Day 429: This Blog Has No Pictures
Monday, January 14, 2013
A long, long time ago, back in my salad days when I was two-and-twenty, I smoked. A lot.
I grew up in a tobacco-growing state, and cigarettes were a cheap commodity - often cheaper than food. When I started smoking (and it was after I graduated high school, so I was old enough to know better) a carton of cigarettes cost $2.20. Yes, you read that right. Even at 1970s minimum wage, that was peanuts.
I was good about annual check-ups with the family doc, and somewhere in that era he was after me to quit smoking.
"Don't you know what you're doing to your lungs?"
I probably heaved a dramatic sigh.
"Yeh, yeh, I know, black with tar, coated in gunk, etc etc etc."
"Tell you what: how about I arrange for you--"
I remember this clearly. In an instant, I flashed to the certainty he was going to set me up for a chest x-ray, so he could actually show me cloudy patches or something in my lungs.
"--to tour one of the emphysema and lung cancer wards?"
Oh - Em - Gee. "Um, no, thank you, no, really, I have a pretty good idea..."
I did have a pretty good idea. I'd seen plenty of gruesome pictures, and read those early reports and "the surgeon-general warnings," and I knew far too many "old people" (probably younger than I am now) who were slowly but surely hacking their lives away.
Did I quit?
I did not.
I quit when I had my children, and I stayed quit (as it were) for several years.
Then, what with one thing and another - separation, back to work, nerves and screwy eating patterns and whatever - I started in again, not quitting for good until just before I came to the UK.
And the reason I quit was because cigarettes had become even more expensive here than they were (are, perhaps) in the US. I didn't want to give up the habit - I much preferred to think of it as a habit of choice, rather than an addiction - but I hated the idea of setting fire to a sawbuck daily.
Health didn't convince me to quit; money convinced me to quit.
Now, the thing is, you don't have to have tobacco to survive. It's not a basic necessity, like food, water, shelter, warmth. You actively have to seek it out, and these days, you might have to work even harder at seeking out places to indulge.
But if you don't buy tobacco products, you can bypass them. You can exist in smoke-free environments, you can forbid them in your home, you can avoid them totally, or near enough.
You can't do that with food.
You have to - HAVE TO - control it. You have to control the menu, the purchase, the preparation, the meal schedule, the amount...
I'd like to say "Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, all over."
Of course, it's never over.
Every day, each and ever' blessed day, I have to get up and do it all over again.
In the kitchen, fixing breakfast, waiting for the hot water to boil for tea:
--Grapes. Grapes in the bowl.
Take a drink of water.
--Bananas. One banana. Half a banana.
C'mon, water, boil...
--Just this morning, just this once - granola, there's granola in the cupboard.
C'mon, water, BOIL--!!!
And on it goes.
Lunch. Supper. Evening. Bedtime.
Measure. Weigh. Calculate. Portion - portion - portion.
And why? why do I do it?
Health didn't convince me to change. Fear convinced me to change.
At 22, I wasn't afraid of lung cancer or emphysema or COPD. Who, me? Not me. I'm gonna live forever.
But at 55, I became deathly afraid of going blind. Of requiring dialysis. Of losing a limb - remember Totie Fields, the comedienne? I suddenly realized the possibility of heart attack or stroke was very, very real.
There are a lot of people, both in my real life and here on Spark, who praise my (shall we say) recovery.
They say things like "Oh, I wish I had your willpower!" and "I need to lose weight, but I wouldn't have your determination!" and "I should use you as my example! But I just can't give up--" chocolate or soda or potato chips or candy or nachos or MickeyD's or...
Yeh. I know. Me too.
But when you're presented with choice-of-two, instead of the huge buffet spread - when your two choices come down to "sight" or "blindness," "walking" or "wheelchair," "active" or "bedridden," I figure the choice is simple.
There are so many people who draw an unlucky hand. They end up with heart disease, or lose their sight, or develop renal failure, not through having made unhealthy choices but simply because.
While I can still make that choice, every day. Each and ever' blessed day.
I choose health.
You can too.