So, a funny thing happened on the way to update my blog. I’d met my NaNoWriMo word count; however, for the first time since I started participating in the annual writing challenge, I didn’t actually finish the story. Why? Well I didn’t know at that time. All I knew was that I was feeling pretty drained which isn’t uncommon when you write at breakneck speed to get 50,000 words in 30 days. I kept a good momentum throughout, I was having a blast writing the story I chose to pursue this year, and sharing that story with some good friends; however, even with all that I still didn’t feel so hot.
I dismissed it though, figured it was allergies or some head cold or sleep deprivation or a combination of all those things. Something was making me feel like ass and I figured it would get tired of fucking with me, quit, and move on eventually. It was December, I was done with NaNoWriMo for the year, I had a pile of books I wanted to read, I wanted to get back to my Dungeons & Dragons game, and I wanted to spend time with the family for the holidays — eat, drink, be merry… you know: the usual.
Something was wrong though. That feeling of malaise wouldn’t go away. Here in San Antonio we have an abundance of juniper trees; we locals (locos?) call them “mountain cedars” despite the fact that the trees in question are not related to actual cedars… it’s a Texas thang, y’all. Anyway… juniper asherii pollinates in the winter (well, what we consider a winter in south central Texas) and just assaults people with its dense and insidious pollen. I mean, look at this stuff:
This year was particularly severe, and I’m particularly sensitive. That ill feeling must have been due to the ridiculous amount of mountain cedar pollen in the air. That’s where I laid the blame. I felt like complete dog shit: I had no energy, I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t breathe through my nose, my eyes and throat were constantly irritated, my brains felt like mush from lack of comfortable sleep… but I figured as soon as the pollen died down I’d get to feeling better.
I was wrong. There was something else going on, and deep down inside I knew it but I was too chicken to admit it to myself.
Back in 2008 I had a medical problem that required me to see a urologist (I won’t go into gory details), and I was told at that time by the doctor I saw that I had to lose weight, ditch the smokes, and get healthy or I was going to pay the consequences later. Did I listen?
Surprisingly, I did… for a little while anyway, but especially after a blood pressure scare the following year. Over the next couple of years I did the typical dietary see-saw, but I lost a little bit of weight and felt pretty decent overall. I got overconfident though, and eventually got myself into a backslide. Put this information on the shelf for just a moment, we’ll come back to it.
In 2012 I decided to quit smoking (finally), but knowing myself the way I know myself I decided that while I worked on quitting tobacco I wouldn’t otherwise restrict myself. I wanted to make the smoking cessation stick and I knew that if I tried to pile on all sorts of other restrictions along with that, I’d fail at all of them. No smoking, that was the plan — everything else was fair game. In the smoking cessation literature they mention the fact that, after six or so weeks of quitting smoking, your taste buds regain the sensitivity they lost while you pummeled them with all the nasty shit in American cigarettes (chemicals, pesticides, additives… very little actual tobacco); however, they don’t tell you the intensity of the sensation you regain. It was like tasting everything anew. Things you find tasty become even more so, and I wasn’t restricting myself so I indulged… and indulged… and indulged.
Quitting smoking also gave me a bit of the blues, and I got really lethargic and a bit depressed — it was a horrible habit no doubt, I see that now, but at the time I was saying goodbye to a companion of just over 21 years. My cigarettes had been with me through thick and thin, and now I was dumping them after all they’d done for me… of course not taking into account what they’d done to me… I was bummed and I didn’t want to get up off my sorry ass and do stuff. I became a slug. Okay, you can now pull the info off the shelf which I asked you to place there a paragraph back.
The backslide didn’t start with the smoking cessation, but that’s when it hit its apex; convenience started the backslide, and it’s a danger to us all. No, I’m not going to turn this into one of those prescriptive cautionary tales where I tell you that you have to change your evil ways now… that’s up to you… you have to decide how you will live your life. I’m putting this here for strictly anecdotal purposes — you do with it what you will. Anyway… we all know this part of the tale, the part where you’re always on the go and where you never seem to have enough time to do… well… anything. We all tend to make our worst decision in these time crunches, and purveyors of conveniences do not (I repeat, DO NOT) have our best interests in mind. Still, it’s not their fault. They only make the shit available, we make the decision… I made the decision… to buy it: fast food, fried food, extra cheese, massive portions after skipped meals, general laziness, you name it because you know it. There’s no mysteries here, and I knew it all along… I had already received my specific caution because I happen to be one of those unfortunate bastards who carries all of his weight in his abdomen… an instant recipe for disaster.
I felt awful, deep down inside I knew why, but I kept lying to myself about it. It was easier to say, “it’s allergies,” “it’s lack of sleep.” It was easier to square the malaise with a little denial, but the hammer came down and suddenly I wasn’t able to lie to myself anymore. On March 31st I went to the doctor and was not particularly surprised by the diagnosis: on the cusp of Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and a cholesterol level that could kill a horse. I weighed 240 lbs, hands down the most I’ve ever weighed in my life.
I’ve spent the last month and a half putting myself back together again… losing weight, making better decisions about what I eat, laying way off the really bad stuff and focusing on more healthful options, getting my shit together to be sure. I was on a direct path to cardiac arrest, and hopefully I’m now in the process of averting that potential disaster. None of us get out of here alive, of course — pretty much the story ends the same way for us all… but that doesn’t mean that we should do anything to help the reaper, or to make it easier for him/her/it. That I will die some day is not in question, but that I will be an ass and hurry that eventuality along… well… lets just say I owe it to my wife and my daughters to keep myself around and in as best a condition as possible for a good while… plus, I can’t write if I’m dead…