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The Downside of Clean Living July 10, 2013

Posted by nrhatch in Health & Wellness, Humor, Mindfulness.

Wikipedia ~ Charles Mellin (in Public Domain)

Most of us benefit from having at least one bad habit since no one enjoys hanging around “perfect” people.

At some level, we enjoy watching others make “stupid mistakes.”  It makes us feel better about our own stupidity.

As a case in point, I am secretly amused when someone who is grossly overweight tells me that smoking is bad for my health.

Especially if they are eating a bucket of fried chicken or inhaling a vat of ice cream at the time.

Would you like to super-duper-size that?

My “bad habit” is smoking.  I quit once for five years, after smoking for 20 years.  It wasn’t hard.  I know I could do it again, because I don’t smoke much.  Maybe four cigarettes a day.  Five tops.

So, why don’t I quit?

Part of it is the rebel in me.  I don’t want anyone (or everyone) else telling me how to live my life.  But it’s more than that.

I read an article and saw a video this week about a woman who celebrated her birthday, again, on July 6th.

Susannah Mushatte Jones, the oldest woman in New York State, the second oldest in the country, and the third oldest in the world, is blind, hard of hearing, and confined to a wheelchair.  She lost all her teeth (but two have grown back).  She retired 48 years ago, in 1965.  Her life consists of eating, sleeping, napping, pooping, and having people yell things in her ear:

Can you hear me now? . . . (PAUSE) . . . CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

Question:  What kind of life is that?  Answer:  Not one that appeals to me.

Wikipedia ~ Death (in Public Domain)

The idea of being here for another 60 years horrifies me.

Living in perpetuity is far more terrifying than dying.

I don’t want to outlive my interests.  I don’t want to be here so long that I’m just killing time waiting for the Grim Reaper to appear on the horizon with his scythe.

After a century plus of living, loving, laughing, and learning, I’m confident I’d agree with the person who, in 1990 B.C., wrote a poem called The Man Who Was Tired of Life:

Death is in my sight today
As when a man desires to see home
After he has spent many years in captivity

Susannah’s secret to longevity?  Clean living.  She never smoked cigarettes, drank liquor, or partied.

I don’t plan to make that mistake.

Continuing to smoke is my insurance policy against being stuck here forever.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related posts:  America No Longer Fattest Nation (The Good Greatsby) * The Best Medicine ~ Humor (WP Prompt) * The Best Medicine ~ Making Friends With Death (I Am Who I Am) * Daily Prompt ~ Earworm

What say you?  Does the idea of living to 114 hold any appeal?  Or would you rather check out a bit sooner than that?

(My birthday is this week.  I am NOT within spitting distance of 113.  Praise the Lord and pass the loot!)



1. katecrimmins - July 10, 2013

I can’t believe you smoke! You are such a healthy eater! I have partied enough so I don’t expect to reach 113 but I didn’t smoke.

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

I am a “healthy eater.” I eat right . . . 98.6% of the time.
And I’m a “non-smoker” for all but 20 minutes a day.

If we apply the 90/10 principle . . . I’m in the clear. :mrgreen:

Life is a crap shoot. People who do everything right can keel over of a heart attack in the midst of their morning jog. Or get hit by a bus on their way to “do good.” Others, like George Burns, drink, smoke, and joke about their bad habits well into their 90’s.

I only want to be here if I’m still enjoying the daily grind.

2. cecilia - July 10, 2013

I used to say..” Well they say that smoking cuts 10 years off your life”, (we would be smoking in our break as nurses in an old folks home) . I would point my finger at the door back into the rest home. “Well”, I would say, “I can do without those 10 years!”. I gave up years ago but will occassionally ‘Bum a Durry’ off another smoker when we are having a beer. ‘The Matriarch smokes too, which is another reason why she is building the Coupe. She will never give up.But her lungs are fast going underwater and i wish she would cut down a bit. John’s great aunt was a smoker and she lived ’til she was 106 (and died in her own home) … which I am sure is not what you want to hear! 106! Have a lovely day Nancy. You rebel you! c

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

Thanks for a VERY amusing and interesting comment, Ceci. I would like to get to the point that I don’t smoke every day . . . just the occasional “bummed Durry” would be perfect.

