I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions. I prefer to swing wildly from one end of the metaphorical pendulum to the other, cleaning, eating, and working out like a centered Paleo warrior princess one week and uninterested in doing anything the next that requires more from me than the bare minimum effort needed to consume Cheetos and ice cream while turning book pages/staring at the computer screen. However, after stumbling upon the book How Not to Die by medical examiner and autopsy technician Jan Garavaglia, I’ve decided (nay, resolved) to do my best to begin afresh, start anew, do better, etc. Simply put: to stay alive.
I am not a proficient student of the human body, but my husband is. While he was getting his bachelor’s degree in exercise science, he took human anatomy, which he loved so much that he went on to take advanced human anatomy and to be a T.A. for the basic anatomy class for several semesters. So when I checked out this book, it wasn’t long before we were reading the stories together every night, oohing and aahing (or eeewwing and AAAAHING) over the case studies and stories Garavaglia tells about her work in performing autopsies. The book is a fascinating read and includes many insights as well as health advice, practical and frank discussion of the human body, and a surprisingly optimistic and balanced perspective on how to enjoy your life while it lasts. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and have made the following resolutions in response:
- Don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. Garavaglia devotes entire chapters to the dangers of smoking, alcohol, and drugs and has plenty of sad stories to tell about their effects, which are far more than physical. Luckily for me, I’ve never tried any of the above or had any interest in doing so, so I’m pretty confident I can keep this resolution without any trouble. Everyone needs at least one goal that is a shoe-in, right?
- Be a cautious driver. I just got a new phone to replace my previous flip-phone, which worked perfectly for nine years until it started falling apart, probably because it had been through more damage than any 21st-century item was ever intended to endure. I was very used to how my old phone worked and didn’t have a problem with checking it or texting at red lights. However, now I find that my new phone is newer, stranger, and slightly more difficult to operate, I’ve had to stop myself from using it at all in the car because it requires too much of my attention. I haven’t been in any accidents while driving so far, and my goal is to keep that streak going this year. Another of my goals is to walk or bike places when or where I can and avoid driving altogether.
- I’ll preface this goal with an obligatory UGH because it’s about fitness. I’m not terribly ambitious when it comes to fitness. I like feeling healthy, having energy to do things I enjoy doing, and being able to indulge now and then in some laziness. Still, it’s remarkable how much our bodies rely on basic, regular movement and activity to stay in good health. Forget marathons and super-athlete programs—just taking a walk, cleaning or gardening, or being outdoors every day can make a major difference in someone’s overall health. So my third goal is to just move around more—take walks, stretch my legs, park far away from places, use the stairs, go outside and breathe deeply for a few minutes, etc. General staying alive stuff.
- Be more grateful and do more things that make me happy. Suicidal thoughts, depression, stress, and bad relationships are a few of the subjects that Garavaglia covers in her book, and having struggled with a few of these myself and seen other close friends and family members struggle with them through the years, I felt a deep desire to focus on bringing more positivity, joy, and love into my life. You don’t have to be dying or having a middle-aged crisis to realize that life is short and hard. It may sound corny, but sometimes it can help during a tough, long day (or a tough, long month—looking at you, January) to remember that every day is a gift and every moment you’re with someone you love or doing something you love is kind of special and wonderful.
- Get more massages. Because I am just really, REALLY committed to my HEALTH, okay?