I used to be able to walk. I used to be able to talk. I used to be able to run, fast and far, and lift heavy weights. I used to be able to hike mountains and swim in rivers. I used to be able to do lots of things, and, because my health was good, I took them all for granted.
Damn right I did. If I could, I’d take them for granted all over again.
I’m all for being grateful when your health is good and aware of how your health can go bad, but I don’t see the point of dwelling on any of it.
If you have to constantly remind yourself to not take your health for granted, it ruins a lot of the fun in life, or at least the freedom of doing things and not overthinking them.
I used to work out for at least three hours every day. I worked out so much I stopped thinking about it. My exercise routine wasn’t only habitual, it was automatic. That was the best part, and a big reason why I did it so much. I was able to do something I loved, something that was good for me, something that let me shut my mind off and forget about all the stress and frustration in my life. If I had to be fully present in those moments, if I had to not take them for granted, it would have mostly defeated their purpose in my life. I would have been so wrapped up in being appreciative and aware, that I doubt I would have enjoyed them. Instead of being relaxing, working out would have been just another task I had to check off my list each day.
I realize that there’s a recklessness to taking your health for granted. And I certainly don’t want to endorse doing things that are harmful to anyone’s health. So please, if you will, don’t take my message as encouragement to go on a drinking binge and smoke two packs of cigarettes every day. That would be a whole other level of taking your health for granted, and one of which I definitely don’t encourage. What I’m referring to is more of the internal conversations that people have with themselves about not taking their health for granted, and how they too can be counterproductive.
I mean, what does it even mean to not take my health for granted? Is it going outside every morning and, to no one in particular, saying: I am not taking my health for granted. I suppose there’s no harm in that, though the neighbors will definitely raise an eyebrow.
But seriously, must I really prove to myself, and other people, that I’m not taking my health for granted? Do I have to write it down in my don’t take things for granted notebook? Should I bow my head to the don’t take things for granted gods?
The whole concept of taking my health for granted seems too personal, too intangible, to be a universal truth. It’s this subjective and arbitrary idea that focusing on how, at any moment, my health could get worse, is somehow good karma or otherwise beneficial.
That’s not to say that it shouldn’t be done, but it is to say that it should only be done if it serves a good purpose. If I thought that telling myself to not take my health for granted somehow made me healthier, I’d get that shit tattooed on my face.
But it doesn’t make me healthier. Instead I usually end up beating myself up about not feeling more grateful for the little things that my health still allows me to do, even though there are so many big things that I still can’t enjoy. It’s sort of like getting punched in the face and trying to will myself to say thank you after.
Obviously I’m guilty of feeling the pressure, mostly from myself, to not take what little health I have for granted. It’s rooted in my mind as something I’ve always done. I used to pressure myself to always count my lucky stars when I was healthy. I remember seeing sick and disabled people and wondering if something like that would ever happen to me. Then I would immediately tell myself to be more grateful or it might indeed happen to me, as if my inner monologue about it really had some influence on my fate, as if it meant something beyond just telling myself to be more grateful. But, really, that’s all it meant. It wasn’t some elaborate, earth-shifting mission to ensure bad health couldn’t find me. No. Telling myself to not take my health for granted has always been a mental game I’ve played, an affirmation, perhaps even a mantra that I’ve repeated to make myself feel better about the fact that scary shit can happen to anybody, at any time.
Not taking health for granted is a very personal thing. My perspective is probably different than that of a healthy person, or for that matter, someone who is terminally ill. But let me leave you with this: If it makes you feel better to repeatedly tell yourself to not take your health for granted, and beat yourself up when you feel you’ve betrayed the sanctity of your health, then by all means, keep riding that tortuous train. But if it doesn’t, if you’re like me and want free of those shackles, then, for the love of margaritas and sunsets, just let it go — don’t dwell on how lucky or grateful you are to have some level of health. Just enjoy it.
BEFORE YOU GO…
1. Thanks for reading!
2. If you would like to donate to support this blog I would be so grateful.
3. I am fundraising to pay my medical bills and if you’d like to help out by buying a shirt or hoodie I’d be equally grateful. I get about $5 for every shirt sold.