Doctor’s Orders

I am not a fan of doctors. I hate going to the doctor’s office because I’m always afraid they will commit acts of Medical Care upon my body then scold me for being a beer enthusiast.

Even so, no matter how badly I dislike the doctor’s office, you shouldn’t put these appointments off.

My exam went well. Blood pressure is down. Cholesterol is lower. I’m fatter, of course, but at least I’m losing my hair.

The doctor smiled at my chart and said he’s very pleased about my health. Then he took a long gander at me and smiled. He said, “You don’t even look like the same guy I saw last year.”

And his words struck me. Because he’s right, I’ve changed a lot. The previous pandemic year has done a number on me. It’s made me a different man in almost every important area of my life.

Take beer. My beer consumption habits are very different now. Which is almost unbelievable, because to me, beer has always been beautiful stuff. Beer traditionally goes great with every occasion: baseball games, social events, real estate closings, baptisms, days of the week containing a vowel, etc.

But something weird happened in the middle of last year. Beer became old news. All of a sudden I wasn’t drinking it. One day I realized it had been four months since I’d had any beer. And the bizarre thing is, I can’t figure out why. It happened by accident.

I realize this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you knew me you’d know I love beer. I was first introduced to the golden suds when I was a 5-year-old. My grandfather let me sip his Miller High Life because he thought it would be hysterical to watch his grandson spit and go, “YUCK!”

But his object lesson backfired because I adored the taste. At which point I attempted to drink the whole thing. Whereupon my grandfather yanked the can from my chubby little hands and said in a stern voice, “Oh no you don’t. Not until you graduate from kindergarten, young man.”

Other things that have changed since the pandemic: My social circle dropped to a record low. Friends quit texting because what’s the point? You can only keep a text-based friendship going for so long before you resort to sending memes.

My daily routine has changed. Only a year ago I was doing speaking engagements for a living, and I was a frequent flyer. Thus, if I wasn’t in some scummy airport waiting on a flight, sleeping on the floor beside Atlanta’s sole electrical outlet, I was driving across an empty highway to speak at a Moose Lodge.

And I was a night owl. After making speeches, I’d head to my hotel, eat a midnight supper consisting of 24 pounds of fried chicken, collapse onto a bed, and fall asleep watching ESPN. The light would go off around 1 A.M. because I’ve been going to bed late for decades.

Until last year.

As of last year there were no more airplanes. No more cross-country trips. No more nocturnal KFC. Currently, my daily regimen consists of morning walks, emails, clipping toenails, and spending three hours each morning looking for my reading glasses.

Something else that’s changed? I started going to bed earlier. This was not on purpose. Sometimes on warm summer evenings I’d be sitting in a chair, reading, and—wham!—I’d just fall asleep. When I would awaken, there would be drool on my shirt, and it was Christmas.

And meals. We used to eat supper after dark. Now we eat before “Wheel of Fortune” comes on.

I don’t talk as much as I used to. I laugh more readily. My taste in entertainment is different—TV does nothing for me anymore. I started eating broccoli. And cauliflower. And occasionally tapioca. And when I’m bored I read books because I can’t figure out what else to do once I’ve found my reading glasses.

It is almost impossible to believe that 366 days ago I was in an airport, asleep beneath an overhead TV blaring cable news, using my carry-on bag as a pillow, waiting for a delayed flight to Houston.

It’s also difficult to believe that after the flight landed at 10:04 P.M., amazingly, I would have the energy to visit the airport bar to order a “King Cardiac” burger and a Shiner Bock for the price of $332.51.

In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, the routine I just described sounds miserable. What was I doing, living that way? Actually, I wasn’t living at all. I was merely existing, which is not the same as living. I’ve learned a lot about myself this year, and I’m embarrassed to say I still have a lot to learn.

I now realize that pre-COVID I was exhausted, overworked, and sometimes lost. I wasn’t eating right, I consumed too much coffee, ate too many corn chips, and didn’t get enough sleep. I suppose, in a way, it took a pandemic to wake me up.

Before my doctor’s appointment was over, I almost felt like laughing or crying. Because this truly has been one of my hardest years. I’ve been tired, lonely, pent up, disappointed, stressed, saddened, disconnected, confused, and sometimes depressed.

