This Sunday would have been my father’s 70th birthday. Ordinarily we would’ve gathered at his house for a meal of some sort–his traditional birthday dinner was steak and eggs, though last year he made us all Swiss steak–followed by presents and cake’n’ice cream. We would’ve laughed and given him grief about being an old man, and eventually he would’ve gone to sit outside in his chair on the patio and have a smoke and watch his dogs play. Moon Man will be on the road on Dad’s birthday this year, so I’ll probably have a little cake here by myself, but rest assured that there will be a small celebration of some sort; the fact that Dad accepted an invitation to go party forever with Johnny Cash and Dale Earnhardt and his own parents and siblings and his old dog, Hobo, doesn’t mean that we can’t still have a little party here in his honor.
And of course, because I’m all about celebrating and honoring and making metaphors out of molehills, I had to tie Dad’s birthday to this week’s Weekend World-Changer Homework.
Your task is to move. Move any part of yourself, in whatever way makes you happy. Dance, roller skate, ride a bike, lift heavy things and put them back down, sit up, push up, raise and lower bits of yourself. Make exuberant calorie-burning love with your partner. Go swimming. Climb something tall. Go play with your kids, whether they’ve got two legs or four. Walk around someplace beautiful. Do whatever it is that you like, that will get you up and moving.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, as Dad’s body started giving out, his mobility became progressively more limited. By the end, a trip to the grocery store would wipe him out for at least the rest of the day. So use your body while it still does more or less what you want it to do; even if it doesn’t do everything you’re dreaming of, at least it still functions in some small ways, and you should take full advantage of those. Second, while I acknowledge that genetics play a role in a person’s health, I also acknowledge that Dad could’ve made a lot of decisions that would at least have improved his chances of living a longer, healthier life. If he’d moved more, eaten better, and smoked less, he might’ve still been here to celebrate his birthday in person, and yes, sometimes I get pretty angry with him about that. Then I realize I’m not exactly a specimen of brilliant health myself, and decide once again that it’s time to take action.
So in keeping with my newfound re-commitment to movement and healthy choices, my plan is to exercise in 70s this Sunday. There are a bunch of exercises where I know I can reasonably perform 70 reps; I am allowed to take breaks (so maybe 25 in the morning, 25 at lunch, and 25 in the evening) and I am allowed to decrease weights (15-pound weights get heavy after a few sets!), but I want to push myself to hit 70 of each exercise. 70 crunches; 70 incline push-ups (I’m not quite ready for full-on “real” push-ups yet, and that’s ok); 70 squats; 70 bicep curls. Et cetera; I’m going with a “whatever I think I can accomplish” approach. Maybe I’ll dance for 70 minutes (which, for the record, is a large part of why we have curtains on the windows. Nobody needs to see that; let’s just say that in my head, I’m a very good dancer. In my head, I’ve also got my Nobel Prize acceptance speech drafted. My head is not always a particularly accurate place). Whatever I do, I intend to do 70 of it.
The theory is simply this: you change the world just by being in it (this is not a new concept to those of you who read my Love Song to Bean a few days ago). You can use your powers for good or evil as you see fit; heck, you can opt not to use your powers at all, and just hang out, waiting for your number to be up. But whatever you do with your life, and whatever you make of your life, you are, by default, changing the world. Someone would notice if you were gone, even if it’s just the cable company losing a regular customer. You exist, and that changes the world in and of itself.
So why not take this opportunity to do something that lets you feel alive, and reminds you of why you have this body to run around in, and maybe starts you toward living a healthy life that will let you keep on changing the world for a long time?
Go move around. Do something you love, and if at all possible, do it with somebody you love.
You can always think of it in terms of cake: If you move and get healthier now, you can keep earning birthday cakes for as long as possible. And who doesn’t love cake?