For nearly twenty years now, I have kept track of my life with one of those time-management systems (Franklin-Covey, to be exact). I like being able to track how I spent my days, and there are other components to this system, such as tracking money, auto servicing, and projects, that I haven’t found anywhere else. I like, too, that it’s a two-page-per-day system; I can keep track of appointments and Things to Do on one page, and on the facing page, make notes about those appointments, or about the events of my life. (I could wish that the Appointment section were less detailed – I can think of other things to put in that space – but that’s just me.)
One of the lesser benefits of this particular system is that each day has a quote at the top of the Notes page. I say “lesser” because sometimes, those quotes are in direct opposition to my own philosophy of life, and I find myself composing tirades to someone who will never read them, clearly a waste of time. Today’s quote, however, is the inspiration for today’s post:
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them; I shall use my time.” — Jack London
I’m not actually a fan of Jack London’s Survival-of-the-Fittest writings, but this really struck a chord with me. People who have known me awhile will remember the horrors of my 2006 surgery, about which I will only say, I have not known a day without pain since that time. (There are blog posts related to it, beginning in August 2006, if you’re curious.) What sticks with me from that time, though, is the memory of one of the visiting nurses, who, having reviewed my treatment plan, snarkily added, “And were we considering some Lifestyle Changes?”
Now…I’m fat. I know it. I’ve been fighting it since before I should have been fighting it, thanks largely to a mother with body-image problems; in my early twenties, I weighed 95 lbs., and she still thought I was fat. Now I weigh considerably more than that, and there’s no question: Even by the most generous measurement standards, I’m fat. I also know that, given the standards of Orthodox eating, it cannot possibly be related to overeating; even if you pig out on vegetables and fruits, how many calories can you possibly be consuming?! And my own husband, who’s thin as a rail, has had to concede that he doesn’t understand why I am as fat as I am, now that he’s retired and has seen how I eat.
And I’ve gotten The Looks from doctors when I describe Orthodox fasting practices, the ones that say, “Yeah, right, Fatty.” I’m at the point where I carry an Orthodox pocket calendar and a copy of the fasting guidelines to every medical appointment, and when I whip ’em out, the only possible reaction is the one I get these days: “Wow, that’s a lotta fasting.” (It works out to about half a year, give or take a few days.)
So when Nurse Snarky came out with her comment, I made one of the stupidest remarks of my life: “Don’t even go there.” Needless to say, the relationship deteriorated from that point on. Now, though, I know what I should have said:
“Lifestyle changes?! Oh, yeah, I am so there! You’re not kidding! It’s time for some major changes! And for starters, I’m gonna go back to eating dessert! Hey, all these years of never having ice cream or a lousy piece of birthday cake have obvioiusly not done me any good at all, so what the heck?! You only live once, and I’m not gonna live without ice cream anymore! And exercise?! Hey, walking a couple miles a day hasn’t done me any good in that regard, either, so you know what? I’m not gonna waste another second of my valuable time on exercise! I’m gonna park my butt in my favorite chair and read all the books I’ve been neglecting for exercise, and then I’m gonna stitch my fingers off on all the needlework projects I haven’t been able to get to because of all that stupid walking! Now, let’s Do It! Go Lifestyle Changes!”
Not entirely. I do actually enjoy walking, though not in the current subzero weather (although I understand that the Norwegians say, “There is no bad weather, there is only bad clothing,” in which case, my wardrobe needs a major overhaul). And dessert was never a part of our diet, anyway. Not to mention that for at least half the year, ice cream is off limits (no meat, no dairy during fasting periods).
But the point is this. You can do everything the medical people tell you to do: eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet, work out religiously, get all the standards checkups and tests, and generally spend your days on various medical appointments. Or you can decide what’s important for your life, and go out and do it. And frankly, what’s important for me is not preserving my life at all costs, but living it: reading those books, working that cross stitch, putting warm woollies on my family’s bodies, and most important of all, maintaining my spiritual life.
This last can, and does, involve long periods of sitting in a car, driving to and from church services; the services are never as long as the total amount of time spent driving. A doctor would be aghast. A nurse would think it sheer folly. But know this: No matter how much maintenance you put in on your body, eventually it will wear out, and you will die. The wisest use of your time, therefore, is to spend it on matters eternal, storing up experiences that “neither rust nor moth will consume” (Matthew 6:20), leaving behind a legacy that will follow you into eternity. In other words: LIVE.
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