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Healthy Aging: Tips for staying in the moment

“Every day is precious.”

That was the subject line in an email I received this week from a friend who’d recently taken what sounded like a truly spectacular fall. He broke bones, and substantial healing time is involved. He seems to be using that time to be reflective. I salute him.

His experience has prompted me to be reflective, as well. There’s a quote that appears particularly appropriate to this exploration. I am not sure where it came from, but it speaks to me. “The secret of health for body and mind is not to mourn the past, worry about the future or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present, wisely and earnestly.”

Do I do that? Do you? And what, after all, is “living earnestly?”

I went to the internet looking up “every moment is precious” and found that there’s a lot of “stay-in-the-present” thinking in Chinese proverbs. There are also delicate Chinese tattoos containing precious moment reminders. I was not aware that Chinese-speaking people were receptive to tattoos. I rather like the fact they are. It seems like such a fine way to be reminded that life is precious by looking down at your arm, where artistic Chinese characters are cavorting.

But I digress. Which is exactly why I am writing about this topic and about the idea of staying appreciatively tuned to the moment. I seem to digress a lot lately. It goes with the age, and for me, it lends itself toward memory angst and could even result in fall and fracture. With this column, I’m trying to find new ways to be reminded to stay in the precious present and be less diverted by life’s many distractions.

One Mandarin Chinese proverb I came across translated to, “Every moment is precious. Happiness and sorrow are neighbors. He who stands on tiptoe is not steady. Husband sings a song. Wife sings along. Do not forget danger. Return to one’s original self.”

That would make a perfect get-well card for someone in the healing process after a bone-breaking fall. I should query Hallmark about this idea (see digressing again).

How about this Chinese proverb as a life-reminder, “A bird does not sing because it has the answers, a bird sings because it has a song.”

My personal favorite is: “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”

I have discovered and will keep close, “14 Amazing Life Lessons from Chinese Proverbs.” One proverb reads, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now. “

The most heart-warming proverb I encountered reads like this: “Choose your journey carefully and answer the calls you are most deeply called to answer, and reap the rewards of every precious moment on the journey. Now over to you.”

Yes, it really ends with “now over to you.” Earnest, but with a hand-off. I like that.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor emeritus, Oregon State University, and the author of “How Gray in My Valley: Enlightened Observations About Being Old.” Reach her at Sharon@agefriendlyinnovators.org