• Richard Portugal

Do You Emulate Sisyphus or Atlas?



To arduously push a heavy rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down, and then have to start again is an ironic parody to an exercise routine. Just ask Sisyphus! In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king punished by the god Zeus for his unabashed hubris by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever. Sisyphus was consigned to an eternity of useless efforts and unending frustration. Do not many seniors regard exercise and old age with the same wary attitude?


Every senior was once thirty years old. They were young, aggressive, and imbued with a spirit of boundless optimism. Young bones, effortless walking, energy to spare, illimitable strength and a ceaseless eye focused upon the future—that seems to be a recipe for youth. Sisyphus is not their seer, but rather they favor Atlas who can uphold the weight of the world while standing tall in the sunshine.


Many seniors cast a suspicious eye upon aging. They feel it robs them of those very qualities which imparted a lifelong concept of themselves. They feel no longer self-conceptualized. They are now defined, by themselves and society, as old, past their prime, useless and at the precipice of the end game. Well, no wonder they can be depressed and self-limiting!


Yet, seniors can still be an Atlas. Being a senior does not mean a dearth of problems; we are bequeathed life’s complications just as when we were thirty. It is how we lift the burden that makes all the difference. Are we Sisyphus or Atlas? Do we approach our burdens as if a useless effort, or shoulder our loads with courage and optimism?

There is no doubt that seniors have their own set of issues. Illness and disease can sap their very soul. Financial and family issues can add even a greater magnitude of worries. But to be an Atlas, you must believe that you can still dominate and control what seems a diminishing life. Atlas has strong legs and powerful shoulders. It enables him to dominant his world. Follow his example and control the weight of your world.


I have witnessed seniors who have Parkinson’s and MS, who suffer from strokes and heart attacks, and who are encumbered by fibromyalgia and dementia exercise to remain strong and control their activities of daily living. They do not view their efforts as useless. Rather they view their efforts as self-affirming and prideful. They exercise to remain strong, to have superior balance, to counter osteoporosis, to maintain mental acuity and to be as self-sufficient and independent as possible. Illness, pain, discomfort be damned. They will balance their world upon strong shoulders and legs and not permit the boulder to roll back down the hill.


Copyright © 2018 Richard J. Portugal All rights reserved.

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