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Bluebirds in Winter (Playing the Long Game)

Many moons I have lived
My body’s weathered and worn
Ask yourself how old you’d be
If you didn’t know the day you were born
Try to love on your wife
And stay close to your friends
Toast each sundown with wine
And don’t let the old man in

Written by Toby Keith/sung by Willie Nelson, Don’t Let the Old Man In

There are few things more beautiful than a bluebird set against snow on a brilliant, sunny day. But bluebirds don’t just randomly show up to brighten your snowy landscape. If you want bluebirds in winter you’ve got to give them a compelling reason to visit. The work starts in the longer and warmer days establishing a consistent and reliable place for them, to be rewarded when the days grow shorter.

Age is an attitude. Sure, you might make a case for the gradual breakdown of the body, but with consistent effort you can control the rate with which the body breaks down. There are plenty of voices out there pointing towards habits and social norms dictating our long term health and vibrancy, not the number of trips around the sun. We all know people who defy expectations about age, bouncing around well into their 90’s and beyond. And we can rattle off examples of people who died too young, with the wheels coming off at a shockingly young age.

We know there are no guarantees in this world, but barring accident or underlying hereditary conditions, when we die often comes back to how we live. Which makes you think, as you see the days fly by, how are you going to play this hand? What are the habits and norms that are going to dictate how we feel when we wake up tomorrow morning, or how we feel in five years? What can we do today to feel better in ten years than we feel now? Shouldn’t we focus on doing more of that?

If we want to play the long game, we ought to walk away from the short term temptations that compromise our fitness tomorrow. Eat well, drink less, move more, experience something new every day and spend time with friends and loved ones. The long game means putting our bodies and minds in the best possible position to meet the future.

Remember the old expression: The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is right now. What are you building towards? Best to get started today. Plant that tree. It’ll give you a place to hang the bluebird feeder.

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