“I think the best role models for women are people who are fruitfully and confidently themselves, who bring light into the world.” – Meryl Streep
Our parents teach us how to live, and often we follow their example. In some ways, my parents were role models for me. Dad was a hard-working factory worker who worked two jobs or overtime to give his family a better life than he had when he was growing up. Neither of my parents went to college, but they ensured that their children knew the value of an education, and all four of us graduated from college. Mom was religious, often praying, and she spent her life taking care of others. She and Dad patiently took care of my Grandmother, who lived with them for many years.
For health, my parents went to doctors and took medicine as prescribed. They didn’t smoke or drink to excess. However, they had many health issues, some of which were caused by excess weight and sedentary lifestyles. They didn’t believe in healthy eating or exercise. Dad would gleefully tell us how he’d manage to eat two hot dogs and two polish sausages when his nursing home had a barbecue. He would eat two sandwiches plus chips at his building, and then he’d roll his wheelchair across the parking lot and eat two more sandwiches at the other building.
Near the end of Dad’s life, I took him to a doctor because of the painful gangrene that had turned his big toe black. The doctor said, “You need an amputation of your toe or maybe your whole foot, or the gangrene will spread throughout your body, killing tissue as it goes. But we can’t do the amputation because you are in such bad shape.” It was frustrating to hear this. Even as the doctor spoke, Dad had severe spasms of pain caused by the gangrene. I said, “You’re not having much fun, are you?” And Dad said, “Not lately.” He suffered a fatal heart attack before the gangrene spread further, and at least he was spared from the pain of gangrene.
When the role models in our lives are not perfect – and who is? – we don’t have to live our lives exactly as they did. We can learn from their good examples, and where they fall short, we can choose to learn from other people. This is not being rebellious or disrespectful – this is taking care of ourselves.
I will follow my parent’s example to NOT smoke and to go for physicals. But I look to others’ examples for exercise and healthy eating. I much admire women who are older than me who exercise and take care of themselves. My friend Joann is in her 70s and walks five miles a day. My friend Ann (see Life is an Adventure: Ann), makes healthy food choices and exercises regularly.
I need to overcome my sweet tooth and my tendency to overeat, but I do walk almost every day. I especially enjoy taking longer walks with a friend or family member.
The next generation is watching us. What do we want to teach them by our example?
Who are your role models? What example do you want to set for others? Please share your thoughts.