Sun 25 Sep 2016
I am just back from a lovely week in Alaska visiting family and driving to the end of the road in Denali National Park. Our daughter won the “road lottery,” something the National Park offers after the main tourist season has ended and the shuttle service is winding down. If your name is drawn, you get from 6 AM to midnight on a designated day to drive all 92.6 miles back into the park. The road literally ends then. We had a lovely time seeing wildlife and the vast expanse of Denali, which gets only 350,000 visitors per year! A wild and wonderful place.
Meanwhile, I continued to try to eat more vegetables, move as often as I could, and limit my daily calories, a hard list to follow when you are traveling! The big thing was for me to enjoy the moment and now focus on get backing on track here at home.
As we continue our discussion of the Blue Zone, those habits of centenarians throughout the world, we now look at surrounding ourselves with what Dan Buettner calls “the right tribe,” that is, people who share your same values. These are people you see regularly for coffee or to talk with on the phone. It is the social network that keeps you from feeling isolated. They are also the people who keep you grounded in reality when you are feeling sad or discouraged. These are people who keep your mind stimulated and who you can laugh with on a regular basis.
Part of having a strong social network is being likeable yourself, the kind of person other people want to see frequently. This is an interesting concept to ponder since on the plane home, I read Velma Wallis’s classic Athabaskan legend, “Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival.” This is an ancient story of two old women who tend to complain a lot and expect others in the village to take care of them. During a lean time, when the whole community is in danger of starving to death, they are left behind when the people move to find desperately needed food. The woman have a choice to wait to die (the tale begins in the fall) or to “die trying to survive.”
The book teaches a strong lesson without being moralizing and very much illustrates the point of this Blue Zone characteristic. We must build good social networks outside of our family relationships throughout all the stages of our lives but especially as we enter “old age.” Those people who surround us really can make a life-or-death difference to us.