’ll enter the third stage of maturity in my life cycle and as I do my aim is to be just like Grandpa Lee – humble, joyful, active, and resilient.