I like to imagine my physical self as a sort of see-saw. One side is labelled ‘health’, and the other ‘unhealth’. On the health side, we have exercise, nutrition... all that boring stuff. On the unhealth side, we have my vices.
Each of the things on the see-saw has a weight, and that combined with its distance from the fulcrum determines its affect on my physical self.
I used to have a lot of vices that sat a long way from the fulcrum. These vices weren’t indulgences, but things which were a part of my lifestyle. Whenever I sat down to write, I’d light a cigarette. It got to the point when I was smoking in my breaks at work, when I was taking shopping in from the car, when I was laid up in bed and the room was spinning. So, I quit.
When I was a student, I drank to excess. After I graduated, I drank to be social. For the last two years--apart of a very small sip when someone orders something interesting and some liquors around Christmas--I haven’t had any alcohol for almost two years.
And meat! I don’t eat meat and haven’t for a year-and-a-half. It’s harder than it sounds, because I can’t eat Wine Gums or Liquorice Allsorts or Pick-and-Mix any more. I can’t have bacon sarnies or black pudding.
Those are three pretty big vices, and they sit a way from the fulcrum. Now, I have a pretty sedentary lifestyle and exercise upsets me, but taking those three off the unhealth side surely more than balanced things out. It left me with two vices (just two): food; and coffee.
Food loves me. Food is always there for me, and never judges me. Food makes me happy.
I take my coffee black. I take it strong enough to stand a spoon up in. Where as most people have their instant coffee ‘strong’ and ask for a full teaspoon, I’ll have two-and-a-half. On an average day, I’ll have six of seven of these cups. Whenever I write, I have a hot steaming cup of Jackson by my hand (as in Samuel L. Jackson: Black; bitter; and quad-hard).
My heart’s been doing funny things, recently. Walking across the room makes it beat so hard it feels like it’s about to burst out my chest. Stairs are a problem. Lying in bed sometimes feels like it’s going to be fatal... Apparently, my heart can’t stand the shocking facts of grave robbers from outer space any more.
I was hoping I had angina. Or a valve was faulty. Or that maybe I needed a whole new heart altogether. The doctor did some tests, took my blood pressure, booked me some blood tests and an ECG.
But you can see where this is going. After all the medical niceties were out the way, ‘Cut down on the coffee’, she says.
Haven’t I done enough?!
Surely, surely the booze, the fags and the flesh balances things out. Surely coffee is a light weight, close to the fulcrum. A vice, sure, but a small and almost harmless one. Right near the centre, keeping the pizza and cookies company (we know how easily they get lonely).
Yes, it’s a chance to embrace change and discover Brave New Worlds.
I don’t like change or Brave New Worlds. I like routine and places I know.
Somewhat prophetically, the last time I saw her my mother said that she’d learned the dangers of drinking strong, black coffee, ‘too late’. She has a liturgy of health problems and I was scared to ask which one the coffee was responsible for.
But yes, I’ll do the right thing. I’ll embrace this growth experience and discard yet another vice. I’ll give up the coffee.
Right after this cup.