You hear a lot of advice about health as you go through the years, some of it true.
You also hear a lot of guff. There’s an army of nurses, nannies, physical therapists, medical advisors and websites devoted to nothing but scolding us and warning us about the dangers of enjoying life.
All these experts assume the entire point of your existence is to prolong it as long as possible, down to the last minute, the final drip of morphine. Does that make sense to you? That your life is meant to be stretched beyond its shelf date?
This way, they say, you can squeeze out an extra few months teetering along in a walker or wheelchair, oxygen tanks strapped to your waist, dining on gruel and mush, watching TV in the Social Hall at the “Ashes to Dust Retirement Home” with a bunch of other near-corpses, hoping to hang on long enough to collect another birthday card come October.
And this is why you quit smoking when you were 35 years old?
Much of what the health care industry advises seems dubious and heavy on the “Don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t eat meat, wear a safety helmet brushing your teeth, watch your cholesterol, get a lot of exercise, monitor your heart, cut out salt, cut out sugar, get monthly checkups, avoid stress, and if you’re out at night, wear white.”
These stern admonitions come with warnings about the dangers of heart disease, rheumatism, dandruff, diabetes, psoriasis, and everything else promoted by our dear friends in the pharmaceutical biz.
And if we don’t follow these well-meaning health tips? Proceed at your own peril.
But what do you think today, looking back at the fun times and great experiences you missed out on when you could have been doing drugs and having sex and eating steaks, drinking tequila and driving 110 miles an hour down Highway One when you were half your age, all forfeited so you could enjoy a so-called healthy lifestyle?
If you’re honest: Regretful.
Or leaving Ukiah for Tahoe at six o’clock one night with a couple buddies to crash a wedding reception, especially thinking there might be cocaine, champagne, six babes from BYU and a hangover the size of the Palace Hotel tomorrow at noon when you woke up, unless you died at 3 a.m.
Oh no. Far better you stayed home, read the latest copy of Mother Earth News and had a nice cholesterol-free vegan meal with your two cats. Don’t forget your old people pills. Be sure to mark the calendar with your 19,000th day of sober cleanliness.
Here’s a little secret health care professionals never tell you. Health care professionals live quiet, discrete, safe lives eating nutritious foods, getting lots of exercise, and avoiding anything that might seem dangerous, or at least enjoyable. For all this prudence medical industry employees expect to live, on average, 1.3 years longer than you.
(Tipoff: Those 1.3 years come at the end of the line, the final days of their tired, gray, careful lives.)
Let me repeat: those brief added-on years don’t come when you want them. It’s not like you can tack on the 1.3 between age 28 and 31 when you’re young, pretty, energetic and full of life.
No, you’ll get them starting at age 94. Would you like to pick out what color oxygen tank to have fastened to you hip?
Aren’t you glad you didn’t eat cheeseburgers and drink Martinis back when you were 48 years old? Aren’t you glad you followed some newspaper columnist’s advice to avoid risky behavior like engaging in unprotected sex with multiple partners, three of whom you met one night in a hotel bar in Phoenix when you were 71?
Just think: you might have gotten leg cramps in the Executive Suite at Hotel de Luxe somewhere in Arizona, or come down with herpes or cirrhosis 20 years later. Heaven help us all.
You’d rather your days be filled with shuffleboard in Florida, playing bingo, wearing slippers, wearing Depends, wearing an oxygen tank, taking naps, learning French and watching Lawrence Welk host Jeopardy on TV.
Go to bed early. Act like every day’s your next one. Do some laundry (one bathrobe, two pair pajamas) and thrill yourself with a little low-cal fat-free ice cream tonight when the cook at the rest home spoons a special scoop out just for you today, because it’s your birthday.