We live in a world where Keith Richards has outlived Charlie Watts.
That story tells you something about how the last century evolved. Or, at least, it tells you something about the part of the last century where people really started realizing that how they took care of themselves had anything to do with how well they lived. If you think back…well, let me rephrase. You can’t think back beyond the birth of Keef. That’s ridiculous. Unless you were a REALLY precocious child and you’re a REALLY with it centenarian—could be true—then there’s a more reasoned way to think about this. I should say, imagine any time prior to about 1920. Exercise was a feature of life, and food was fuel or a community-building tool. People didn’t think of diet and exercise as part of taking care of themselves, and they didn’t think about quality of life as a noble or relevant goal. People just had quality of life, or they didn’t. There was no industry around it—no literature about it. Life was life.
Then the world got all shuffled for a few decades. Then, for some reason, we started to take an interest in investing in our own health. I don’t really know how that happened. Then it did. And here we are.
There’s no unifying philosophy of self-care, despite what literally any self-care professional will try to convince you. There is no holistic school of thought guiding our health. If there was…well, there’s not. Trust a guy who’s really pretty disinterested except for all the times he’s been asked to research the subject for people with WAY more interest. (I’m that guy.) I’m a good researcher, and I can tell you this: There are as many theories about how you maintain your health as there are obscure references in Finnigan’s Wake. It is a jungle out there.
I can tell you something that all the theories have in common: don’t do cocaine. Mainly the advice says don’t do any cocaine at all, let alone do ALL the cocaine there is. Which is apparently the one piece of advice that good old Keef never metabolized.
And yet, we live in a world where Keith Richards has outlived Charlie Watts.
Which either means that the entire health and wellness industry is a crock, or that it’s a lot damn more complicated than that.
My money is on the second option, to be honest. I think that if I did all the coke in the world that my health would be wrecked.
I also know that the clue leads to the following conclusion: wellness is more complicated than physical health. And it’s a whole hell of a lot more complicated than how long you live. And the last and most important bit to know about it is that your wellness quest is your own.
For Keef, it’s meant calling biological data into question.
For Charlie Watts, it meant doing fewer drugs and drinking less booze, and generally treating his body better than old Keef—relatively speaking.
I expect that if you asked them separately they would both tell you that they had lived fulfilling lives.
That, to me, is the most important point. A few weeks ago, I met a friend of mine for the first time. We've known each other for a few years online, and he came to my town for the first time. We had lunch, and he asked me how I've been.
The thing was, the way I'd been was, mainly, stressed the eff out. That's sort of what I said to him. Except that I talked about my life. I talked about moving in with my fiancee. I talked about finishing my book. I talked about living in a quiet part of the world where it's pleasant to go out and have a cup of tea or a beer and watch the prairie land surrounding my house. I get to cook. I get to write. I get to drink tea sometimes and beer sometimes. I'm not too far from where my dad and siblings live. I'm discovering I don't totally hate cats.
I told my friend all this, and he said, "Well, it sounds like you're living your best life."
Because the thing is, there are a thousand ways to live your best life. Yes, other people have better education on the subject than you do, and it's not so bad to ask them for advice sometimes. But never forget the reasons WHY you work on your health. Good health doesn't matter an awful lot if you're out of touch with your reasons for being alive.
If there's a lesson to learn from Keef it's this: have a good reason.
So should you take care of yourself? Sure. Should you seek better ideas about nutrition and sleep and exercise? About body awareness? About optimism and mental health your own sense of self-worth? Absolutely.
At the same time, should you pursue your best life, whatever that means for you?
That is what you should do. Live your best life. Figure out what that is first, then do what you can to make choices to do that.
What you should do first, and do this right now, is adopt a healthy leeriness toward anyone too free with the word “should.” Examine their motivations.
Check out my books. They’re pretty good.