Like you, when someone says that smoking will take years off my life, I shrug, “Who cares? They’re the worst years anyway.”

Wow! a smoker who died in her own home at 106. That’s almost as inspiring (and very scary) as the woman in her 100’s whose favorite food is BACON and LOTS OF IT. 😛

cecilia - July 10, 2013

ah bacon… yummm… c

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

If ever I cross back over from vegetarian to meat eater . . . it will probably be bacon that beckoned. 😛

3. It’s Officially Anthony Weiner “Roast” Time! | Joseph Rathjen - Freelance Writing - July 10, 2013

[…] The Downside of Clean Living | Spirit Lights The Way […]

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

Love your response to Weiner’s candidacy . . . let’s roast Weiner!


4. Morgan - July 10, 2013

I think what you are doing is far less “unhealthy” than denying yourself anything that might give you pleasure, just so you can live to be 120. Im with you…who wants to be here that long? I dont smoke, but in all honesty, I’ve been considering swapping out my 3-5 caffeinated drinks every day for one nicotine patch to get/keep me going. ….everyone has something in their closet after all 😉

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

Your comment reminds me of the “guru who ate Whoppers.” When we make good choices “most of the time,” we have more latitude to give ourselves some leeway.

I use my infrequent “smoke breaks” to press “pause” and be mindful. Aah . . . that’s better.

5. shreejacob - July 10, 2013

Hahaha Nancy! Loved the post…and yay! smoking buddies! ok…so it might do me good to cut it down a bit…but only when I say so (I have some rebel in me too!). Strangely I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to smoke..since I was young!
I sometimes wish people would leave people be and not force stuff down their throats..you know?

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

I confess to having had fun writing this post . . . especially when Susannah’s birthday “celebration” appeared on my radar screen.

Her nieces believe that living to 114 is her REWARD for a life well lived. I’m not convinced. Living that long (when we are no longer free to move about the cabin with all faculties intact) seems more PUNISHMENT than reward.

Instead of waking up each morning and thinking, “Yay! Another day,” we must get to the point where our first thought is:

“WTF?! I’m still here!?” 😦

While reading Life 101 by Peter McWilliams, I stumbled into the perfect poem extract (from 1099 B.C.) to close the post. I felt like the Universe gave me a big WINK for realizing that, when it comes to birthdays, “less is more.”

6. Arlee Bird - July 10, 2013

I’ll drink to that! In fact make it a double. If I can’t get around by myself and tend to my own needs, I’d just as well not be a burden to others, including paying people to take care of me.

Wrote By Rote

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

Yes! *clink* CHEERS! When I can no longer manage my daily care and ablutions, I will be ready to check out. In the meantime, I’ll make the most of the moment. 😎

I seem to recall that you quit a 3-pack a day habit “cold turkey.” That is no mean feat. You are to be commended.

7. Andra Watkins - July 10, 2013

I never started smoking, Nancy. I know I would enjoy it too much.

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

When I keep my intake “moderate,” my smoke breaks are an enjoyable interlude to the hectic pace of life. I stop what I’m doing, go outside (for some “fresh air”), and watch the birds, turtles, otters, drifting clouds, or twinkling stars, as I ponder the imponderables.

That said, I would never encourage someone to start smoking because, for many, it becomes an addiction that causes them to smoke more and more . . . with less and less mindfulness.

8. Maggie - July 10, 2013

I agree. I don’t see the point of living if you’re stuck in bed all day or you have no memory and you can’t enjoy life (possibly being a burden on your relatives who take care of you).

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

I want to be here only as long as I still have a certain amount of joie de vivre. In the video, Susannah did not seem to share her niece’s level of enthusiasm at still being here . . . although she did chuckle when they reminded her that she was 114!.

