Saturday, February 4, 2012

William Ernest Henley Got It Right

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’ve wished I had a crystal ball so I would know what the future held.  But I don’t simply want a crystal ball.  Since I’m a bit of a control freak I’ve also wished I had the power to change the future.  Because what’s the point of looking into the future if you can’t change what you don’t like?  If my crystal ball would have shown me Dean’s pillow was going to look like this after I washed it I would have chosen to leave it alone and let him continue to add to the drool stains.  (Not really.  It was disgusting.  I would have thrown it out and bought a new one, which, as it turns out, I did anyway.  But if I’d had a crystal ball I could have saved myself the messy cleanup.)

I know there are a lot of things we can’t control.  Leslie and Abby didn’t choose to be born to a father who wears socks with his sandals and a mother who has no inkling about how to apply makeup, no fashion sense, and thinks a dressy hairdo just means wearing a fancy pony tail holder.  But they can (and do) control whether or not their father wears those socked sandals in public with them. 

Even though there are so many things we can’t control or change, there are a lot of things we can.  What I don’t understand is why, when we have that capability, we choose not to use it.  I started thinking about this because recently I ran into a guy I’d first gotten to know when Dean and I played adult league soccer with him way back when our bodies actually did what we told them to do.   He’s not much older than I am and when I saw him, he was supporting himself by leaning on a counter as plastic nose tubes fed oxygen to his lungs from the tank on his back.  I really like the guy and it made me sad to remember him running on the soccer field but see him now with an oxygen tank.   It made me wonder if he’d had a crystal ball and the power to change his future, would he have given up smoking a long time ago?  Or not began smoking at all? 

 I know smoking’s an addiction and it’s not easy to quit.  Well, I don’t really know because I’ve never done it so I’ve never experienced the ordeal of trying to quit, but I just don’t get it.  If a person has the choice to do something which has been proven to lengthen their life, to improve the quality of their life, to save themselves and the people who love them from unnecessary suffering, why don’t they make that choice?

 I know in the early days of smoking people didn’t know there would be health consequences associated with it but they do now.  I remember the day my dad came home and showed my mom the warning label on his pack of Lucky Strikes.  He has since quit smoking but it was years later.  He must have had a crystal ball moment because he came home one day, threw his pack of cigarettes in his dresser drawer and he quit.  He quit with nothing but willpower.  And I’m proud of him for doing it. 

But people don’t have to do it completely on their own anymore.  There are support groups.  There are nicotine patches and gum and now there’s even medication to help them quit.   I just do not understand why anybody who smokes wouldn’t take advantage of them BEFORE they reach the oxygen tank stage.   
I don’t have a clue how smoking makes people feel or how strong the cravings must be when they try to quit.  And maybe I’m going to make any smokers who actually read this mad, but you know what?  I don’t care.  What I care about is YOU my few blog readers and my friends and my family.  I don’t want you to walk around with an oxygen tank on your back.  Or struggle for breath in a hospital bed.  Or die well before your time.  Don’t you think that will be hard for me?  Don’t you think that will be stressful for me?  Don’t you think that will make ME feel horrible?

Even I, the control freak, know there are some things I can’t control.  I know that people sometimes get lung cancer even if they’ve never smoked.  I know some people have heart attacks even though they’ve eaten healthy and exercised.  Sometimes bad things just happen for no reason.  But pay attention we CAN control some things.  And one of the most important things we can control is the choices we make.   We all make choices every day that affect not only ourselves but the people around us.  If you looked into your crystal ball and saw that next Tuesday you were going to be killed in a car accident because you were distracted by texting or talking on your cell phone, wouldn’t you choose to use a Bluetooth or better yet, just not talk or text on your phone while you were driving?  If you looked at the weight on your scale and then looked into your crystal ball and saw you were going to have a heart attack just as you were reeling in “the big one”, wouldn’t you choose to lose some weight and eat healthier?  If you looked into your crystal ball and saw yourself wheezing whenever you walked, or carrying an oxygen tank around on your back everywhere you went, wouldn’t you throw your cigarettes into a dresser drawer?  Maybe I’m just naïve but it seems to me, even without a crystal ball, the choice is obvious.

