I have developed some rules for myself

By Alan S. Chartock | October 20, 2022


The winter is a’comin’ in. We know what that means. Perhaps the worst of it is ice. One false move on the ice can mean broken bones and general disaster. It can take days, weeks, months and sometimes even years to mend after you have slipped, fallen and wreaked havoc on your body. The last time I fell, I made the classic mistake trying to break my fall with my outstretched arm. Instinct makes you throw your arm out to protect yourself from a fall, but not only did I break my downward descent, I also broke my fingers in several places. There is also the matter of one’s ego. So what preventive measures can we take to preserve our bones and hopefully avoid a trip to the emergency room?

I guess the answer to the question is what we might call consciousness. You’ve got to be mindful and thinking all the time about what you are doing. We humans have to be in a state of constant vigilance. If you walk down icy stairs, you’ve got to remember the last time you slipped and fell. If you don’t, you are doomed to do it again. Obviously, the older you are, the greater danger you are in. Nobody wants to spend hours waiting in an ER, kicking themselves for not taking the proper precautions that would have precluded the pain and suffering that comes with carelessness.

At a very youthful 81 years of age, I have developed some rules for myself. One of these is to use a cane. It’s amazing how a cane can save you from disaster. Of course, if you put the cane in the wrong place, like in a hole or crevice in the sidewalk or street, you can face some pretty dire consequences. We’ve all done it. Another one of my current and pretty simple rules is to always look down on my daily five mile walk. I know it sounds simple but looking down at your feet can save you a lot of pain.

There is always the possibility of uneven pavement or potholes and there, the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the people who are responsible for keeping our walkways in shape. One thing that we can all do to help avert disaster is to call our local department of public works and tell them to come and repair the sidewalk where it is deficient. Off course, we can always leave that responsibility to someone else. Unfortunately, the “someone else’s” are few and far between.

If you have ever broken a bone or a number of bones, you know that the healing process can seem to take forever. Those of us who have travelled this road at least once know how much we tend to blame ourselves for our own stupidity. Since everything is connected to everything else, pains pop up in the most unexpected places. There is always the matter of accidentally rolling over on the affected body part in the middle of the night and seeing stars, to say nothing about the inevitable failure to get back to seep.

It’s easy enough to blame the folks who are supposed to repair out roads and sidewalks since we do pay taxes and expect that they will do what we pay them for. But in the end, we certainly know who the culprits are when we hurt ourselves. To wit: we need to look in the mirror because inevitably, we could have avoided the problem.

So it all comes down to mindfulness and vigilance. Life is full of risks and there really are any number of ways you can hurt yourself. Let’s face it — there are lots of ways to screw things up and I think I’ve found them all. I suspect that you know what I mean.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected]