Are you a pretty healthy person?” asked a helpful nurse on the other end of the telephone after listening to the rundown of influenza-like symptoms I’d been dealing with. My response on that cold afternoon a few months ago was an immediate “Yes,” and she moved on.
I was feeling so miserable that I didn’t dwell on that question in the moment and went back to bed as soon as I hung up the phone. But as I recovered over the next several days, I began thinking about it, and I realized that being healthy is something I’d once again started taking for granted.
I say “once again” because before my nephew Bryce was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder in 2013 (you can read more about that at “About a Boy“), I had taken for granted how lucky I was to be healthy and fit. I had several family members and friends who had been diagnosed with cancer and other chronic conditions. Yet it wasn’t until Bryce got sick that it hit me how fleeting health can be. I wrote about it in an Experience Life blog post at that time:
If you’re like me, you probably go about many of your days not giving a second thought to how fortunate you are to be able to breathe, move, and just be without some physical barrier or chronic illness standing in the way; without thinking about all the amazing things happening within our bodies every second of every day that allow us to keep on keeping on; without remembering that during those 40 weeks in utero and those crucial first years of development, millions of things went right.
In the midst of a health crisis facing someone very dear to me, I’ve been reminded that health is not a given. My nephew’s sudden and as-of-yet undiagnosed illness has been a wake-up call to be grateful for my good health, and that of my husband, children, and the vast majority of the people I know and love.
A health crisis puts a lot of things into perspective, while at the same time shifting everything in a profound way. It’s a reminder that while there are some situations out of my or anyone’s control, there are things we can do to keep ourselves and those around us safe and healthy.
More than four years after learning Bryce’s condition was terminal, I found myself once again being complacent about my health status. It’s amazing how the passage of time can make you forget — and how a simple question can remind you that, to this point, you’ve been very fortunate.
That conversation with the nurse prompted me to take a closer look at my personal approach to health: how I exercise and move my body, what I eat to nourish myself, and whether I make adequate time for self-care, relaxation, sleep, and social connections. It made me realize I was forcing some things more than I was enjoying them (my fitness routine, for instance), and it made me take a closer look at how I was spending my time.
It made me want to pursue the things that truly feel good (e.g., yoga) and help me stay healthy. So that’s what I’m focused on these days.
Sometimes a reality check in the form of a question is all it takes to open us up to new ways of thinking. This issue is full of them, including insights on our addictive devices (“Tech Fix“) and ideas for moving more (“16 Ways to Move More”). My hope is that just one of them will offer you a fresh perspective and inspire you to take even a small step toward greater health and well-being.
This originally appeared as “Timely Reminders” in the April 2018 print issue of Experience Life.