I want to feel profound in these last days before I leave Santa Fe for a while. Instead, all I feel is cranky, what my friend Judy calls crabby. I am in a pissy, pissy frame of mind and not sure of what to blame.
Could it be my impending 65th birthday? Even though I am overjoyed to be on Medicare in 7 days, my health insurance costs cut in half, along with the out of pocket expenses I have any time I go to the doctor and the monthly drain on my bank account for the three prescriptions I take, one of which is name brand and cost me right at $100 each month, could I be a little mournful and angry that I’m having the really big one in just over two weeks? Plenty of people have advice concerning the alternative.
It could be all of the work waiting for me in Texas—a garden that I’ve neglected for the entire summer, that too-large gathering of it-might-as-well-be-dead inventory that lingers on the back of the barn, in my friend Jim’s barn, in another friend’s shop, or the challenge of managing the results of my more serious treasure hunt for all of these years.
Perhaps it’s the diet—excuse me, eating program—that I’ve been on for two months. I’ve dropped 16 pounds, just about 10 percent of my body weight, on the advice of my new health care professional, who determined in an otherwise sterling array of results from the four vials of blood—I had to lie down for it to be drawn—that I am borderline diabetic. “We can control this with diet,” he advised, and so I went on the South Beach diet. The first two weeks were rigid—no fruit, not even the things that one ordinarily eats on so-called healthful diets, like whole grains, and of course, no alcohol. I dropped eight pounds right away. I’ve continued making progress, but over the last two weeks, I gained back one pound, four ounces of the 16 hard-won pounds. That did piss me off, yes. I blame the solid week of cocktail hour since my New York neighbors have been in Santa Fe for Indian market. Maybe it was the Black Diamond cheddar on Triscuits, my snack of choice, at a couple of these soirees.
Maybe I haven’t been as committed to my two brisk miles each day. Am I bored with the various routes I’ve adopted over the last four months? I’ve hiked only once since my friend Dick and I made the giant haul from 10,000 feet at the trailhead of Aspen Vista, all the way to the top—12,045 big ones. I would have come up short if he hadn’t urged me on.
Modest loss of momentum as I move toward those three more pounds notwithstanding, I’m down more than three inches in the waist. After one premature move to buy shorts that don’t look like Jared of Subway fame—shorts, though two inches smaller, are now too big as well—I’ve decided to wait for the fall clearance at the GAP, or even the much-hated Wal-Mart. What about all those pairs of khakis and winter corduroys hanging in my closet? Do I invest in alterations, or just accept that I’m now limited to the Wrangler and Carhartt jeans I haven’t worn for a couple of years, which I can pull down over my hips if they’re not girted up with a belt.
Maybe I just wish it were all easier. Here I go again. I didn’t build my messy habits over night. Food, alcohol, treasure hunting, conspicuous consumption, even though modest by comparison to others I know—some of life’s great pleasures—become the enemy. And interestingly, the real hunger that wants to be sated goes unmet. I received as a gift when I joined St. Bede’s Episcopal Church here in June a small book titled THE PRAYING LIFE Seeking God in All Things. One of the essays has really smacked me in the face. The author, Deborah Smith Douglas, recalls the words of early 20th century French philosopher, Simone Weil. “Sometimes…we are in danger of starving to death not because there is no bread but because we think we are not hungry.” (p. 53)
Here I am losing weight because my doctor says I must in an effort to avert disaster. I’m celebrating making it to my 65th, only because it means that health costs might become a little less onerous for me. Yes, no, yin, yang, life. Meanwhile, we’re all starving, one way or another. As I lay awake at 2:30 this morning, I prayed thank you, thank you, thank you, and yes, help me. Help me with my crabbiness, help me see the sky through hooded eyes, help me say “yes”, and sometimes “no” in my own best interest. On the eve of my departure for my Texas home, thank you for yet another opportunity to get my priorities straight.
Consider the Alternative—Santa Fe, New Mexico (August 25, 2008)
R. Harold Hollis