“Get the hell off the beach!”
So commanded New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose trademark bluntness was justified as he warned residents to flee Hurricane Irene. Nothing like a disaster to strip our thinking and communication back to the bare essentials.
Health crises do the same. A dire diagnosis very quickly puts one’s personal perspective into sharp focus. We all kid ourselves, of course, until something or someone shakes us into awareness.
Considering the vitriol regularly spewed via anonymous comments on websites, many of us convince ourselves that we have no problem with honesty. But step out from behind Internet anonymity, or speak about something more intimate than politics, and the smoke screen kicks in.
We teach our children to be truthful, but we need to make sure that lesson includes a note about not lying to themselves.
Making a habit of frank self-appraisal is a point driven home in this issue’s stories on addiction.
Lest any of us feel superior to those who struggle, it’s wise to remember that we all delude ourselves in any number of less dramatic ways. Addiction goes by many names: nicotine, texting, salt, shopping, anger, our couches (in combination with the toxic cocktail of food and the glowing television screen).
Why else would so many Americans be overweight? (One clue: The Centers for Disease Control reported in August that half of all Americans consume sugary drinks on any given day.)
Eleven years ago, several Hour Detroit Top Doctors shared their best Rx for good health, simple recommendations that still hold true. They said:
> “Exercise. Diet low in saturated fats, high in low-fat protein, fruits, and vegetables. Smoking is the biggest risk factor that is modifiable.”
> “Exercise. It increases the density of bones, increases the muscles you have, gives you the ability to handle sugar better. It’s good for the brain, the bowels, the lungs, and the heart.”
> “No smoking.”
> “Get rid of alcoholism and drug abuse and you’ll save a lot more lives than you will with technology.”
> “Everything can’t be fixed … life is really finite. The thing is to not look at the end point.”
Interpret the final doctor’s orders as striving to live well. On that note, honesty needn’t be brutal, although the two words are often paired, as if people think we’re frank only when we speak with a sledgehammer.
In the month of Halloween and Sweetest Day (yes, it’s commercial, as are many manmade things we embrace), consider the romantic and tough-love significance of removing our masks and recalling the Elton John lyrics: “How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.”