Today, I ran to work. I love doing that. I call running and cycling to work “CUYOP” – commute under your own power – read more in my blog post on it, and check the hashtag activity on Twitter). It’s a great way to start the day because of how it can recenter your mind, give you a chance to think through a few things before the clutter of email, meetings, fires, etc get in the way. CUYOPing home is also great to clear out that bombardment before you are home with family so you can be a whole person for them.
Health Is Not a Mid Life Crisis
But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about health and the idea that it’s a mid-life crisis (by the way, if you haven’t heard it, listen to Faith No More’s song Midlife Crisis from their album Angel Dust). I spent today’s CUYOP run thinking about this idea, and felt compelled to write out my thoughts a bit. For me, I was an obese child and teenager who lost weight starting when I was 17. While I was never obese again, I regained too much of it and too many unhealthy habits as I crested my 20s and passed into my early 30s. When my wife became chronically ill, I looked at myself hard, and was very unhappy with what I had become again and what my son had as health role models in the two of us. July 1st, 2011 marked my change.
Someone looking from the outside could say that this was some sort of mid-life crisis. I was almost 33, so it might not have been quite at the mid-life mark, but then again, with several factors in how I was living, what I was eating, and how I was handling stress, it may well have been the mid-point of my life. Putting that detail aside, I’m just past 3 years into this new way of living, and have no desire of turning back to my old ways. I’ve not tired of being healthy, and have the same drive and profound reasons behind choosing health that I did before. I got healthy for my son, for my wife, and for me. I wasn’t happy, and wanted to be. My son needed a better example, and will continue to need that his entire life. My wife needs a husband who can be there for her until the end of time – just as I vowed to be when we got married. Those aren’t fleeting drivers, nor are they temporal, tied to being roughly half the age I’ll be when I die.
Now, there are two more reasons why health isn’t a mid-life crisis. First – and this is the MBA in me putting numbers first – is the math. While you could feasibly argue that I was at the mid-point of my life given how things were going, you can’t argue that anymore. That’s point is behind me. It’s not behind me beacuse I’m now over that mid-point. It’s behind me because it’s actually in front of me. I have complete confidence that my natural life expectancy (that is, my life expectancy without some catastropic event prematurely ending things for me) is far longer than it would be had I not made the shift. So, if I’m not at the mid-point of my life, then I can’t be in the midst of a mid-life crisis. I fully believe that I’m still pushing that end point out as my body does the amazing work it was built to do to care for and heal itself, righting many of the wrongs of earlier choices I had made. As evidence, during a recent physical for a new life insurance policy, my resting heart rate is now in the 40s. There’s evidence that living things have a natural number, if you will, of total heart beats they can have in a lifetime, and the number is surprisingly similar across species. When you account for speed of heart rate, you see that fruit flies have about as many beats as humans, bears, fish, etc. So, by lowering my heart rate (and not going too low, of course), I have extended the amount of ticking my clock has left to do.
The second reason is that mid-life crises are usually fleeting. You buy a car you shouldn’t buy to get in touch with your youth (though the car eventually is sold, traded or rots in the driveway). You quit your job (though you find another). You leave a relationship (but find another eventually). You go on some wild vacation (yet still return home). See? Fleeting. Temporary. You ‘return to sanity’ after getting the crisis out of your system. I’m over 3 years in, and have learned so many things about the choices I’ve made and the new choices I’m making that I can’t go back. “Can’t” is a bad word. How about “I don’t want to go back.” Or, “I couldn’t sanely go back knowing what I know now.” I don’t want to eat GMO foods. I don’t want to be over-exposed to pesticides. I don’t want to eat processed foods and feel miserable. I don’t want to sit around and do nothing active and feel tired, depressed and unhappy with my body. I don’t want my back to hurt from muscle degeneration. I don’t want my son to look at me and see me in anything but a positive, inspiring light, nor do I want him to look at me in a good light and follow my example when that example will result in health issues for him.
You could argue the impetus for such a change is a mid-life crisis. It wasn’t for me, but I could see how it could be for some. What I would say is, let’s ignore whether the impetus is fleeting, and find a lasting path of health. If it is fleeting, find one that endures (like being there for your children or loved ones – or yourself!), and stay on the path.
Like I say, people don’t change, lives do. Change once, for the better, and then maintain. That’s how you enlighten.your.body.