FFS, I don’t deserve my health

Because of the blog people know a lot about the fitness-y things that I do. They say, “Oh you look great.” And that’s fine. I’ll take it. But then sometimes people go on to speculate that I am in such good health because of the fitness-y things that I do. “You take such good care of yourself!”

And then I turn red and think of nice ways to engage with the presumption that good health is worked for or deserved. Just like you can’t tell if a person is fit from how they look, you also can’t assume a person is healthy because they are doing physical activity.

In the scheme of things, I’m not that healthy. I’ve had my gall bladder out. In the course of the life of the blog, I’ve had thyroid cancer and had my thyroid removed. Both surgeries were fine. In some ways, no big deal, but still. I’ve got some osteoarthritis stuff going on too. I get a hacking cough that can last for weeks in the winter. Also, I’m visually impaired. Everything’s okay right now but I don’t feel like the healthiest person out there.

We actually have very little control over our health. You know that joke about having good parents being the most important thing you can do for your health. Genetics is huge.

Of course, get some exercise. Of course, eat your veggies. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink much. Stay connected with the world. Keep your brain working. There’s some stuff you can do that’s health promoting. But there are no guarantees.

In my post What does 74 look like? I wrote about luck, illness and disability, and aging. I talked about Jeff’s mother, one of the most healthy behaving people I’ve known and her death.

“I watched my mother-in-law go from being a happy, healthy, vibrant woman who loved hiking, swimming, and cross country skiing to bring someone who needed help with basic day to day activities in just a couple of years. The cause? ALS. Its cause isn’t known. Random genetic mutation? Doesn’t matter. Eating right and moving lots won’t prevent it.

If you saw me pushing her in a wheelchair and thought she was there because she made bad choices, you’d be wrong.”

We like to think we have control over our health. It’s good for us to believe that we do. It’s a useful lie. It motivates us to take charge of the tiny part of our health that is in our control. Yes, we can eat well and work out but there are no guarantees. I know you know this. But sometimes I think we forgot it.

This is a reminder.

Silhouette of a grim reaper, from a USA Today piece on out walking the reaper,

4 thoughts on “FFS, I don’t deserve my health

  1. Here’s the one that gets me – someone sees my physical activity and says, “Oh, that’s easy for you.” Or “I could never do what you do.” I’m an asthmatic. I have crazy mobility problems from walking on my toes for 40 years. When someone suggests that there is some magic I have that they don’t, it demeans both of us.

  2. You know I have lots to say about this (and do regularly!), but for now, two things:
    1) I was at the eye doctor, and I have to get some fancy glaucoma tests (it runs in my family and I’m suspect for it). I asked about contributors, etc., and in the course of discussion, the doc said to me, “…Oh but you’re fine, because you clearly take good care of yourself.” This was because I rode my bike to the appt and she saw the bike helmet on the chair next to me. Sigh. I’m going to blog about this soon (a topic you’ve blogged about, which bears further discussion).
    2) At a conference, someone said to me, “you don’t seem like an obese person to me” . It was in context, but I was still taken aback. I asked why. The person said, “well, you move easily, like an athletic person, and not like a large-sized person.” Hmmm. Again, lots of unpacking is needed here to figure out what’s going on. This person was super-sensitive, is aware of fat-shaming talk and was honestly trying to figure out the source of their intuition, so it was more thought-provoking than anything else. But still, there are some social stereotypes busy at work here.

    Thanks for posting!

  3. “Healthy” is situational and often very superficial.
    Today I am active, fairly fit and generally content. I eat well. I sleep well.

    4 years ago i was more active, fitter and clinically depressed and drinking myself to death.

    From the outside I looked healthy in both circumstances.

    1. If you ever decide you’d like to share your story on the blog we’d love to have you guest post.

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