I recently went to the beach with some friends. We set up our umbrellas and chairs in a little circle about fifteen feet from the waves. The sky was a greyish blue, the sun peaking in and out of the clouds. Temperatures were perfect- not too humid, not too hot, not too cold. Light breeze. We sipped on water and adult beverages (sssh- don’t tell) and ate grapes from the cooler. Then the conversation opened: “When did you have your last colonoscopy?” Which was followed by various dates and measures and frequency. So the answer to the question “At what age do people start talking about their health, the amount of pills they take, and other medical related things” is 58.7, the average age of the people around our little circle.
I am now afraid to ask someone “How are you?” because I know I will probably not hear the response “Fine. And you?” I will probably get shown their portable pill case, which is fine and all, but not necessarily the topic I want to discuss at a cocktail party or beach outing.
Don’t get me wrong. I seriously care about the health of my friends. I truly do want to know how they are doing, what issues they are dealing with, and how they are treating them. But why do Doctor’s appointments have to become the opening line of conversation? Can’t we just go back to discussing the weather? “Wow. Can you believe all the rain we’ve had?” “I know. But at least it will stop the humidity.”
I know I’m fast approaching the age where health will become the major concern of my life. I know it will be the first thing I think about when it takes me 15 minutes to get out of bed. (Fun fact- the name of this blog came about when I realized that at 49 I was able to spring out of bed with the first sound of the morning M101 limited streaming up from the street, and at 50 I had to set the alarm ten minutes early not so I can snooze, but because it took me ten minutes to stretch and unlock all the joints needed to get out of bed) But…can’t we try to not have it be the very first thing we think about/discuss?
There is nothing bad about getting older. In fact, I’d rather get older than the other option. But age is a mindset. While we must learn to take proper care of our older bodies, and be on the lookout for new and interesting maladies, we can’t keep thinking about our health and it’s slow deterioration. It’s inevitable: our bodies will show signs of wear and tear. That doesn’t mean we have to be hyper focused on it.
So yes, read about health related issues. Go to the Doctor. Talk to your friends about what’s going on. Lead a healthy lifestyle. But on a beautiful day, when you’re sitting at the beach, just look at the ocean and think about how great it is to be alive. Cause that’s the thing- live while you’re alive. Find new things to talk about, and challenge yourself in different ways. Don’t think that because you have to watch heartrate or cholesterol level you must constantly focus on health related issues. that it becomes the main topic of conversation. Remember all the other things that make up who you are. Come up with a better opening line.
And just live life the best you can, no matter what age you are.