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.