My greatest appreciation tends to be in retrospect. Through the course of my forties I’ve come to miss the days when my body functioned so much better, with so little upkeep, and was almost entirely pain free. Things change.
I was diagnosed this week with an aneurysm of the popliteal artery (sounds like scary shit, huh?). It means the blood flow from my knee down is pretty f@cked.
I’m having surgery Monday morning because of an injury I incurred twenty years ago – back when I was ten feet tall and bullet proof. It was only ever a nuisance – a minor pain that came and went. This is where my addictive personality shines: I make myself believe that things will eventually go away. Worse, I find that as long as I can tolerate something without having to change, I probably will.
I hate that shit.
I had continuous health care coverage from age 22 to 45. I progressively traded such benefits and the security they provide behind as I became more invested in self-employment. Now that I am without insurance, I’m having vascular surgery. Brilliant.
The nice thing about being my age is that I can tell myself it’s only money and I’ll simply make payments on it until I retire. I’ve lived long enough and well enough to know better than to stress over things I can do absolutely nothing about. The only thing to do is to go through this and heal. This procedure will make me more whole.
I’ve long been a fan of Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten). He touched me the most with an essay in which he relates a lesson taught to him:
“…you don’t know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire – then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. “Learn to separate the inconveniences from the real problems. You will live longer and will not annoy people like me so much.”
I am grateful. I have no real problems. My life is endlessly blessed. My priorities still go askew. Somehow I still manage to view things like attending to my health as an inconvenience. I still expect that everything should function well despite my chain smoking, espresso swilling, over working habits. I laughably reason that I eat healthy food, drink lots of water and walk every day. It should balance out!
It’s silly, I know. I think we all do stuff like this to justify our choices and to overlook what we can’t control – like the inevitability that bodies deteriorate over time. I marvel that I have accumulated wisdom yet at times manage to not use it at all. I seek resolution with myself and I groan because I know it’s a simple matter of acceptance.
Paying attention to my health means moving away from the false belief that I have all the time in the world. I’m 46 but my body is very old for my age. It’s been roughly used and poorly maintained. I get to choose how I manage myself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually every day of my life.
It’s clichéd to say I’m not a kid anymore. The truth is I’m much more than middle aged because there’s no way I’m living to 92. I catch myself thinking at times about how much time I realistically have. Each time I turn my thoughts away from how long and toward how well.
I’ve got a great life but I’m a hedonist at heart. I want more. I want better. That means I have to get better. I will. I hope you do too.