Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying.

December 26, 2023

Note: I wrote the piece, below, seven years ago today. I wish I had listened more to my “seven years ago self” more often but I am very blessed. I hope you all enjoy my words from the past.

living or dying

Mark Rubin

Get busy living or get busy dying.

As this dreadful year—2016—comes to a close, Andy Dufresne’s observation won’t leave me alone. (The Shawshank Redemption—a movie based on a Stephen King novella, and a Best Picture nominee—tells the story of the wrongful imprisonment of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins).) Those of us who walk freely can only imagine the import of Mr. Dufresne’s observation, especially as an innocent convict. Still, the words instruct us.

Life marches on, inexorably, until it ends. In too many ways, along the way, we get messages which suggest a dichotomy, as between living a long life … and living well. Exercise one hour every day and you’ll extend your life X years … but if you total up the hours you’ve spent on that f*cking treadmill, was it worth it? Following the Dean Ornish diet and you’ll add on years but … almost no fat—Dr. Ornish has come around a bit—or fun foods? Get real. (I did the old Ornish diet for about two years in the mid-1990s. Felt great …but not as good as I do now.)

So I went away with my GF, the dogs, and some friends, for a short weekend. Delayed departure, we got lost, the dogs panicked in the car (never having been on a vacation, and Oz doesn’t like Max, plain and simple), and we had a fine time. White Christmas, good food, and all that!

And on Christmas Day I read Beat the Heart Attack Gene: The Revolutionary Plan to Prevent Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes by Bradley Bale and Amy Doneen. My concierge doctor had been after me to read it, and with a very white and cold day in front of me, I decided to humor him. (To my friends with a few dollars, hire a doctor. Yes, the system is a mess, but for < $2000 per year, having someone who knows who you are, can be reached 24/7, and cares enough to tell you what you have to read, what better way to spend your money? “Wait. What? You’re taking it with you. No … Mr. R. is very clear on this matter. Shrouds have no pockets, and you’re not leaving this rock with anything.)

I won’t bother you all with particulars, except to note the fact that you can control your own health. Medicine gets challenging if you’re stuck in the system, without extra funds. But walking a few miles every day? Figuring out how to stand up for at least a few hours during the work day? Eating and drinking less? (Most of tonight’s martini went into the stopped up kitchen sink. Wasteful? Yes. Better than pouring it down my impaired esophagus? Absolutely.) Easy steps. And if you’re so inclined, read the book, and start talking to your doctor. Regularly. (No, nothing is perfect, but my time yesterday told me I think I have more control over my destiny than I thought I did. Whether I am right or wrong, my thoughts matter … for me.)

Candidly, I’ve never felt better than I do right now. I work out not at all, but I walk between 15-20,000 steps a day. If your schedule doesn’t allow for that time commitment, work out 3X per week. Gym expensive? The couple with whom we shared Christmas have a trainer they share with friends and neighbors three evenings a week. $5.00 per night. Cheap! Find a solution!

Cut back on crappy consumption. If the label includes more than five ingredients, pass on it. Fruits and vegetables cost very little, and we can all function on many less calories than what the USDA tells us. (Remember, the same outfit which sets nutrition standards regulates and promotes the processors who sell us our food.)

Now for the harder part. Be happy! If you are, good on you. If you’re not, get there. And if you are in a less than perfect situation—like, duh, doesn’t that describe everyone?—set to adapting. Or move on! One way or the other, happiness matters. Maybe it’s not in your life right now for one reason or another, and maybe it can’t be, but don’t forget about it. For, for all of the stuff about diet and exercise and standing up while you work, if happiness eludes you, you’ll likely be on the wrong side of Mr. Dufresne’s equation.

So, keep your New Year’s resolutions simple: Get busy living. Happy New Year, from Mark Rubin Writes.

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