People go to the doctor and ask the wrong question: “What’s wrong with me?”
Hey, the doctor will always find something wrong with you if that’s what you ask for. If everyone were perfectly “healthy,” he wouldn’t be able to make payments on his BMW, his sailboat, or his ski chalet on Lake Louise. Doc will find something wrong with you, or at the very least he’ll have you running around for expensive tests for the next six months, desperately in search of some anathema, some condition, or optimistically some chronic ailment that will linger forever, never serious enough to do you in (which would kill the goose that’s laying all those golden insurance company payments) but just bad enough to require ongoing tests, procedures, drugs, treatments, operations, implants, and therapies for the next 70 years, if he’s really lucky. You make him very happy every time you show up in his office complaining of a new ache, wondering about a new mole, concerned about a dizziness the last time you ate rutabaga soup. “Perhaps you are allergic to rutabaga. We’ll need to do some tests. Come back next Tuesday and don’t eat or drink anything for 48 hours before you come, and we’ll see if you can still pee in a cup. If you’re feeling dizzy, have someone else drive. We wouldn’t want you to get into an accident on the way here.” (“Because then the emergency people will take you to the hospital and I won’t get any of my commissions.”)
No, the question you should be asking is: “What’s right with me?” None of us is perfect; even the most perfect looking people are constantly knocking one or another of their parts out of whack. You see these young kids, invincible, foolhardy, going hang-gliding, surfing, and rollerblading. Rock-climbing, high diving, bungee jumping. Sure, they start out in great shape, but when you’re always pushing the envelope, you keep getting paper cuts. They have their aches and pains too, but they don’t go running to the doctor every time they have a hangnail or a dislocated knee. They just have a shot of tequila, strap on a knee brace, and keep shushing and jumping and parasailing until there’s nothing left of them but a few pieces of dangling cartilage and an active Twitter account.
But when we get older, we know so many horror stories of perfectly healthy people who suddenly bit the dust after getting stung by a mosquito while they were on safari in Africa, or came up with a rare condition that required them to live on a diet of buckwheat groats and acai berries, that we begin to freak out every time we get a stomach ache from eating too much Mexican food. Hypochondria improves with age. But do you really want to wind up as a 95-year-old geezer who’s afraid to eat a fresh peach because he once knew a guy who choked on a pit? You can’t be afraid of life or you ain’t living. So I start out each day going over what’s right with me.
I sit up in bed and think, “Wow, this is pretty amazing. Victory number one of the day.” I count my fingers and toes and am happy to see that they all appear to be there, although with my eyesight, it’s sometimes difficult to determine the toes until I put on my glasses. Then it’s time to stand up. This can be a huge accomplishment on some mornings, so I’m really proud when I get to the top of my stature and look down and see how far I have managed to lift my head off the ground with my legs. A little wobbly at first, sure, but if I don’t fall over back into the bed, I know it’s going to be another great day.
I start counting my blessings. I’ve got a roof over my head, a little leaky in spots, but what the hell, someone needs to keep the roofers in business. The sun is still shining, the powers-that-be have managed to get through another night without blowing everything up in their never ending quest for more, more, more. I go to the bathroom and find I still have hot and cold running water in the shower. Guess I must have paid the utility bills on time again. I have electric lights and an electric fan to blow the steamy air out of the bathroom so I can see myself in the mirror. Still there! Damn, this is a good day. The man in the mirror is smiling. He still has many of this teeth! There are even a few hairs left on his head, at least on the sides of his head, which keep his ears from sticking out quite so far.
In the closet, there are dozens of shirts and pants to choose from, many of which still have all their buttons and working zippers and still fit around the waist, even when I sit down. These are not stiff, new, itchy clothes, either; these are time-worn, tried-and-true outfits, softened by years of wash and wear. I no longer feel as though I have to dress up to please anyone else, just to make sure my own big butt feels comfortable. What a luxury this is! I am so much luckier than a king or a president, who always is thinking about his appearance, which important event he must attend today, all the photographers that will be there waiting to catch him with his fly down. The poor potentates dress like fashion models waiting to walk down the runway. While I slip on a pair of old Birkenstocks so my toes can breathe and my bunions can stay cool, they jam their poor puppies into shiny wingtips that squeeze and pinch and then they have to sashay down receiving lines all day shaking hands and spraying on hand sanitizer to try to avoid every communicable disease known to mankind.
I do a thorough accounting of my body. My skin is still doing a terrific job of containing all my blood and guts, my nails are still nice and sharp and able to pick my nose, or zits, or anything else they might like to scratch at. My nose has no trouble detecting the odor of the garbage that I should have taken out last night. My tongue can easily detect that the coffee was too hot to drink after the very first sip. My sinuses still appear to be capable of producing prodigious amounts of phlegm, useful for expelling any foreign substances that may decide to try to invade my respiratory system. I can feel the pains in many parts of my body – my ankles, knees, hips, neck and other joints – which lets me know that my nervous system is still functioning at a very high level. All the pains seem to meld into one fine burn which, along with the coffee, is doing a wonderful job of making me wide awake and ready for a new day. Yes, Doctor, I feel great! I feel absolutely alive!