9. Eric Tonningsen - July 10, 2013

114 holds no appeal here. Nor does the possibility of a tracheotomy or collapsed lung. I appreciate your choice and do so smilingly. After decades of smoking and having her children nag her about it, my mom quit (on her timing and terms) when she retired. She took up golf three years ago and now plays every week – at age 82. To each our own. 🙂

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

That’s awesome, Eric! I think that the secret to growing old is to re-invent ourselves by developing new interests. Grandma Moses didn’t pick up a paintbrush until her late 70’s . . . after arthritis in her fingers prevented her from knitting and sewing.

10. diannegray - July 10, 2013

You’re such a rebel, Nancy 😉 I smoke as well and had a very short conversation one day with some fellows from work who drink (a lot) and are morbidly obese. They told me that smoking should be banned and when I said ‘so should alcohol’ they shut up pretty fast. To each his own, I say 😀

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

Hahaha! Good for you. People feel politically correct when they criticize smokers, but it’s not considered P.C. to tell someone that they are fat and shouldn’t eat so much. 😉

I’m a big fan of PERSONAL responsibility for the lifestyle choices we make. When someone sues McDonald’s because they ate too many Big Macs and got fat, I want them tossed out of court.

11. Pix Under the Oaks - July 10, 2013

Nancy, Arlee Bird, my thoughts exactly. I don’t want to live to 100 and something when I am not really “living”. I have a constant dialogue with myself about my glass, sometimes two, of wine most days in the afternoon. Wine time~ 4:00. I feel like I would be healthier without it BUT it makes me happy. I enjoy that time with CH. We sit Under the Oaks or on the porch and listen to the oldies and/or Smokey Robinson. I do more harm to my health feeling sad, bad and cranky because I deny myself the glass of wine and a couple slices of good cheese.. 😀 Good post!

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

Thanks, Pix. Wine Time is a “good habit” for you . . . a calm and peaceful time of day to connect with CH and say, “CHEESE!”

Our physical health is tied to our mental and emotional health. We benefit from engaging in behavior that makes us HAPPY.

Pix Under the Oaks - July 10, 2013


nrhatch - July 10, 2013

Bottoms up! 😎

12. CHristine Grote - July 10, 2013

I don’t want to outlive my ability to enjoy life either. And when my eating and drinking habits are taken into consideration, I would have to say I’m probably on the right track.

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

Same here. I get a psychological benefit/boost from being the Captain of my ship, making decisions for myself, and accepting the consequences, even if they are not always the best, smartest, or most logical of available choices. 😛

Life is risky business. We can avoid some risks ~ e.g., don’t swim with sharks, jump out of planes, pet alligators, or play chicken at train crossings. But almost every activity involves some degree of risk.

Two girls died in a parasailing accident last week. A guy surfing in Sydney got knocked unconscious by the tail of a whale. A plane crashed in San Francisco. A woman kayaking in the Everglades got ambushed by alligators (and got away).

All of them COULD have eliminated the risk in question by not engaging in the behavior. But sometimes “playing it safe” is the biggest risk of all.

Live today . . . for tomorrow we die! 😀

13. Judson - July 10, 2013

Not to be “preachy” because people hate reformed smokers who are “preachy … but as a former smoker who watched two of my loved ones die a horrible and painful slow death from lung cancer, I have to say that given the choice of perhaps outliving my usefulness and ability to be totally functional, but dying peacefully in my dotage versus wasting away in agony, I’ll choose old age every time.

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

Of course you would. Who wouldn’t? But you’ve transformed uncertainty into certainty in your hypothetical. Life doesn’t work that way. Even if I quit smoking, there is no guarantee that I would die peacefully in my dotage. Likewise, if I continue to smoke, there is no certainty that I’ll waste away in agony.

I could be hit by a bus next week with either choice I make today.

It’s all a crap shoot. I know smokers who have NOT died horrible and agonizing deaths and I know non-smokers who have ~ including young kids dying of brain tumors before they even have a chance to experience life. Or teens getting abducted by serial killers or shot by some trigger happy idiot on their way to the Quik E Mart.

