People ask me for advice all the time. I don't know whether it's because I have a wise look, or my advancing age promotes assumptions about wisdom. I suspect the latter, but in any case, I usually have two pieces of advice, depending on who's asking.
If it's a journalist - either one working for the Tahlequah Daily Press or another publication - I tell the owner of the inquiring mind, "Go to work every day, expecting anything." If it's just a normal person - a category that also includes some journalists - my advice is this: "Take care of yourself." I didn't when I was younger, and I'm sorry now.
I probably would have gotten psoriatic arthritis, even if I was eating right, meditating, doing yoga and jogging five miles a day since childhood. As far as I know, my father, who is 82, still jogs a few miles a day, skis the black slopes at Breckenridge, and rides bicycles even places where there's no shoulder on the highway. I don't know that I could describe his long-term diet As being good - he has a taste for peanut butter, ice cream, and peanut M&Ms - but in general, he's in good health.
Psoriatic arthritis is a hereditary autoimmune disease, which I suppose came from my mother's side of the family. I knew my mom had arthritis when I was a kid, but unlike my siblings and me, she's long-suffering and never complained much. She's now a lifetime member of Weight Watchers and has been in decent shape for a long time - well, until she broke several bones a few years ago on one of the aforementioned black slopes - but she was always bothering me about my weight when I was a teenager. I wasn't overweight, but I wasn't concerned with eating healthy food or exercising in those days, beyond my baton twirling. A hamburger or Frito chili pie at Mac's Drive-In, a "krunch koat" ice cream cone at Brown's, or a coney at Sonic, was just fine by me. And besides, my mom liked her RC Cola and taco-flavored Doritos. Who was she to judge?
I weighed 125 when I made it to OU, and though I'm 5-6 now, I was about a half-inch taller then. The guy I dated my first year thought I was fat, so he always encouraged me to starve myself. I got down to about 115. Several years ago, my paternal grandmother showed me a photo she took of me during that period; both sets of grandparents lived in that area and I sometimes spent weekends with them. I was shocked at my sallow, skin-and-bones appearance. A few years later, back home in Fort Gibson to raise more funds to go back to college, I dated another guy who was a fitness buff. Anything unsuitable - like failure to pump iron and run every day, or having an occasional beer - was verboten. Despite the positive influence, I paid little attention to his campaign for physical well-being, and although I've always hated beer and no longer drink it, I continued to imbibe in those days with my friends at Granny's Attic. Beer will pack on the pounds, especially when coupled with nachos from what was then the NSU cafeteria.
I was married with a child before I was formally diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, and by then, it was too late. Had I maintained a healthy weight and been immersed in an exercise program, this ailment wouldn't have been so awful. I've tried to make up for lost time, but on some days, I have to use a cane - especially if the pool at NSU has been closed, or I go several days without weightlifting or yoga in the evenings, because I'm too tired to battle with my husband over it. That man hates working out, and he doesn't suffer from a chronic condition, unless you count an Italian heritage.
Given my profession, it's hard to find time to cook healthy meals. My schedule has varied over the years, but at the moment, I usually get up around 5 or 6 a.m.; sometimes I go to work first, sometimes the pool. Then it's back to work, where I generally remain until around 6. Then it's home for exercise (if I'm up for the fight), and cooking dinner and eating it. Simultaneously, I'm still editing copy and proofing deadline pages. I'm lucky if I'm in bed by 10 p.m. This is why for people like me, it's much easier to fall back on burgers and jalapeño Cheetos, not to mention ice cream from any source that sells it. (Since I write about vacations quite a bit, you're probably wondering how I pull this off. I've been with my company so long that I get four weeks every year, and I take every single day granted me. I usually work intermittently even so, but this year, I'm trying to actually take time off.)
I'm not blaming anyone - not my profession, not my family, not my company, not the man in the moon. I've always chosen my own path - and, to paraphrase the knight in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," I sometimes chose poorly. I don't necessarily mean my profession. I know what I'm doing is important; I'm told that every day by people who truly understand the function of the Fourth Estate and how precious the First Amendment is to the American way of life. But the past few years have been rough for journalists. I've been attacked mercilessly for minor mistakes, and have listened as people told me they hoped I would "die," or at least be fired - or that all newspapers would be shuttered. People whom I once considered friends have broken contact because I've criticized President Trump, even though they had no problem with my lambasting of his predecessors. They, too, are making choices - and they are also choosing poorly. Trump cares nothing for them personally, and he won't be president forever. I don't know what sort of mesmerizing power the man has over his base, but it's remarkable, and unprecedented - at least in the past 80 years or so.
I've had periods of time when the stress has been almost unbearable. I remember two back-to-back 120-hour weeks back in the mid-'90s, when almost all my hair fell out and I had to wear a wig for a while. There's no doubt such episodes affected my health. Most recently, I developed Type 2 diabetes, which I'm managing with a semi-keto diet. But had I been in tip-top shape to begin with, that might not have happened.
I'll keep doing what I'm doing as long as I can, because it matters - even with the oafish shrieks and catcalls of "fake news!" ringing in my ears. But I'll also work on my health - and so should you. I'm trying hard to convince my 30-year-old son he shouldn't follow the same path as his mother, but so far, he's not listening any better than I did. But I'll keep up the mantra: Take care of yourself. When it comes down to it, you're all you've got.