I’d like to live a long and healthy life so I took special note of a report by Leslie Stahl on the CBS 60 Minutes show that aired last year called, “Want to Live to 90?”
Heck yeah. And then some…
I had three big takeaways from the two-part report based on a landmark study of a group of very old, very spry California retirees:
- Join a book club–Check.
- Have a drink (or two) of alcohol each day–Double Check!
- Go for a walk every day–Ugh. But that’s soooooo boring.
I have good metabolism. I have great vitals. Still, Leslie Stahl urged me to get off my butt and take a hike. Grrr. I knew I needed to find a way to incorporate walking into my daily routine; but motivation is a big factor. I tell myself that I always feel amazing after a walk. True. It’s a real attitude adjuster. It clears my mind, gives me more energy throughout the day, and helps me sleep better.
To pass the time on these mind numbing, yet life-extending treks, I decided early on to bring my phone to catch up on social emails and kvetch with old friends. I find it hard to chew gum and walk at the same time so I found that the coordination it takes to key in phone numbers and press send while striding at a brisk pace is beyond my capacity. Looking down at the screen makes me dizzy. Besides, I was failing to adhere to the point of the activity which is to unwind, to let go of the to-do list, to shake off the frustration over another post-season loss by the Cubs, to calm down after a stupid fight with my son about wearing basketball shorts to school in winter.
Living to 90 was not looking good for me.
Then I got an idea. What if I listened to a book on audio? It fit The Slimm formula in its aim to “streamline one’s daily routine” and “carve out delicious Me-centered moments.” I repackaged the idea and sold it to myself, making the claim that by walking, I am actually adding more time in the day for my favorite hobby–Reading!
I am not above a little deceit for one’s own good. I admit I am a parent who has resorted to edible sorcery in order to get my kids to eat more vegetables by arranging them on a plate in a smiley face pattern. Still vegetables; but made SO much more appealing when the tomato has been magically transformed into a clown’s red nose. Same marketing tactic applied to the drudgery of a daily walk…Make it feel like I’m curled up in a quiet alcove with Cutting for Stone on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
The audiobooks worked. However, it took me awhile to adjust to the voices inside my head. After sampling many books on the Audible.com app, I found that good narrators, along with great writing, make the indoor track disappear. Now, I don’t even realize that I’m lapping the senior citizens that spread themselves across multiple lanes in shuffling, white-haired clusters.
The good narrators keep up a lively pace and have an arsenal of voices that they adroitly adapt to each character without inserting their own theatrics into the text. The annoying ones are men who try to emulate Sir Kenneth Branagh in the movie adaptation of Henry V and women who talk soft and slow, purring each word and hanging onto soft vowels to accentuate the sensuality of the prose. Make me gag.
In addition to my personal narrator preferences, I found that I walk better with fiction. Better yet when a novel pulls the curtain back on life’s most intimate moments in which characters bearing loneliness and disappointment seek understanding and second chances. Add to that, an author’s painstaking detail to place and time, and three hanky endings that reveal truths about about Art, Literature, Love, Duty, Culture, Class, Privilege, Power, and the Meaning of Life.
From my ears to yours, here are four recommendations for “reading” on the move:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris
The Storied LIfe of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, narrated by Scott Brick
Euphoria by Lily King, narrated by Simon Vance and Xe Sands
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, narrated by Alex Jennings
In all honesty, I am not sure I would have enjoyed these books as much if I had read them myself. A God in Ruins, for instance, may have been too long-winded when describing war scenes. Euphoria may have been too steeped in jungle scenery. A.J. Fikry may have been too unlikable as a main character for me to have read past the first couple of chapters. But all four novels as narrated were as deep and lush and satisfying as an expensive cabernet on a bearskin rug in front of a crackling fire. Umm, too much?
Go take a hike and let me know what you think. Buy a good pair of walking shoes, snap on a fanny pack and holster your phone. Get a set of wireless earbuds and plug into a great novel…
And walk your way past 90.
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