No matter what we do, we are engaging in risky behavior. It’s up to each of us to balance the potential risks against the rewards as we navigate through life.

Judson - July 11, 2013

I agree … we definitely have choices and it’s up to us to make them.
Cheers …

nrhatch - July 11, 2013

I really appreciated your comment yesterday, Judson. It got me to look behind what I wrote to see what I really meant.

And your comment today is about where I ended up ~ we have to make choices based on possibilities and probabilities not certainties. So, if we want to go skydiving, we balance the potential risk against the anticipated reward and take a “stab in the dark” about whether we should or shouldn’t.

If we’re always running scared, we rarely end up where we want to be. But if we ignore all risks, we may be sidelined too soon. It’s a walk on the wire, for sure. Thanks!

14. ericjbaker - July 10, 2013

I don’t smoke and never have, but as a long-time musician and club-goer, i still find it weird when I don’t see or smell smoke during a live music performance.

My bad habit is junk food, especially the sweet kind. I’m about 20 pounds overweight, but I should be way worse. I can easily down a standard supermarket package of green mint Oreos in one sitting. I can also down 3 or 4 gourmet cupcakes at a time. One day the universe will slip back into alignment, and I will suddenly gain 75 pounds in 2 minutes. There must be a painting of me somewhere that keeps getting fatter.

Related to this topic, i have a problem with how alcohol use is frowned upon as an emotional numbing agent. The “professionals” will go on about how it’s really a depressant, and you are eventually going to harm your liver, etc. Hello? Have you listened to the side effects of anti-depressant medication??? How can that possibly be preferable to booze. Disclaimer: Yeah yeah, I know. Nuance, people.

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

Hahaha! For your sake, then, I hope the universe never slips back into alignment . . . 75 pounds in 2 minutes would put most people over the edge, causing them to reach for their “emotional numbing agent” of choice ~ cigarettes, booze, or more junk food.

Perhaps sex addicts have the right idea ~ they create endorphins and burn calories while indulging. 😉

ericjbaker - July 10, 2013

I’m pretty sure all men are sex addicts. Unfortunately, most of us live in a drug-free life zone.

nrhatch - July 10, 2013

All men? Even (gasp) Anthony Weiner?
Yes, especially him. :mrgreen:

15. Jodi - July 11, 2013

I don’t know about everyone else but I plan on dying in a freak skydiving accident when I’m 75 ish.

nrhatch - July 11, 2013

Yes!!! I believe that’s why George H.W. Bush continues to skydive into his nineties. If you make enough jumps, one is certain to the “The Last Fall.” 😉

16. Three Well Beings - July 11, 2013

I think it’s impossible for me to imagine my life at 100 or so being any different than I am today. Of course that’s bunk, but I’m just sharing where my mind obscures the truth and I live in perpetual denial. And my favorite smoking story…my mother-in-law was a smoker and her doctor was continually trying to tell her to quit. She was in good health and going on 90–she wanted those smokes! She was in the hospital for a few days with pneumonia and I heard her telling her doctor that she’d given up smoking. I couldn’t believe she was telling a lie to her doctor, and when I questioned her she batted those big blue eyes at me and said, “I haven’t had a cigarette since I walked into this hospital.” She died at 90–happy and content with life. And smoked until the end. 🙂

nrhatch - July 11, 2013

We have a 90-year-old woman in our water aerobics class who bounces around as spry as someone 30 years younger.

Her secret? Your secret!

It’s impossible for her to imagine her life being any different today than it was yesterday . . . so she never ages. The fountain of perpetual youth is all in her mind. And in yours.

And your MIL story cracks me up. We live in a fear-based society where we are socialized/conditioned/brainwashed at a young age to be risk adverse. No matter what we want, we are encouraged to temper our steps and “play it safe” rather than reaching out to grab it with both hands.

We learn to shape our ABC’s (Activities, Behavior, Choices) by focusing the spotlight on the potential RISKS (however remote) rather than the certain REWARDS (however immediate).

Why did the chicken cross the road?
To see if it could.

