What is strikingly hilarious to me at times is how I have come to be regarded by people as a health advocate (by some), or annoying health nut (by more, including my family). I have made it my passion and my calling to promote healthy living and to provide resources on how to do it.
The absurdity comes from the fact that for most of my life I have been about as far from healthy as a first-world person could be. I smoked cigarettes long after it stopped being cool. In fact, the last time I smoked is so embarrassingly not long ago that I am in denial - surely I quit before that? Okay, yes I quit (twenty-five times) but I would still, in moments of too much wine or too much stress, sneak over to the last remaining smoker neighbor's house to bum one. It really wasn't until he quit that I finally relented completely. And it wasn't until we went to Europe three years ago and the smoke bothered me, that I knew I was no longer a smoker.
And, then there is the wine. While you do hear occasionally that one glass of red wine has health benefits, you never hear that white wine has any. I have investigated this thoroughly and can affirm this is true. In fact, there are years when I believe white wine made up the base of my food pyramid.
When wine wasn't my main source of nutrition, I lived the healthy life of a vegetarian. A vegetarian means french bread and brie cheese. French fries are also vegetarian. So is pizza if you put vegetables on it.
Thank God for my children. If I hadn't had the sheer panic of motherhood thrown on me, I am sure I would look like the lady who hangs out by the gas station where I pump gas. I'm not sure if she works there, or if she has deemed herself some unofficial smoker-greeter, or what her deal is. But there she is, waving at me and talking through her exhale and wrinkles every time I stop to fill up, reminding me of my alter-future.
I am also banking on the fact that for the first twelve years of my life my mother controlled what went into my body, and she did not believe in Kool-aid or Ding Dongs. We had vegetables with every meal and sugar cereal only on vacation. If I cobble these years together with my pregnancies and new health turn-around, I am at almost half of my 40 years without massive disease-causing behavior.
So, when people look at me like, "Well, easy for her," I want to spit out my herbal tea. The reason I am so anxious to share my knowledge with others is because I have the enthusiasm of a new convert. I am like the convict who finds Jesus and becomes a preacher. It is a conversion. This entire happy, healthy universe existed parallel to mine for all this time and I finally found it. Hell yes, I want to tell other people about it. But what I really want to say is, "If I can do it, any of you unhealthy jokers can!"
I entitled this Blog entry "Be Brave" because I looked down on my desk as I began typing and saw a pin Jonathan Odell, author of The Healing and Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League, left on my table after he stayed at The Homestead last week. I know change of any kind is scary. Personal change may be the scariest of all. I'm not sure why we are designed to want the very things that harm us. It seems like we ought to have an auto-reject button built in. I think the steps get easier after the first. I don't think much change happens overnight or without a few steps forward, a few steps back. But I do know it is possible, even for the most incorrigible. I'm sending you the courage to take that first step, whatever yours may be.