In 1921 researchers led by Howard Friedman followed 1500 school children into adulthood to see who lived the longest, healthiest and happiest lives. The results were unexpected; a sense of optimism did not lead to a long life. What helped to keep people alive was a sense of self control and awareness of interpersonal stability. To be conscientious of the life style choices and risks you take with your life was the characteristic that seem to prolong one’s life. The goal it seems is to learn to live a stable, but not boring life.(Huffington Post, 2011)I am pretty conscientious person, try to do the healthy lifestyle (food, exercise, breathe well, sleep enough, control stress), wear a seat belt, get mammograms regularly, etc. Once againit seems the trick is to balance your life, be careful, but enjoy life. This brings me to my latest kayaking expedition.
Kayaking in Ft. Myers in the Lover’s Key State Park, I read the literature that stated very clearly to stay a long distance from the manatees. The warning was to prevent them from coming too close and the kayaker getting capsized. We weren’t in the water 10 minutes and a group of 3 manatees were having a grand time ahead of us. Of course my husband goes towards them and I stay back, because I am cognizant of the fact that 3 large mammals can easily tip me over during their exuberant playtime. A bit safe, or too safe my husband would state.
As I paddle past them I turned to see that they had surfaced. I felt comfortable that they were far enough away and I took out my camera to video them. The video captures my alarm as they change course and steer at a fast clip right towards me and then submerged under me. I admit I was scared; of losing my camera, getting accidentally knocked into the water and being mistaken for someone who could stay under water for a long time as they sat on me.
When I was given another opportunity a few hours later to interact with a solitary manatee I chose less fear, more fun. This time, it was a solitary manatee, a very curious, calm, easy going fella that wanted to surface to check us out, twirl our kayaks and keep us company as we headed back. This was a once in a lifetime experience.
Thinking about my experience on the way back, I realized many people are like me. When first hit with a situation out of our control; illness, conflict, we tend to retreat. In time, with confidence of what our abilities are we can move forward to conquer our fears. According to the Longevity Project, we conscientious souls will research, and then make sound decisions for healthier happier longer lives. Playing with the manatee will always remind me of balancing safety with fun.
It always bring me great joy to see the patients laugh at my stories. I know that they have things they want to accomplish after treatment, so these stories allow us to share, laugh and be mindful of good times that are coming their way.