A recent trip to my general practitioner to address my general malaise brought two magic words that many adult patients have heard during a treatment plan: Lifestyle Change. My involuntary response was immediate and romantic. I was going to have a lifestyle change! Goodbye suburban homemaking, carpooling and Bunco. Hello, world! I was going to live on a houseboat, take a vow of silence or perhaps become a Cowboy Poet. My mind raced. Okay, to be honest, in light of the subject at hand, maybe my mind sauntered at a casual pace, but it sauntered enthusiastically. Do houseboats have doorbells? Will my motion-sensitive partner join me or will this lifestyle change start a domino effect and throw me into a crazy singles-only-houseboat-community? My kids aren’t water safe. They will be bulky and awkward in their life jackets around the clock.
Next stop, my vow of silence. I consider the communication options in lieu of speaking. I wonder – is writing notes cheating? Do silent-vow-takers use copious amounts of printed exclamation points and asterisks when angry or does that run counter to the psychological benefits of silence? How will my family react to a non-verbal matriarch, accustomed as they are to having their laundry folded by the loudest human in a one-mile radius? When sneezing do I need to avoid the audible “ah-choo?”
These thoughts fly by at breakneck speed. I’ve covered lives both nautical and silent in the time it takes to roll my sleeve down after having my blood pressure checked. As I re-secure the buttons at my cuff, my flight of fancy banks left: destination, wild west.
Cowboy poets live by guidelines instructing dress as well as prose. If I’m not mistaken there’s an age-old code of bandana-knotting and hat brim folding to master, something akin to the hidden messages in equestrian war memorial statues: hoof raised, rider died in battle, or some such thing. Maybe it’s: poet’s kerchief tied on the left, lost a heifer on the trail…or perhaps published by Harper Collins. This lifestyle change is exciting.
Then, it dawns on me. I realize Dr. Brennan’s intended meaning, and I grudgingly return to the here and now. She doesn’t want me to raise alpacas or live on water (although drinking more of it would be beneficial). She wants me to walk twenty minutes a day, eat fruits and vegetables (not fried or dipped) and get healthier amounts of sleep. My shoulders droop in disappointment. My life as a houseboat-dwelling-silent-cowboy-poet-monk is fading, and I wonder why my enthusiasm wanes once a truly attainable lifestyle change presents itself. Why am I so ready to try anything other than this doable, achievable task? I don’t own a houseboat or even a cowboy hat. I do own shoes that I can walk in, and even a juicer (the Bowflex of the kitchen). I could never in a million years stop talking for even one hour, yet I could most definitely cut processed goods out of my diet little by little and replace them with delicious whole foods.
Then another “it” dawns on me. The real lifestyle change I need to make is not improving diet and exercise. The lifestyle change I need to make is replacing fantasy with reality, at least every now and then. But an alpaca farm…that must have health benefits, don’t you think?
(Kim Luke is sauntering casually toward a healthier lifestyle in Santa Cruz, CA. Send comments or cowboy poetry to firstname.lastname@example.org)