It’s not often that you can identify a life changing moment as it happens. Maybe that’s for the best. Imagine knowing that you were going to be producing a new life with your act of lovemaking, or changing the career of a student with your seemingly innocent comment about how they are a brilliant speaker or writer; I think many of us would get cold feet and bail to know that a life was going to be changed by your action. And maybe this moment isn’t the start of something new for me, that instead it’s a momentary flash of inspiration, like New Year’s Eve. Something that gets one motivated to start afresh and then peters out by mid-January.
Yet, here’s the thing: If I don’t change, my life will change for the worse and soon. If I do change, my life will change for the better for now and I’ll prolong the inevitable for maybe an extra five, ten or maybe fifteen years. It’s not much, but what that decade may bring! The memories I can have with my children, while they are still children. The lives I can impact as a teacher, while I can still teach. The spontaneous moments I can have with my wife, while I don’t have to plan ahead. These things and so much more I can still accomplish easily, and it’s the foreshadowing of the loss of these that has caused me to reconsider my life.
For those who know me, they know I have a couple of health issues I have been dealing with. I have a pair of auto-immune conditions that, mathematically speaking, are not rare for those who suffer from an autoimmune disease, but is fairly uncommon among the general population. I have both Ankylosing Spondylitis, which effects the spine and joints, and Crohn’s Disease, which targets the digestive tract. About 10% who have one have the other, as they are often linked due to their connection with the immune system and the bacteria that grows in the gut, which often effects inflammation. Feel free to read up on the conditions at www.spondylitis.org and www.ccfa.org, I have neither the heart nor patience to repeat information more easily accessed and explained there. Either way you look at it, there are anywhere from two hundred and fifty thousand to nearly four hundred thousand people in these United States with my set of conditions, which works out to be .0008-.0011 percent of the country. This, of course means very little to all of you, but what it means to me is something very different. It means that not a whole lot of effort is being spent researching ways to fix the problems of so few. There are medicines to take to reduce symptoms, there are exercises to do to increase flexibility, but hope of a cure is dim and procedures to fix the problems I face are often worse than the initial problems.
Today, I was told that in five to ten years, given the lifestyle I lead, I can probably expect to have a significant part of my spine surgically fused and one, if not both, of my hips replaced. My Gram had her hips replaced a few years back and she’s fine, but she’s 92, and she doesn’t have young children to chase after, to play with, to teach how to ride a bike or wrestle on the floor with. She does not have a job where you spend most of it on your feet and dealing with kids half your age. But she did it, and she’s 92, and can still eat me under the table on most days. I can do it too, but at what cost?
This is where my next Epoch has come in, in the words “…given the lifestyle I lead.” The lifestyle I lead. I lead. I have been a fat man my whole life. I was born 10 lbs, 4 oz (sorry mom) and I haven’t looked back since.
I can honestly say that in my thirty-eight years, there was maybe two years that I was not “obese,” though I have rarely regretted it. I have often wished to be thinner, but I rarely regretted being a big man. I enjoy life, I eat and drink and live big because to do otherwise would be a disservice to life. But to be honest, I haven’t exactly “lived big.” I have lived well, but not big. I have never had the motivation to live truly big. I take life as it comes, enjoy it thoroughly and rarely regretted it. But enjoying life without balance has come home to roost. Given the lifestyle I lead, I may not be able to play with my grandchildren, assuming I live to see them. Given the lifestyle I lead, I may not be able to help my youngest daughter learn how to ride a bike or play soccer. Given the lifestyle I lead, I may have to quit the profession I worked my ass off to get into. Given the lifestyle I lead, I may not be able to be the husband I should be to my wife. These things I will regret.
I cannot let this happen. There is still time to make a change. And while it may only delay the inevitable, there is still time. Time to enjoy those memories-yet-to-be, those spontaneous moments other’s take for granted. I may never be able to ride a roller coaster again, to feel the wind and shearing forces play upon my person, nor be able to look up at the sky at night without laying on my back first, or play a sport more rigorous than softball for fear of injuring my back, but I can still do many things and I can do them better yet. I will do them better. For my children. For my wife. For my grandchildren yet to be conceived (and better not for a long time, Sophia). And for myself.
Today, I start a new journey. It’s not going to be pretty; I am going to fall and stumble, I am going to want to quit, but I cannot. I simply cannot fail.
I can do more than survive, I can live. And I’ll do it big.
Just not as fat.