17. sufilight - July 11, 2013

I too wouldn’t want to live until I am 100 years old. Even if healthy, a person that age has to depend on others and live in a society that doesn’t support the very elderly. My s/o smokes and is in good health. I am not crazy about his smoking but never tell him not to smoke as it’s his choice.

nrhatch - July 11, 2013

Our societal structure these days is designed on an competitive individualistic consumer model rather than a communal one.

If we lived in communal pods, instead of insulated nuclear families, the seniors of the tribe would watch the youngest while the most physically able did the heavy lifting. And, I suspect, it would be a Win-Win for all, including the planet who would benefit from our decision to share resources rather than hoard them or squander them.

18. Catherine Johnson - July 11, 2013

I’d hate to get that old too. Have a lovely birthday!

nrhatch - July 11, 2013

Thanks, Catherine. The only known cure for “old age” is death. For many it is a welcome release. The length of the journey is far less important than the ability to enjoy it Here and Now.

Seize the day! 😀

19. bluebee - July 11, 2013

Live ’til 114? I need a lie-down at the thought of it.

nrhatch - July 11, 2013

Yes! A lie down with covers drawn over my head. 😆

20. William D'Andrea - July 11, 2013

According to the Bible, Methuselah lived 969 years and begat sons and daughters. A truly remarkable man! Just imagine what a remarkable woman Mrs.Methuselah must have been!

nrhatch - July 11, 2013

Hahaha. This is just one reason why I don’t believe things just because “the bible tells me so.”

Back then, they probably measured life using a different yardstick ~ maybe they treated each cycle of the moon as a year. If so, he was really only 74.538 years of age when he stopped procreating and started fertilizing the garden. 😛

William D'Andrea - July 13, 2013

As a devout Christian, I have prayed to the Lord about how long it will be until I leave this world.
I asked Him, “Could you please wait until I’m at least 85, and then when I’m sleeping? I don’t want to know when it’s happening. I just want to go to sleep here and wake up there, please.”
That was my request. Now I’ll wait patiently to see what happens. I’m not in any rush.

nrhatch - July 13, 2013

Not a bad way to go, William. I too would rather slip away while lost in slumber.

21. jannatwrites - July 11, 2013

Quality of life is a big factor. Each person is different about what that means. My grandma (on my dad’s side of the family) felt that life wasn’t worth living if she couldn’t work in her garden anymore. My parents felt that life in a wheelchair could still be fulfilling…but when she had a stroke, they supported her wishes and didn’t authorize a feeding tube. She died a month later. (My mom jokes that they followed her wishes because if she lived and found out what they had done, she would make them sorry :))

I don’t smoke (never will), but I’ll eat a slice or three of chocolate cake in support of not sticking around on earth for too long 🙂

nrhatch - July 11, 2013

Exactly! Quality of life IS the issue . . . and that is very dependent on our individual interests and abilities. What works for the goose may not work for the gander.

I’m glad they honored your grandma’s wishes. Too often, we focus on quantity / longevity rather than on quality. Being alive (like Karen Ann Quinlan) but barely breathing isn’t “living.”

And go you! CHOCOLATE is the answer. What was the question?

22. Sandra Bell Kirchman - July 11, 2013

Happy birthday, Nancy! And YAY vibrant living 🙂

nrhatch - July 11, 2013

THANKS! My birthday week is rolling along in high style.

A friend took me to lunch yesterday to a delicious Greek cafe. BFF and I went bowling today and pulled up the “birthday party” graphics on the scoreboard. (“Look, BFF . . . that rabbit is MOCKING you!”) And on Saturday, my sister’s family is coming to spend the day so I can “hang out” with two of our nieces. Yay!

23. Perfecting Motherhood - July 18, 2013

If I remember well, the longest living woman in France used to drink a glass of wine a day. I’m not sure if she smoked or not, but she did say she enjoyed life as much as she could, without depriving herself. I would guess that’s why she lived that long. She was happy.

nrhatch - July 18, 2013

Here’s to enjoying the ride . . . until we reach the EXIT sign. 😉

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