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A cup of joy

I plan to live a long, full life.

I became recommitted to that 11 years ago, post two babies and plus more pounds than I care to recount. It was a moment, in fact, which this very column space became a result of when I chose to share my weight loss journey with our readers. 

Dropping those pounds and recommitting to my health was just as they all say, life changing. It gave me renewed hope for being on this planet a very long time and living a very full life – regardless of calendar pages and the Times Square ball dropping.

In late April I attended an 80th birthday party of one of my mentors and long-time friends. In truth she looks pretty much the same as she did the day I met her 20 years ago. She’s still active, vivacious, energetic and a true ball of fun. That being said, her 80th birthday party was probably one of the most enjoyable parties I’ve been to in a while. 

As the party girl circled the tables of an area eatery, adorned in blinged out “8-0” glasses thanking her guests and sharing stories, I did what writers do: observed.

Once she made her way to our table, my partner (aka compadre) asked the question of the hour, “How do you stay so young? What’s the secret?”

Without hesitation the vibrant birthday girl looked him straight in the eye and simply stated, “I choose joy.”

She went on to expand on the simplicity of her statement, noting that each morning as she rises, regardless of what life may have dealt for the day, she chooses to be full of joy.

“It’s a conscious choice … every day,” she said. 

Listening to the two of them, I couldn’t help but beam with my own joy at her simple secret.

Personally, I’ve run in to my fair share of critics. You know the ones that try and break you down, the ones who don’t see rainbows and butterflies. The ones who call themselves “realists,” yet marvel at the ones like myself who rise above the tough times still full of smiles and optimism.

Positivity is a funny thing. As I’ve journeyed through some rough (personal and medical) roads, I tend to read a lot. Book after book about any given topic to help navigate through the tough road.

One of my doctors recently echoed something I had read in not one, but multiple books. Medically speaking the long-term effects of positivity on one’s health cannot be scientifically proven, yet doctor after doctor have witnessed its positive effects.

Case in point, as I type this, I have relationships with four specialists getting me through my cancer journey. Each of the four, an oncologist, radiation oncologist, primary surgeon and plastic surgeon, have all shared the importance of a positive outlook when overcoming cancer.

Each of them sharing stories of patients who have battled some tough stuff, yet continued to show up to appointments full of optimism and a ‘can do’ spirit. I get that and I’m grateful.

So as this column space was aptly named “Fitness and Beyond” several years ago, it now seems more fitting than ever before. While the Fitness element has been briefly paused, the current chapter has taken us to the “Beyond,” the why, the how?

An upbeat mental state of being is indeed beyond what many might consider or give thought to when in search of optimum health. It is about so much more than the 80 percent what you eat and 20 percent activity formula. It is absolutely in looking at that glass and whether it’s full or empty, being grateful for a glass all the same.

In short, my life aspirations go beyond the age of 80; why wouldn’t they? My fitness goals are still very real and I look forward to sharing those lessons here once again. Until then however, I’m simply going to live on the “Beyond” side and well … choose joy.