In August I will turn 54 years old, just a year younger than the age at which my biological father died. If I recall correctly, he died from pancreatic cancer. Not something I’m too worried about as my doctor started screening me a couple of years ago and I don’t have the smoking and drinking habit that he had. That said, I’m not exactly in great health myself. I’m morbidly obese, diabetic, and have peripheral neuropathy in my feet. These two facts, that I’m closing in on the age my father died and that I’m not exactly in great shape, have led to me considering my own mortality a lot lately. Specifically, whether it’s better to be happy and die young or miserable and live longer.
Despite not being in the greatest shape, I’m pretty happy with life at the moment. I’ve managed to accomplish most of the stuff I’ve long dreamed of — getting married, owning a home, etc. — and while there are things I’d love to do, like travel more, or, at all, I’m happy with where I’m at. Meanwhile, the attempts I’ve made at getting healthier such as eating better and exercising only make me miserable. In part because I stress over the fact that I’m not doing these things like I should be.
As a result, I find I’m spending a lot of time pondering the question of being happy or healthy. My doctor, being an excellent doctor, would argue that once I get into the habits of exercising and eating healthier and lost the weight and got some of my energy back that I’d be even happier, but the fact is I’m happy now and getting to that supposedly happier status would require a lot of misery.
It doesn’t help that when I bought an elliptical and made a good effort to use it regularly for three months, I ended up gaining weight instead of losing it. Everyone said it would get easier after a couple of months, but it never got any easier. As is the fate of most home exercise equipment, it became a coat rack until we sold it when we moved out of Ann Arbor 6 years ago. In a proper and just universe, exercise would show benefits within a couple of days and not months or years later. It would be much easier to be motivated if I actually experienced some of the supposed benefits sooner rather than later. Gaining weight, even if it is new muscle, is not the result I should be getting for my efforts. Not to mention that food that’s good for you would taste better than the bad food.
When we bought the house 4 years ago one of the first things I did was purchase a bicycle to ride around the neighborhood. I even bought one of those stupid helmets. My thinking at the time was that I had to find something that was fun to do so it felt less like exercise and more like playing and I used to love riding my bike as a kid. However, much like the elliptical, I rode it a couple times a week for that first summer and then parked it in the garage for the winter and it has not seen the light of day since. I look at it every time I pull the lawn mower out to cut the grass and I think I should check to see if the tires are still in good shape and maybe pull it out, but I never do. Hell, mowing the lawn is really the only exercise I get at this point and that’s enough to wipe me out for the rest of the day.
The one change I did manage to stick to was giving up drinking pop and switching to water for the majority of the day outside of a couple cups of coffee. That’s mainly because it’s been long enough that drinking pop — both regular and diet — tastes like malted battery acid these days. Doesn’t stop me from missing it or hating every drop of the water I drink, but at least I’ve managed to stick to it.
I’m at the point where I have resigned myself to my fate. I know I should be doing more to improve my health, but I just get depressed whenever I think of what it would take. I’d rather not die young, but I also like sitting and sitting is considered a lethal activity these days. The one thing I am doing is thinking about it a lot. While sitting, of course. Now if only that burned more calories.