“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
DYLAN THOMAS SAID that. It’s pretty profound when you think about it. I’ve long considered those three short lines to be fundamental parts of the foundation on which I build my life. I’ve never liked the idea of dying. Regardless of what you believe waits after this life, I’d say that it’s pretty safe for me to assume that this particular incarnation of Ashley Brett Kramer is the only one that there will ever be. Which means I’d better enjoy it as much as I can, and get as much as I can out of every day of it. Once I started to understand my own mortality, I tried to do just that.
Oh it took a long time for me to truly understand that I was going to die. Not just to pay lip service to the idea but to fully accept that one day, it’ll all be over. There are no second chances in this game.
I turn 45 in a little over a month, and for most people, that’s firmly into middle age. Obviously, based purely on the amount of time we get on this planet (if we’re really lucky), it’s very much middle age for me too.
It’s all downhill from here they say. In fact, I was told with massive levels of smug confidence by a number of older people that after 40, life was pretty much just a slow disintegration. But my answer to that is “bullshit”, also maybe “take your preconceived notions about aging gracefully and helplessly, and shove them right where the sun doesn’t shine”. I choose to think and behave differently thank you very much.
My theory is that if this is the only life I get, then effectively the most important thing in my life is my health because without it, I’m stuffed. So I’m going to fight for my health damn hard, and I’m going to stay as vital as I can for as long as I can.
Oh I can hear the yammering now: “You’re so selfish, what about family and friends or service to the community? Kids and grandkids, financial security, love, rainbows blah blah blah…”, to which I can only point out that without health, none of those things mean a thing.
Yes they’re important, and sure when you’re gone, you hope to leave a legacy, to have the people who knew you speak and think highly of you but when you’re dead, you’re dead. And when you’re sick, your ability to enjoy all of those things is partially or severely compromised. Good luck having fun with your grandkids while you’re in a hospital bed.
If you want to read something scary, read this great cartoon from Zen Pencils – click the image to be redirected:
So, doesn’t it make sense to be the best you can be for as long as you can be, if only to be able to give more to the people who matter most?
As they tell you every single time you climb on an airliner, before you try to assist other passengers, put on your own oxygen mask! This is eminently logical because you’re no damn good to anyone passed out in your seat.
Life is exactly the same. You’re not much good to your family if you’re spending much of your energy dealing with chronic illness, and you’re about as useful to your kids as a chocolate kettle if you drop dead of a heart attack in your mid 40s. Oh maybe your life insurance will hug them before bed, so that’s okay.
Having a life filled with vitality and energy is as simple as taking ownership of your health, and doing something about it instead of making excuses. No time, no money, no motivation, no energy, no clue, don’t like healthy food, can’t live without cigarettes, love fast food, need a beer or five to get over the day etc, etc. Oh please, give me a break!
Let me say it again – your health is all you have.
Yet I’m struck over and over by the gibbering insanity of people who simply do not care.
There are plenty of people I know or have met briefly that are like this – they just don’t seem to give a damn about their health. They’re got families that love them, and one assumes that they love them in return, yet they let their health slide as if there’s a magical health bank that’ll just hand out more health when they need it. Maybe they’re just paying lip service to how much they actually love those people?
They pass over the salad at a barbeque in favour of a plate piled high with meat; they add loads of butter to their bread, sugar to everything and enough salt to their meals to preserve a rhino. Fast food, refined food, processed food and the rubbish that the big food brands and fast food chains manipulate people into eating are all regularly scoffed with gusto. They ignore their body’s cries for help, the aches and pains, signs and symptoms. They blank out the ever-expanding waistline or that number on their dress that just keeps going up. They’re no more likely to commit to doing some exercise or to eat healthy food on a regular basis than I am to eat a lamb or three.
With a little dedication, a tiny bit of focus and effort, it could all be different. If they actually noticed that the days slip by and they never get them back, then they might actually want to find a way to have a better quality of life, not just now but in five years, or a decade, or three decades. Maybe to see their kids get married, or their grandkids graduate. Or just to be able to give more to their families. Or at a purely selfish level, to enjoy life a little bit more each day, to bounce up a flight of stairs without getting puffed, to be able to feel like they did 10 or 20 years ago.
I know that I’m going to get roundly condemned for this rant. Even many of the people who know me well, not to mention close friends and family will think it’s over the top. That I’m standing on my vegan soapbox on my imaginary moral high ground, judging everyone, telling them what to eat, that it’s all so easy for me given that I’m both single and kid-free but let me point out what this isn’t:
It’s not a vegan rant; it’s not even a vegetarian rant. It’s not a fat-hating, fat shaming rant. It’s got nothing to do with how people look, or what size clothes they wear because thin people can be unhealthy too. It’s simply a rant about health. Yes it’s an angry rant but this situation makes me both mad and sad because it’s such a terrible waste of life and time when people just don’t care about their health. So many are suffering and even dying before their time because of indifference. So the questions this post should provoke are:
1. Are you doing what you can to be the healthiest you possible?
2. Are you happy being manipulated by the fast food chains and the big food brands?
3. Are you buying the lies and drugs that big pharma and big med are trying to sell you?
4. Are you doing the same thing you always did and expecting different results?
5. Are you paying the thieves and charlatans in the roller coaster diet industry to peddle you their latest fad diet rubbish, knowing that in a year, you’ll be back where you started if not worse off?
6. Are you sacrificing your health and your quality of life so you can stuff your face with terrible food that’s purposely designed to be addictive?
If you’re grudgingly reading this and nodding your head at some or all of the above questions, then you know that you need to make changes, not excuses. They don’t need to be dramatic but they need to be consistent and they need to happen.
Yes, I know that kids put parents on a schedule, not the other way around. I know that we’re more pressed for time than ever before, I know that it’s hard but let’s cut through the bullshit and look at the bottom line: something has to give, one way or another, if not now, then soon and you’ll regret not putting in some effort when it does.
You either go forwards or you go backwards. End of story. When the little voice tells you that you can’t, when the excuses pile up like rubbish at the tip, and the opportunities slip away day by day, then there’s only one thing you need to hear:
Suck it up princess!
Just apply some common sense and say no to the bad and say yes to the good. You know which is which. You owe it to the people who care about you. And frankly, you owe it to yourself. So do something nice for the people that love you, and for yourself, they’ll appreciate it as much as you will. ASHLEY KRAMER