Live fast; die young; and leave a beautiful corpse. I may not have said that before, but I’ve been living it. What a shameful thing, to destroy one’s body in pursuit of happiness. And here I was, watching the results of that same lifestyle, worrying about loved ones who have fully embraced that lifestyle and are suffering the consequences.
There’s a very real problem with this idea. I’ve seen it over and again in my family. When you live fast, you often die young, but your corpse is far from beautiful. I don’t want to share too much to preserve the privacy of my favorites and dear ones, but I’ve watched them die of and/or suffer from lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver failure, renal failure, gout, diabetes, heart diseases, and mouth cancers. It is painful to watch a loved one, someone who is vibrant and lively, strong and sure, deteriorate. The spirit is still willing, but the flesh is weak. If you live fast, unless you are Mick Jagger, you are going to look like a zombie when you are in your 30s, and you cut your life in half.
We know that addiction can be inherited, which is problematic since most destructive behaviors come from addiction. Addiction has woven its way through my cells, leaving compulsion and need in its wake. Years of selective breeding have left me a perfect storm of addiction. It doesn’t take much of a substance to make me want to consume it in excess. Luckily, I can’t really drink much because I’m a cheep drunk, and I get hangovers way too easily. Perhaps it has something to do with this. That probably prevents me from becoming an alcoholic, but I’ve noticed that if I spend time with smokers I have this inexplicable urge to smoke. I know the dangers. I watched my Grandpa’s body fall apart like an old truck because he smoked. Lung cancer, emphysema, who wants them? Yet still, offer me a smoke when my guard is down and I’ll take one. Never mind that I get bronchitis even if I just hold the smoke in my mouth.
There are bright, beautiful souls in my circle of influence who break my heart by destroying their bodies a few drinks, a few fries, or five bucks worth of tobacco at a time.
Live fast; die young; and leave a beautiful corpse.
Someone very dear to me was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia this year, and watching him go through that has flipped a switch inside of me. Thinking about the very real possibility of losing the man who taught me how to swing a bat stripped me down to the very basics of who I am. I can’t lie to myself behind bravado anymore. I want the people in my life to be happy and healthy, and I never want another person to worry about my health. That doesn’t mean I’m going to deliver lectures about nutrition and the dangers of tobacco and alcoholism to all my loved ones. I’m not that kind of person, but I hope I have the courage to let them know that I care about their well being. Yes there are diseases and accidents that we cannot prevent, but it seems so wrong to make ourselves suffer because life is short. I’m making changes in my life, and I’m amazed at how well they have worked so far. It’s much easier than I’ve always made it out to be. I hope I’ll look like a superhero soon, but that’s not the really important thing. The important thing is maybe I can keep the people who care about me from going through the same thing I am, so they never have to watch me kill myself in the slowest method possible.
The Star Wars fanatic in my life who gave me a Princess Leia action figure that I played with more than all my Barbies kind of looks like this meme when he smiles and has a few more rounds of Chemo to go before his Dr will give him a clean bill of health. He’s in good spirits, and I have faith that he will pull through, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling panic when the phone rings.
There are other people to worry about, of course. I am a worrier and always have been, but maybe with a little luck they will decide that because they are valuable to me they should take better care of themselves. I can always hope.