Having entered the Publisher’s Clearing House “$5,000-a-week-for-life” sweepstakes he spends a great amount of the days leading up to the drawing dreaming about what he will do with the money: the people he will help, the house he will buy for himself, the places he will go to see. Because of his having entered the sweepstakes his days crackle with the electric hope that he is on the threshold of a new life! On the day of the drawing he is up early and makes sure that he doesn’t go anywhere so that he can be there to fling open the door when the Prize Patrol rings his doorbell. 8am comes and he tries to distract himself by puttering around the house directing his attention to menial tasks, and yet all the while he is almost breathless at the thought that the doorbell could ring at any second! Noon comes, 6pm comes, and still he hopes, telling himself it’s still possible. But by 9pm hope evaporates and he accepts that the Prize Patrol has shown up at some other door. The millisecond that he accepts this he feels that tingle of hope sputter out, and… bereft of hope… he is left once again with the ordinariness of his life.
Given the addictive nature of hope, that in which we place it becomes important. Is it something that has a chance of being real, or is just an adolescent fantasy? Due to the number of my aging fellow-Baby Boomers, Alzheimer’s is everywhere in the news and many of us “hope” to not win THAT sweepstakes! But it is not sufficient to simply and passively pine after that hope; we need to learn to live in such a way that we give that hope all possible chances of being our reality! What are we doing today, or not doing, in regard to that hope? Is our hope a type of denial manifested by our squandering of our health in excessive partying, drugs and drink? For those of us who have become more cautious, is our hope more like fear, just a way of trying to not lose anything else? If the hope that we cherish in our minds for the rest of our life is to have a chance of being a reality then we need to take real steps in that direction. In terms of mental faculties I think this means that we should not simply try to preserve what we have, but that we should also work on expanding those mental faculties that we do have!
At this point in my life I have seen many of my generation whose continued adolescent behavior has steered their lives right onto the rocks. I have also seen many who, in their terror of Alzheimer’s, live in a circle-the-wagons sort of way, taking fewer chances even while taking more and more supplements; the refrain they sing around the campfire is, “I had dreams once!” But hope can also be slowly grown, if we think differently about what we have left to work with. I think we have a lot to learn from bodybuilders who know that it isn’t sufficient to simply not lose muscle mass, but that the good health of that muscle requires the constant stress of stretching it in order to keep the muscle in good shape. I think that it is the same with our mental faculties: create new routines for everyday tasks and live with being slightly stressed that things are different. Buy a new computer and stay with feeling anxious about whether or not we’re going to get all of the programs set up properly. Try new types of food, listen to music that we’ve never liked, and go to places in which we have no interest. In other words: Get up from that campfire, unhitch the wagons and chase hope by flexing that mind!