Death is scary as hell
We’re all going to die one day, but chances are that not many of us are excited about it. Sometimes it’s easier to just hope for the best; sometimes it’s easier to not think about it at all.
As men, what do we do when we’re faced with something that’s hard to understand? What about when it’s hard to see how we can do anything about it?
Often, we withdraw. And that has serious consequences when it comes to our health.
As men, many of us get off by fixing stuff. We’re all different, but we can find it gratifying to get our hands dirty, take things apart, put them back together again and approach much of what life throws at us in that way: categorizing, organizing, taking apart, putting back together.
Where it gets tricky is when we’re faced with our own health and wellbeing.
If it was math, our answer is either right or wrong. If you’re driving to your destination, you know how many kilometres you have left to go, you can measure what’s left in your tank, and you know when you can put your feet up. Consider even the car itself: either it runs or it doesn’t. It’s either broken or it’s fixed.
Our bodies don’t work that way
Sometimes, when you take your body to the mechanic they tell you that it’s falling apart and there’s nothing you can do about it. Even if you’ve done everything right – get the oil changed regularly and keep your dashboard polished – you still might hear that your vehicle is going to be difficult (and costly) to repair.
Other times, you can drive long and work your vehicle hard, burn your body’s candle at both ends and feel like everything is fine day after day, year after year, until you’re surprised by an engine failure.
The thing is, a car is much easier to worry about than a human body.
A car is something we can control (which is appealing) and something we can fix when it gets broken. We can swap out new parts here and there when we need them. We can drive it even when the engine is making weird sounds because whatever that grinding or grumbling means, we can make repairs or maybe drive away in something new.
Think of your body as a tree
A tree, though, doesn’t let you pick and choose which branches matter to you.
Whether it’s the thick main trunk or a singular leaf, every piece of the tree is equally a piece of the tree. Every part helps it grow, get nourishment, and prosper.
A tree doesn’t forget. When its life is done and its rings are exposed, you can retrace its existence, all of the hard years and the good ones. If there was a year of harsh weather or poor health, it will show up there, years later. The tree carries that with it all its life.
If you think this is all just silly symbolism, ask yourself, “How do I view my own body? What framework makes sense to me to make sense of my health?”
For many men, the answer is too often, “I don’t think of my health and body much at all.” And that comes back to bite us.
Whether we know it or not, if we’re living with the “car” mentality, it means we’re not likely to take our vehicle to the mechanic unless, or until, there is something obviously wrong.
Too often, that is too late
With a holistic, whole-life view of the “tree”, we know that we need to see an arborist every season. Like a garden, you wouldn’t leave it unattended; you know it needs regular attention from a gardener to weed and water and see if, and where, there may trouble brewing.
That’s the kind of relationship men need to make sure we have with our doctors and everyone who plays a role in our health: the buddies that we jog with, the life partners who keep us accountable and the chiropractors and trainers who keep us in good shape.
Life isn’t a highway
Life is a forest, where everything is interconnected, and where growing strong and staying healthy isn’t something you fit in-between pit stops – it’s the whole name of the game.
You can keep a car in your garage through the winter, you can strip it down to its skeleton and add new parts as you need them. If it comes down to it, you can get a new one entirely.
In life, we can’t do that. Life is short and our bodies are fragile in so many ways – and that’s okay. It also makes it much harder to talk about than a car.
When we have an issue we can’t talk about, it goes unchecked. When we have a fear that’s too big for us to fit in our garage, so to speak, we simply stall. We stand like a deer in highlights: frozen and blinded to all the time we do have, and all the things we can do, to get out of the way.