I wrote earlier about a friend who went to the doctor and died of a stroke in his office. Some other friends thought she might have been afraid of what the doctor would tell her.

So when I went to the podiatrist to have a foot ache examined, and he said I needed a shot of cortisone, which I’d never had before, I wondered if I was going to have an allergic reaction and possibly die in his office. But I didn’t.

Then I had a bad toothache that wouldn’t go away after a second dentist visit. I waited until the Christmas-New Year’s holidays had passed, and by then my whole upper right jaw was hurting. I read about it on the internet and learned that I might have cancer. A week later, after some more anxious moments, the dentist pulled my wisdom tooth—it had a cavity the size of a BB—and the pain (and my imagined cancer) went away. But I was nervous a bit with the possibility of major illness.

Today there was a snowstorm that dumped two feet of snow. I began shoveling, but after an hour, a friend urged me to take a break, so that I didn’t drop dead from a heart attack…even though I play hours of tennis and am in terrific shape from all the cardio. I complied, ate, rested, and then finished the job. I really thought there was zero chance of my dying from that exertion. But I wasn’t macho or defiant. I took the break…just in case.

So as healthy as I am, there is all this fear just below the surface. Three decades ago, I wrote a poem that had the following line: “Life is a minefield. Limbs fly all around me. I survive. I move on.”

35 years ago in Japan, I had a guide who rode the bus holding on to the pole and with his feet braced for a possible crash…”just in case there is an accident.” He was only a school kid, but he rode every bus with the fear of injury or death in his mind.

What does this negative and scared mentality do to one’s experience of living? It has to dampen it. It has to hold you back sometimes from feeling happy, carefree and lighthearted. Right?

Throughout this journey, I want to minimize the problems of a physical body that does not work right or is creaky, achy and non-responsive. I like the ease and innocence of feeling and acting youthful. That is what drives me somewhat to play sports, exercise, avoid harmful substances and bad foods. It also feels good. When I am able to glide through the snow on my cross country skis and jump for an overhead volley at the tennis net, all that denial and conditioning seems worth it. Do you agree?

Yet even I fear that at any time, I will hear the news that I don’t want to hear. I have no illusions. Life is fickle. It is not certain. Nothing should be taken for granted. Everything good should be appreciated. The moments of happiness should be savored and relished. There will be plenty of sad times in between.