Even so, no matter how hard it’s been, if I’m being honest, I think this year has helped me become a healthier human being.

My doctor definitely thinks so. Because he gave me some important parting medical advice right before I left. And I will never forget the doc’s orders for as long as I live.

He said, “My friend, I think you owe yourself a beer.”

I guess doctors aren’t so bad.


  1. James e inman - January 31, 2021 6:29 am

    Welcome to getting older and not running in high gear! Have a beer or three and ease on in to slowing down. Glad ya checkup was good, always nice to leave a healthy corpse LOL. Bless ya Brother.

  2. Katie J Waters - January 31, 2021 6:58 am

    LOVE YOUR COLUMN! This time in history has caused most of AMERICA to not take for granted life as we know it…. weddings, funerals, church services missed; BBQ’s, Theaters, FUN SOCIAL gatherings, The ARTS, SPORTING EVENTS, Holiday gatherings all changed. We are better for it because family has become more important; hugs cherished; we have had time to reflect on who we are, our blessings and where those blessings come from. Peace and grace be with you in 2021. Keep writing!

  3. Charaleen Wright - January 31, 2021 7:30 am


  4. Leigh Amiot - January 31, 2021 10:07 am

    My husband and I rolled up our sleeves to get the first of two in a series of covid vaccines in the parking lot of a regional hospital where a friend of his died that very day. It gave us an inkling of what survivor’s guilt must feel like for those who return from battle having left fellow soldiers behind. Living through a pandemic is not something we foresaw over 34 years ago when we vowed to stick together through it all. It’s looking like we may well get out of this alive, and if we do, I look forward most to seeing family across the country, haven’t seen them in over a year, and having people over for dinner again. Thank you for this essay which reminds us that every human on this planet has a layered story of pandemic endurance and what it has taught each one of us.

  5. oldlibrariansshelf - January 31, 2021 10:48 am

    This reader has spent many winters in deep depression. However, reading your essays and some of your books has helped to keep my spirits up during the pandemic. Thank you, Sean, for your tenacity to keep writing!

  6. Lisa - January 31, 2021 1:06 pm

    I absolutely agree, Sean. Life is different now. I like the slower pace and I’m choosing to keep it. I ditched social media—and most regular media because they just want to give me my daily dose of outrage so I keep coming back for a fix. I like pausing and thinking on things, waiting before speaking, spending time with family and people who matter. Driving the speed limit and looking at what’s going on around me instead of raging on the slow guy in front of me. Books!!!!real books not on my kindle—I even bought a new bookcase. There is just an enormous cloud of peace that comes from sitting with a real book, and I had forgotten that. TV really doesn’t have the same appeal, you’re right. My husband dropped 35 pounds, I’ve lost 12, and we just plain eat better foods now (we love cauliflower too). I’m glad you wrote this today. I thought it was just me. Greetings from Missouri and God bless.

  7. Xan - January 31, 2021 1:20 pm

    I think you nailed it! You discovered the blessing of covid-19 … CLARITY! And on a side note, my blood pressure has gone down too, and I really can’t understand it. Last winter, I gave up worrying for Lent. I feel somewhat responsible for this pandemic because it sure tested my commitment to adhere to the scripture that asks us, can worrying add one hour to your life? Anyway, I Incorporated some of the same new habits onto my life that you did, and down went my blood pressure–a medical reassurance that the changes I made because of a pandemic have affected me in a positive way. Enjoyed going on your doctor’s visit with you!

  8. Jimpa - January 31, 2021 1:45 pm

    And there’s nothing wrong with texting memes…

  9. Michael - January 31, 2021 2:12 pm

    I deliberately backed off of beer because of the calories and lack of activity. Thanks for being in my inbox every morning to help me get through this pandemic. Seriously, it’s a bright spot in my day.

  10. Terri Hinds - January 31, 2021 2:24 pm


  11. Joel - January 31, 2021 2:47 pm

    Me too, Sean! Thanks for the post!

