I looked at the blood pressure machine twice, not quite believing what I was seeing – 200 over 110.
“That’s not good.” I thought to myself.
It was a little after eleven at night. I was about to moisturize my face. When you reach the age of fifty-nine, your face attempts to dry out, locking in a scary expression and probably eventually sliding off your head. It’s just like everything else at this age that seems to be going badly wrong. I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed a clearly visible blood vein under my left eye. “Never saw that before,” I thought. So, I went and searched in the back of a drawer until I found my blood pressure monitor.
200 over 110 – what to do?
I remember thinking. “You’re going to die, James. Maybe not this minute but probably soon, and if you don’t die, you’ll probably have a debilitating stroke, and live the life of a plant. You know, spoon fed lots of jello and rice pudding, if they remember to feed you.”
I had suspected that fear of death focused the mind but once I was there looking at death from the range of a close acquaintance I knew I was fiercely concentrating and focused.
I spent the next twenty minutes researching on the Internet and developing a plan. The hardest part of that night wasn’t studying and planning, it was trying to go to sleep. I kept thinking that I might not wake up.
The next day, I purged salt from my diet discarding a variety of canned and frozen foods. I went to the store and bought fruits and veggies. I decided red meat had to go but fish would probably be okay.
It was at the store I found evidence that God had a deep and abiding fondness for me. I had been looking for a reclining exercycle for months, and had repeatedly refused to buy one at full price. And yet, here I was ready and determined to buy one at full price and the store had a dinged one for half off, which I immediately purchased, hauled home and assembled.
While at the store, I tried out their blood pressure machine to see if I could get a different result. It declined to give me blood pressure numbers, merely putting up a message that I should get to a hospital immediately. “I already know that.” I observed to myself.
Since then, it has been a struggle. On the positive side, eating fruit everyday has been nice although grapes are just way too expensive. On the negative side, food choices are a little bland and I crave salt particularly in the form of potato chips. I can’t figure out what to eat guacamole with, if not chips? I put the exercycle next to the computer and move it into viewing position, watch a nice you-tube video (usually a history documentary) for about twenty or twenty-five minutes at a time.
I didn’t re-check my blood pressure for the first week and the next check showed a drop of about twenty points. After that, I splurged and bought a little wrist blood pressure monitor. I test my blood pressure like I’m supposed to, after ten minutes of sitting quietly but after a while I became curious and starting testing it after exercise and meals, in the morning, at night, etc. I wanted to see how much it varied and why. It became readily apparent that the most important factor in whether it was high or not was my salt intake.
So, currently I’m getting readings at my usual time and after proper rest of about 140 over 90. That’s not great but it is more in the yellow zone of taking care of yourself and less of the “my head is about to explode” zone.
So, is this a second chance? – a new lease on life? I don’t know. I know it changed my behavior. I look, feel and live a lot harder, a lot more intensely, and that remains. Sometimes when I walk out a door, I pause and just look at the sky and the trees and the people. I let the wind blow my hair and feel the warmth. I marvel at my students who seem half asleep and walk the halls like zombie extras but then I wander down to the mall and see their elders are even deader, consumers studying the products, eyeing the next bargain ignoring any and all human interaction.
I’m blunter, more friendly and probably a much more engaging lecturer than I have ever been before. I listen a lot better because I want to know what other people are saying and thinking because I’m curious why they keep going on living when I have doubts that I should or can.
One theory has been advanced. My Tuesday-Thursday Business Law class claims that I was preserved among the living so that I could give them all A’s. I told them that should a celestial choir awaken me from sleep to tell me of me of my grand purpose, it was highly unlikely that giving them all A’s would be the name of the tune.
I think that maybe I should go back to where I began in Northeastern Oklahoma and remember what my beginnings were, try out the old trails once again. Maybe that is my purpose, but even if it is not, it is still a path with heart, and that sounds pretty good right now.