A Near-Death Learning Experience

Woke up fresh this morning but everything gets a bit jumbled by this time of day (5pm). It’s hard to maintain clarity.

I have been known to meditate from time to time (I once went for nearly 6 months meditating every day – that was last year as we were preparing to sell our previous house – it was very useful) but I’ve let the habit lapse. If I’m to reclaim the calm I need to delve into these creative crannies I may need to think about regaining the ritual. It would be another beneficial side effect of this challenge. I shall think on’t.

I know the thought that came into my mind as I woke this morning regarding today’s topic was something about age and health… but the note I wrote to myself in my little black book, as I take a look now, is just too obscure and I’m not sure what I was getting at: “How do we cope with the modern world? (Grandad) My perspective.”… Any idea what I was thinking about? Nope. [Note to self: write more detail]

I’ll riff on something similar…

We love “Purple Carrot” menus – All vegan

Health is quite high on my list of priorities these days. Especially after the events of a couple of years ago (I’ll get to that) and it astonishes me that I am actually feeling healthier (and am healthier), in many ways, than I have done or been for quite some time. It’s a bit of a cliché that when we’re young we think ourselves invincible and/or immortal. I actually think that when we are old enough to comprehend death (teenage years?) we are well aware of our mortality, it just doesn’t seem to bother us very much. This can lead to carelessness as we move through the decades.

From my perspective, and with my experience, I can now look back with horror at my assumption that I really didn’t need to adjust my diet or exercise level much beyond what I was already doing as I travelled from mid-forties to mid-fifties. But I now see how mistaken I was. It seems obvious now – our bodies function in a way that requires more care in order to thrive as they age.

[Let me just add here the disclaimer that this may not be true for everyone – I don’t want to be setting down rules and saying that at ‘this’ age you should be doing ‘such-and-such’. I’m well aware that genes differ from person to person and don’t doubt some of you may have heard stories of ‘old Uncle Albert’ who lived to 91 and smoked a packet of cigarettes a day… You know how much I hate the kind of dogma that seeks to dictate.]

I do know that as I moved through my fifties I felt myself getting more sluggish. My body… how shall I put this?… was not functioning at peak level (and honestly hadn’t been for many years). I was not overweight, my cholesterol levels were only high normal. I seemed fine – hey, I was in my mid fifties, it was natural to begin to slow down.

I hurt my knee doing yoga mid 2012. Turns out I had a torn meniscus, but it took several months to diagnose and I didn’t have surgery until May of 2013.

in 2012 – Old chubby cheeks!

I did no exercise at all in those months… none at all. And yet I ate as I had done before (didn’t add weight though) and just sat behind the microphone every day. So… come September my knee felt healed enough to allow me to start jogging again but as I pressed up hills, after only a short distance, I encountered the classic chest pain… Now it sounds obvious and you’d think I’d have shot off to the hospital to see what was up… but, no. It’s not like that. I found all sorts of excuses for what it could have been and decided I’d check on it later (I was also down in SoCal at the time and my primary physician was up near San Francisco). Seriously – you think you’d know the danger signs immediately? Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

To try to wrap it up I’ll just say that when I finally went in to my doctor in December 2013 it was found that I had a 90% blockage in my main coronary artery and 70% in the other two. I was ‘this’ close to a major event. They put stents in the one artery and I went 100% vegan immediately (Google ‘Dr. Esselstyn’ – How to reverse heart disease – Oh look, click here, I did it for you!) and lost 30lbs over the next two months (which has stayed off).

Father’s Day this year! Living the healthy life…sort of

Right now I am not entirely vegan, just mostly so. I eat meat and fish occasionally. I take a very small dose of statins a couple of times a week and apart from that (and a multi-vitamin and low dose aspirin) I take no other drugs.

Here’s the main thing though – by eating well and mindfully my quality of life is much improved. My body is functioning better than it has in decades. I run several times a week and have a rowing machine out back. I rarely ever feel the same sluggishness I felt back then and life is good!

There’s a little extra work involved in choosing food and exercise – but it’s better than the alternative…

Will I live forever?…Hmmm….I doubt it. But longer than I would have done had I not ‘woken up’.

Take care
– S.

About Simon

Simon is an actor who found his way into audiobook narrating as a side-gig and seems to have made a success of it. With some training as an actor as a child (just a couple of hours a week, but it stuck) and 15 years working inside the BBC (ending up as one of the presenters/newsreaders on BBC Radio 4 in London) he found the ideal combination for an audiobook narrator. Found his way to California two decades ago and never left.

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6 Responses to A Near-Death Learning Experience

  1. Yvonne reed October 26, 2017 at 10:56 pm #

    Hello Simon, so glad to hear you are taking good care of yourself. An ankle injury and gout has caused me to eat like a monk and exercise. My job requires me to be on my feet 10 hours a day. I sell furniture in a large warehouse store. I so enjoy challenging myself physically, as well as engaging with people of all cultures. Denver has quite a few diverse ethnic groups. Many come from Asia and India.

    It’s my personality to connect with people. I am so hungry for their story, My therapist calls me the sociologist. By the way many of your books add to my understanding of these cultures.

    keep up the good work. I find it’s worth it. At 65,I am as trim as I was in my twenties.

  2. Barbara Harris October 26, 2017 at 11:48 am #

    I love this blog Simon! Yay for you and for others that may glean a better life from your admissions and advice. I’m 79 years young and discovered about 10 years ago how I did not realize what harm I was doing to my body. But i know now! I do a Jane Fonda low impact exercise set every morning and stream a Walk in Place for a mile at noonish & sometimes after dinner. Gosh I hope as many people read your blog as listen to your voice! GO, Simon!

  3. Tom Candela October 26, 2017 at 11:39 am #

    Well done Simon. Keep at it ole’ chum and you shall be narrating books for years to come. I’m a vegetarian myself but have not tried the vegan route (like cheese way too much). I started about 20 years ago, not so much for reasons of health, more of a moral decision for me. Other things to help calm the nerves, ‘ease the day’ is a little ‘dobbie’ every now and again. Can be very relaxing! Anyhow, keep narrations coming. You’re one of my favorites.

    Tom

    • Simon October 26, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

      I do miss cheese the most. But here’s the thing – I ate too much of it. I now occasionally allow myself a piece of high quality cheese … Expensive but it’s only occasionally. It’s the quality not the quantity these days 🙂

  4. Jan Johnston October 25, 2017 at 7:41 pm #

    Oh, now I really feel ashamed. I printed out a recipe for NY Style Cheesecake this afternoon. Maybe I’ll rethink that.

    • Simon October 26, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

      Depends what else you are eating – we had cheesecake on my wife’s birthday recently (she won’t let it pass without)… Don’t deny yourself the occasional treat! 🙂

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