One of my favorite scenes from “The Godfather Part II” is a conversation between gangsters Michael Corleone and Hyman Roth.
Michael (Al Pacino) goes to see Roth (Lee Strasberg) at his home in Miami, Florida. Film watchers see Roth bare-chested and looking ill. He expresses some regret that there was an attempt on Michael’s life.
He then tells him this: “The important thing is you're all right. Good health is the most important thing, more than success, more than money, more than power.”
Thats the line that sticks with me.
Roth is as right as rain. We’ve all been taught that the body is the foundation for everything in life, right? Well, I got real about the state of my own health and vowed to be more vigilant two years ago after the death of my brother, Harold.
He was only 56 years old. He died of complications related to heart disease. It runs rampant through my bloodline.
I was thinking about how far I’ve actually come along this path of healthier living while on a leisurely stroll early one morning along the American Tobacco Trail. I was near downtown Durham, and I wanted to take a long walk. It’s when and where I do some of my best thinking. I had some serious gut checking to do (literally and figuratively) because it turns out I’m not as healthy as I thought I was.
Heres the thing: eight months after my brother’s death I went vegan. Come August, it will be two years since I started this new way of eating. My health numbers attested to the success of eating a plant- based diet. They were all going in the right direction. My body weight, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure were low and down.
Things were going along just great until recently when I went to see my doctor for a regular visit. She cursed out loud when she saw my blood pressure reading. Hearing her say, “Oh #$@&%*!” shocked the heck out of me!
My doctor was alarmed because it was her second effort to get a reading. The first time she used a new off the cuff device to measure my blood pressure. It was a tiny contraption connected to my fingertip. She went back to the more traditional sphygmomanometer before I left the office. The good doctor believed that the old tried and true would yield better results. She was wrong. See, it was the reading from the traditional blood pressure cuff that made her lose her professionalism for a little minute.
The doc told me she was scared I was going to have a stroke or something right there in her office. She couldn’t make sense of it. We talked about how high blood pressure could be a side effect from a medication I was taking. She immediately went online and swapped the old prescription for a new one.
She probed deeper because she didn’t feel the ill effects from the one pill I was taking could make that kind of impact on my pressure. She asked how much was I drinking. I told her I was drinking like everybody else was drinking and it was nothing out of the ordinary.
I then got a quick course about the body: how it offers us advice in whispers and how it starts to yell at us when we ignore the whispers. She told me to take care of myself and report back to her. I checked out at the front desk and drove home.
It was there in the quiet of my apartment that I admitted the truth to myself that I withheld from my doctor. I was doing more than leisure drinking. Career transitioning and dream building have me navigating new waters. My schedule’s crazy. I keep banking hours and rock-star hours. I have meetings in well-appointed downtown offices and bars. Johnny Walker Black and black coffee. I love them both the same.
There’s the rub. The truth is, overindulging and acting like everything is normal can ruin this exciting business plan I’m presently cobbling together. Its a beautiful thing marrying your work with your purpose. The opportunity to pursue this I believe is a gift. I don’t want my health and habits to screw this up. I’m changing. Less rock star and more authenticity about the need to get out of this fuzzy phase of living.
I care again with almost the same fervor I had after Harold’s death. I don’t ever want my body, or my doctor, to yell at me again.
You can reach Pam Saulsby at firstname.lastname@example.org and follower her on Twitter @pamsaulsby