  12. Beryl - January 31, 2021 2:49 pm

    There is always a “gift” to be found in “tragedy”. Mine was also about slowing down. I feel like I am now semiretired and I LOVE IT! Every morning I see the sunrise, the Coopers hawks landing, the cardinals, sparrows, finches, Morning doves, curved-billed thrashers, hummingbirds, Greater Roadrunner, and Gila Woodpeckers wake and begin their bird day. I begin my human day with the intent to be of service, be kind, love, and NOTICE LIFE happening all around me.

  13. Kim Obele - January 31, 2021 3:06 pm

    I saw a meme about ways to come out of quarantine: monk, hunk, chunk, or drunk – and to choose wisely. Sounds to me you started in a funk, started tossing out the junk, skunks, and punks in your life – and discovered cauliflower! (I didn’t realize how many words in the English language have UNK in them).

  14. Lauren D Ulrich - January 31, 2021 3:17 pm

    I think you’re not alone in discovering that the pandemic has forced “good” life changes on many of us. It’s been called a “reset” button in the sense that it gives us an opportunity (when it’s all over) to choose again what we’ll go back to when we can. Interesting. I wonder what our “new normal” will look like~

  15. Chasity Davis Ritter - January 31, 2021 3:30 pm

    I had a “wellness” check doctors appointment this week which has led to two more appointments in the next two weeks yay me nothing wrong I hope but more tests because I am reaching one of those age milestones soon. In their routine questions though they asked if I had been depressed. Well honestly this past year who hasn’t been? I answered truthfully though. And here are with 2021. Buckle your seat belts still could be a bumpy ride. Glad you had a good visit though! Cheers 🍻

  16. Bob Brenner - January 31, 2021 3:52 pm

    Remember he said “A Beer 🍺”! That’s singular 😜😊

  17. Katy - January 31, 2021 4:11 pm

    Sean- you almost lost me after your tale of “Buddy”- the truth of a dog’s heart and devotion just rips me wide open and makes me long for humans to be this way. My new word in this pandemic, “saudade” – used in Portugese and not translatable into English…

  18. Jane - January 31, 2021 4:42 pm

    Could be my story, except for the beer. Had my first swig at 5…plus a drag on a cigarette…and that was the last.

  19. Ernie - January 31, 2021 5:21 pm

    Since last March, when the pandemic became THE PANDEMIC and we were all sent to work from home while thousands in South Georgia and across the country simply were sent home with no work – and the death toll became horrific, my wife and I have prayed for a “COVID 19 Miracle.” In my mind, I was expecting a singular, cataclysmic eradication of the disease with a flash of thunder and such. Hasn’t happened. But I’m starting to see the miracle we’ve been praying for in the same way we can see mountains move – one rock, one slide, one little pebble being washed downstream at a time. There are people – like you – who have a single personal miracle. Surviving in some cases. Changing their lives in others. Adopting a new perspective. Or simply becoming grateful where they had no grasp of the privileges they enjoy. Those personal miracles are happening by the thousands. Tens of thousands even. They’re so personal, they go unnoticed outside a very small circle. But collectively, things are changing. Mountains are moving. And the only way we’ll know is when we wake up in a generation and look where things are, and compare them with where they started. Thanks for this. I think our prayer is being answered. Have a beer, hug your bride, pet your dog, keep our eyes open to the miracles all around us. Blessings.

  20. Linda Moon - January 31, 2021 6:38 pm

    I’m not a fan of doctors, but I do love and respect them for what they’ve accomplished for me in fifteen years….with help from with that other Physician. I became a fan of of Shiner Bock Beer that a preacher’s wife in Houston introduced me to. I’m honest enough to admit my hardships from this year, mostly because of the time spent apart from family, friends, and live events. Doctors and the Great One can give us hope for better LIFE to come. And you’re not so bad yourself, Doctor Sean, with your thoughtful words of hope!

  21. Jim Thomssen - January 31, 2021 11:27 pm

    I retired and it was the best thing healthwise ever. Down 60 pounds and off cholesterol medication. Taking care of one self is important.

  22. Melanie - February 1, 2021 12:04 am

    I’m going to give Jamie at least half of the credit here.

  23. Julie - February 9, 2021 12:14 pm

    Please go easy on the beers, Sean! Your doctor did say “A” beer, not a few. Your brain cells are far to precious to succumb to a premature death by drinking. There are MANY readers who ADORE you❣️
    Love and Adoration,


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