The thing is, we all have the power to change our future.  We have choices.  Nobody needs a crystal ball to know what their future is going to hold if it includes smoking … or overeating … or not exercising … or drinking too much … or doing things that just aren't safe.  But when I know somebody has had the opportunity to make a choice which would drastically improve the rest of their life, and probably the lives of their family and friends, and yet chooses not to take it, I get mad.  Really mad.  Have I made you mad?  I hope so.  I hope I've made you so mad you'll throw your cigarettes in a drawer.  I hope I've made you so mad you'll go to a support group or get the medication to help you quit.  I hope I've made you so mad you'll join weight watchers or a gym or take dance lessons or just go for walks.  I hope I've made you so mad you'll stomp on your cell phone until it’s in tiny bits on the sidewalk … unless it’s an iPhone, of course.  Smashing an iPhone would just be sacrilegious.

I know nobody is going to lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more, wear a seatbelt, or stop talking on their cell phone while they’re driving just because I’ve ranted about it.   Nobody’s going to do it for me.   I just don’t understand why anybody wouldn’t want to do it for themselves.  And it breaks my heart.   I know.  I know.  I’m preaching.  I’m sanctimonious.  But I’m not really.  Okay, I’m preaching, but I’m not really sanctimonious.   What I really am is selfish.   I want my friends and family to stay around as long as I plan to.  And I need somebody to read this blog.  My life-expectancy calculator  told me I would live until I’m somewhere between 95 and 105 years old.  (And if it’s on the internet it has to be true, right?)  So damn it!  Be the master of your fate.   Because when I’m somewhere between 95 and 105 years old I’ll be wanting some company.   And I’m pretty sure if I make it to 105 years old ... I might even need some help.



Art Elser said...

Well done, Cathy. Now if I can just get one of those smokers who knows better to read this. ;-( But it wouldn't do any good. She knows--she's a nurse--but the addiction is too strong and the will to stop not there yet.

I'm one of those who quit drinking 25 years ago, like your dad did, just stopped because it was ruining my family. And I exercised, ate healthfully, and kept my weight about where it should be and still had the big heart attack. So I'm really thankful each morning when I wake up and see a new morning.

I'll try to hang on and be around when you're 95--don't think I can make 105 with you because I'm a dozen years older than you now. Keep writing funny blogs because laughter will help lots of your readers keep going. And maybe an occasional rant like this one to remind them to live well. :-)

Good job, Cathy.

PS My word verification today on your blog is "alsongs" which is weird because Al really doesn't sing well any more. Used to in Middle School and then his voice changed. :-)))))))

deano said...

Being with Shadow the last few hours was the toughest. She could only lie still to avoid coughing and I had to stay close and not move much to try to keep her from moving to stay close to me.

Jerry said...

When I quit smoking I had a sore thoat and they did not taste good, after a couple of days your mother noticted the ash trays were still clean and ask why, when I told her she took all of them out of the house, and in her own way informed me DON'T START AGAIN. She had her way off getting the point across. I didn't like the price of a pack when I quit in 1968, don't know what I would do today with the cost of them. Maybe quit buying a new car every year?

deano said...

I guess my first comment was a little obtuse. Me excuse is that I was thinking about losing that darn dog that I haven't quite got over yet. Anyway, I neglegted to say that being with Shadow at the end was tough because what took her was lung cancer. I hope not to have to witness that kind of struggle again with a family member or friend.

emily said...

It must be in the genes because I smoked in college (bad emily! bad!), After i entered the "real world" and left stressful school, over the course of a year or two Ro and I both found we slowly stopped smoking and they simply taste... terrible.

I also wasn't drinking as much. Maybe there's a relationship there.