A wise old man once told me, “You gotta keepa movin’!” in his heavy Italian accent.
I’m referring to my paternal grandfather.
It was such a pleasure talking to him on the phone this week as he told me about the 17 cucumbers that grew from one plant in his garden. I couldn’t help but feel proud that my grandfather appreciates these simple things in life.
Over and over he kept repeating, “I gotta keepa movin’! It’s a no good watching a TV. I can’t explain it my English no good.”
“Yes, Nono! You’re absolutely right! You’re so smart.” I encouraged him. “It’s true! Stay active and you’ll stay healthy.”
My grandfather is the type of man who will roam the streets for hours. He can feel the enhancement in his being just from spending times outdoors.
“Nona, she no wanna go walking. Her legs hurt. She needs to come back. She watches too mucha TV. I keepa tellin’ her it’s a no good for the circulation but she no listen!”
"He’s right about that too" I thought.
I asked, “How are you Nono?”
“Good.” He said, “I can’t complain.”
My heart was melting as he was speaking my language. My grandfather is super healthy–perfect weight, still has his hair, and has never had a cavity in his life. He can still touch his toes too! I can tell you he has never touched processed food in his life. “Me no like sweet,” he says.
On the flip side, my conversation with my grandmother was quite different.
“Hi Nona, how are you?”
“Ah I just had a surgery. I have a new denture they pulled all a my teeth. I had an infection. I had no dental insurance I hadda pay $3000 outta pocket. ” I can hear the pain in her words through her accent. “I gotta go to the ear doctor my hearing aid button is no working. I can’t a hear in the other ear.”
I felt sad talking to my grandmother. I love her dearly. It makes me sad that an elderly, retired woman barely surviving off of social security has to deal with all of this stress. She is a sensitive frail woman with a heavy kyphosis (rounding of her spine) and lots of wrinkles on her face. She is a strong empath and takes on all the stresses of the family. Her health suffers because of it.
We continued to talk and she commented about her negative experiences with the economy and other misfortunes in life.
Growing up in Frosinone, Italy, my grandfather lived close to the land. He built a house there with his own two hands and it broke his heart when he had to sell it because there was no one to care for it after living in the United States for so many years. When we traveled to Italy, I’ll never forget how proud he was to show me what he had built. Perched atop a mountain, the view was gorgeous and I too wish he never sold it for it would have made the perfect get-away. I could see the pain and regret in his eyes for giving up his land. “But whaddya gonna do…” He sighed, shrugging his shoulders, letting it go, knowing he can't change the past–what is done is done.
As a young man he moved to Brazil. There he met my grandmother, a woman who also does everything by hand. He was blessed to find a woman to cook healthy meals for him, all foods close to the earth. Everything made with love, everything homemade–even the pasta!
Their life has not been without suffering and tragedy though. They came to the U.S. as immigrants with no money. They lived a simple, hard working life. He worked in construction and she was seamstress making bathing suits in a factory as they raised two sons in Queens, NY. They’ve experienced much heartbreak and stress over the years.
My grandparents have been married for over 50 years and thus have essentially lived the same life. Despite her being younger, my grandmother has many more health problems than my grandfather and she isn’t in as good of shape as he is. They've experienced the same environmental and life stressors over the decades so why the difference in health status?
Aging and disease are caused by stress. There are many ways to accumulate stress in our lives including our environment, how we eat, life traumas, thought patterns, and so forth. Some things we can control, while other things we cannot. For example, we cannot control the pollution in air, but we can control the foods we eat. We cannot control the tragedies that happen around us, but we can control how we react to them.
5 Ways to Avoid Unwanted Stress and Disease
1. Stay away from sugar and processed foods. Eat foods close to the earth.
If it comes in a box, a can, or a bag think twice. If it was made by a machine and not two loving hands, think twice.
My grandmother puts so much sugar in her coffee it’s actually unbelievable. We joke around saying she puts coffee in her sugar. Then she started using those artificial sweeteners–even worse! My grandfather doesn’t eat anything unless my grandmother makes it. He doesn’t put sugar in anything. As I mentioned, he never had cavities, yet she just had all her teeth pulled.
2. Stop sitting on that Bum! Stop Watching TV! Go for a walk. Spend Time in Nature.
“You gotta keepa movin’!” If you don’t use it, you lose it. The maintenance of our muscle strength and the flexibility of our joints depends on how we use them. Any stagnation or inflexibility in the body is the perfect breeding ground for disease. We only have one vessel this lifetime, so care for the body!
Television and electronics emit electromagnetic radiation which is harmful to our health. We can reset our bodies natural rhythms by spending time in Nature. The studies proving the immense health benefits of Nature are mounting!
My grandfather detests television. He loves going for walks and spending time in his garden and his health is a testament to his healthy hobbies.
3. Stop Complaining. Count the Blessings.
What we focus on expands in life. Our perception is how we filter the overload of information presenting to us in every moment. So what do you choose? To focus on the blessings or the mishaps?
Our thought process affects our health status. Thinking negatively or complaining elevates our stress levels resulting in the release of cortisol, a stress hormone associated with disease. Count blessings for gratitude attracts more goodness into our lives.
As you read earlier, the conversations with each grandparent was completely different. This demonstrates how they each uniquely operate. My grandfather tends to appreciate the small bits in life, where as my grandmother has a tendency to complain about all that is wrong in life.
4. Follow Inspiration. Travel. Live.
There is an interesting statistic that shows soon after people retire they begin to develop disease or even die. When we lose a sense of purpose in life, we begin to die. When we stop dreaming, we begin to die.
My grandfather has always wanted to travel more, especially back to their native countries. But over the years my grandmother hasn’t wanted to leave the family and the young grandchildren. My grandfather still has hope to travel. He also follows his inspiration by gardening and such.
We continue to live when we choose to experience life–hobbies, travel, new experiences, new places, new people.
5. Accept and Let it Go.
As I mentioned earlier my grandmother is an empath, she takes everything in–all the family stresses. She does nothing for herself to release this. She thinks about it and talks about all that is upsetting her over and over. Throughout the years this has added up and I truly believe this contributes to her appearance and health issues today.
My grandfather has handled the stressors much differently. He accepts them. He doesn’t worry and stress about them because he knows he cannot change it. All he can do is see the positive and be present in any way he can.
Elders are the wise ones. They have the life experience to be an example with many lessons learned. Even if they don’t claim to be or appear to be wise, we can observe their lives and draw our own conclusions.
In many native, ancient cultures and in many cultures around the world even today, the elders are respectfully regarded and play an important role in communities. Unfortunately, in today’s American society, elders are not always respected and in many cases are ushered off to nursing homes where they remain for the rest of their days. Many elders lead a challenging life as they are one of the poorest demographics in our country, barely surviving off of social security benefits. It’s quite a tragedy so show them love in any way possible.
I invite you to interview elders–any elders you come across. Ask them about their lives. Listen to them with an open heart. They are often lonely and have so many wonderful stories to share–a lifetime of stories. By gifting our full attention, we can make an elder’s day. Put the phone away and be fully present, you may be surprised by the stories you hear and the lessons you learn! And I’d love for you to tell me about your experience in the comments section below!