​My Magic Number

Posted by Howard Menaker in Life After Paralysis on March 31, 2022 # Lifestyle

Howard and PatrickIn many cultures, religions, myths and legends, 7 is a magic, even sacred, number. Muslim pilgrims in Mecca circle the Kaaba, the most sacred site in Islam, 7 times. In the Bible, God created the world in 7 days. There were seven lions in the den with Daniel. Joshua’s seven trumpeters circled Jericho 7 times.

The ancient world had 7 wonders.

There are 7 continents.

And in the world of mathematics, 7 is a prime number.

Is this just mythology? Or does 7 have magic properties?

At this moment of my life, 7 feels magical: Next month I will turn 70, which means I am currently in my 70th year. I know age is “just a number,” but I would be kidding myself if I said it wasn’t weighing on my mind.

I know I am not as physically capable as I was in my younger days, or the years before my spinal cord injury, but there are upsides to turning 70. I have been reading a remarkable book, “From Age-ing to Sage-ing,” by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (a real mouthful, so I will just use “Zalman)."

Zalman’s basic premise is that aging doesn’t have to usher in a season of decline. Instead, our later years can be the “crowning achievement of our lives”. It can be a time of spiritual growth, and using the lessons gained through a lifetime of experience and knowledge - a time of becoming a “sage.” In many societies, elders are respected and looked at as the “wise ones.” Although our own cultural values youth above experience, and our older citizens are often dismissed as less productive members of society, we can still become our own “inner elders.”

It is up to us to make the most of these years. Zalman talks about “harvesting your life,” gleaning the fruits of our many years of living. He advises us to deepen our spiritual lives, share our intellectual legacy with future generations, and be stewards of the environment.

Similarly, Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers, urged us to use these years to become mentors to the young, monitors of our public servants, mediators to help resolve societal conflict, mobilizers of social change, and motivators to enhance the public good. We can be the most valuable members of society, not the least.

The last 7 years of my life have truly been magical. 7 years ago, I was coming out of the hospital with a spinal cord injury, and began my recovery through physical therapy. I have regained sensation and strength in my legs and I walk every day with crutches. My recovery is the product of hard mental and physical work, a positive attitude, great doctors and physical therapists, my spiritual belief, good friends, and the love in my life.

I know not everyone with a spinal cord injury can make this kind of physical progress. But perhaps more important, the knowledge and experience of everything I have been through in the last 7 years has made me wiser. I have learned how to better handle life’s challenges. I have learned to rely on others without shame. I have learned what is most important in my life, and what makes me strong.

So I look forward to my 70th birthday and all that comes after that: my sage-ing years. I look forward to continued learning, changing, and synthesizing wisdom from my life experience.

I hope to use that wisdom to continue my personal growth and spirituality, to share a bit of my experience in this blog, to be a mentor in the Reeve Foundation Peer Mentor Program, and in countless other ways to pass some bit of my knowledge to others.

Will the next 7 years be magic? Will I become the sage I can be? Only if I make it so.

Howard Menaker is a retired communications and public affairs executive, with over 30 years of experience in international corporations and trade associations. Previously, he worked as an attorney, specializing in civil litigation. He now devotes much of his time serving on non-profit boards of directors, including a prominent theater company and a historic house museum in the Washington, DC area. He and his husband split their time between Washington and Rehoboth Beach, DE.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.