When age forces you to stop your passions, a whole host of emotions and grief can set in. For example, Phyllis Austin was an avid hiker for many decades. Her mantra had always been “do it while you can”. This occurred to her after a major skiing accident that severely and permanently injured her. She had concluded years prior that no matter how long she lived, she would never be able to satiate her loves of the outdoors. However, she wasn’t prepared for the emotions that were to follow as her outdoor adventure days slowly came to an end. This is where she felt most alive. So for Phyllis, the end of her hiking days was life changing.
This Outdoors article beautifully describes Phyllis’ experience of age and illness slowing her down and ultimately ending her main passion. A severe skiing accident in 1984 was just the beginning. More than 30 years later, various chronic conditions related to her age impaired her abilities. She could no longer spend much time outdoors.
But she and her doctor talked about the various hiking trips she was still table to take. They likely spent just as much time talking about this as they did about her age and medical diagnoses. As her doctor stated, “People who have the hardest time facing the realities of decline are those who have had an active outdoor life”.
At the age of 69, peripheral neuropathy set in. While painkillers kept her hiking for a little while longer, she knew her time outdoors was a ticking time bomb. It could come to an end any day. This loss is a universal experience. No matter what you love doing in life, losing the abilities you once had can be devastating.
Her “do it while you can” mantra is one that can ring true to so many of us as we age. No matter if we were avid hikers, gardeners, artists, or yoga practitioners, age-related decline may one day impair our abilities to perform well. The goal becomes to learn how to meet the inevitability of aging. For Phyllis, she planted a garden to remind her of the outdoors. There is always something you can do to honor the amazing things you’ve accomplished in your life.