Is there enough time to get my blood work in order? I promised myself after last year's examination that I would become more diligent in the taking of my daily supplements. Of course that vow lasted just about as long as the one to finally run that 10K. I can only hope that cramming One-A-Days, B12, Ds, and calcium pills down my throat for 14 straight days might just stave off my chronic anemia and Vitamin D deficiencies. But, we all know that there is a fine line between hope and delusion.
I can't eat that popcorn tonight. The salt might cause me to retain water and push the scale up a pound or two. I haven't indulged as much as I would like in my favourite chocolate. The calories ingested would take too much effort on the treadmill to shed. I am not sleeping properly because I am too stressed, and I am too stressed because I am not sleeping properly. Exam anxiety? Just like my old school days. I really do need help.
In seriousness, I am actually quite conscientious about my yearly physicals and the adjacent tests (mammograms, blood tests etc..) that go along with it. But just like everybody else, I allow myself to fall into habits that are either easier or far more pleasurable-hence my dependence on chocolate and Diet Coke. That said, there is a great deal of significance that accompanies these annual doctor visits. As I age, I worry more that things won't always be ok. I worry that I am breaking down slowly but surely. I know that I need to work harder at maintaining my health even though it gets easier to ignore it.
Judaism has a great deal to say about what I like to call these "well baby" visits. In Deuteronomy 4:15 we read the words v'nishmartem meod l'nafshotechem. "Be extremely protective of your lives."
Maimonides, himself a physician, declared: "Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of God - for one cannot understand or have any knowledge of the Creator if one is ill - therefore one must avoid that which harms the body and accustom oneself to that which is helpful and helps the body become stronger." (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deot 4:1)
Finally we have the teachings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, in his book Horeb: "You may not in any way weaken your health or shorten your life. Only if the body is healthy is it an efficient instrument for the spirit's activity....Therefore you should avoid everything which might possibly injure your health.... And the law asks you to be even more circumspect in avoiding danger to life and limb than in the avoidance of other transgressions." (Horeb, Chapter 62, Section 428)
We are instructed by our tradition to keep the body healthy and whole so that we may better understand God and God's world. Ok! So I don't always do it well. I should exercise more often and more strenuously. I should certainly take my vitamins on a semi-regular basis, and I should absolutely drink less Diet Coke, but I can also take comfort that I am trying. I have made a more conscious effort in my diet. My vegetarian menu has become second nature and it has had the added side benefit of making me more aware of everything that I eat. I have cut my junk food consumption dramatically (Younger Son joked the other day that there are more popcorn seasonings in the house then there is meat in the freezer for him!) and I eat mostly fresh and local products, chocolate notwithstanding. I am really trying to get a full night's sleep, but some things must be taken in baby steps. My stress levels? Give me a break! Type As don't cure themselves overnight. I realize that I can't fix an entire year of suspect health habits in a three week cram session, but I can hope that following tomorrow's examination the good doctor will proclaim me fit enough for another year of debauchery and decadence. I think that I might celebrate with Diet Coke!