There are several reasons I’m more excited about 2020 than I have been for another year in quite some time. Sitting here under a couple of fresh inches of the prettiest snow that’s fallen this winter, I have much to be grateful for and much to look forward to.
The year begins with me in the best health I could hope for, considering what had befallen me in the past. I’m aware the odds of me still being here, with no end in sight, were not very good. When Samwise and Emily came to live with me, each at around six months of age, and a year-and-a-half apart, it was understood that most likely they would outlive me. Plans were made, in case that proved to be true. (Our friends Jill, Jeremy, and Jasmine have been entrusted with Samwise and Emily’s lives if mine should end.)
However, the work of the last eighteen months has me more optimistic. I’ve remade my life, my diet, and my health. Any writer worth a darn will tell you all experience is an act of constant revision.
No longer do I take blood pressure medication or a beta-blocker. Each day my resting heart rate hovers between 50 and 58 beats per minute. My blood pressure is equally healthy at an average of about 98/68. The scale tells me I am 143 pounds less than I had been. That’s not changed for a couple of months now, but it will. There’s more to lose. It will come off over time without much effort.
Beans, greens, and whole grains have replaced the quick fix of sugary and fat-filled foods. Yes, I’m still eating a vegan diet, albeit these days, it is healthy. Gone is the processed vegan junk food I was fooling myself with.
Two medications I will never be able to get away from, a blood thinner and a diuretic, are lifetime sentences due to numerous blood clots and once-failed kidneys. Other than the $6,000 a year I pay for those to stay alive, I’m medication-free.
I do take some supplements, however: Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. My food is also enhanced with daily doses of turmeric, ground flaxseed, amla powder, and black cumin, along with a wide variety of additional spices.
The past year saw me return to the top of some favorite peaks, including a handful of 4,000-footers. This was an unexpected outcome. More mountains and longer hikes await in the year ahead.
Suffering all that I did, I’m aware I may not live as long as once hoped, and I may or may not have added years to my life, but assuredly, I have improved the quality of my life, and probably the length of it—compared to where things stood in July of 2018.
Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet has changed everything. Following Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease program has pushed me even further. Under his plan, I avoid all oils, nuts, seeds (other than ground flax and chia), nut butters, most processed foods, and animal products. Keeping my fat calories under 10 percent also means no avocados or coconut. I shoot to eat six servings of greens a day, with the favorites being kale, spinach, chard, mustard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus. If you had told me I would one day come to love any of these, I’d have said, “You’ve got the wrong guy.” Presently, if fewer greens are eaten on any given day, I miss them the way I used to miss Coca Cola, pastries, chocolate, and pizza.
In a following post, I will share my favorite cookbooks. But since a few of you are curious after reading this far, an excellent place to start is watching two documentaries on Netflix: Forks Over Knives and The Game Changers. Prepare to see things differently. I certainly do.
In April, I will be turning 59, and yet each morning, I wake up feeling half of that. What’s not for me to be excited about?
Two writing projects are coming to fruition. A writer feels happiest when writing and, in my case, being published. The memoir, a bit different than Will’s Red Coat and Following Atticus, will be sent off to my agent this month. Once that is underway, and we are locked in with my publisher, I’ll throw everything I have into completing my first novel. Those characters visit me daily, often when we are alone in the woods, away from the rush of humankind. Those personalities become more vivid each passing week. Conversations take place. I become them, and they become me.
Those years covering the quirky characters in Newburyport is coming in handy.
Samwise and Emily continue to grow and distinguish themselves. They are each a fresh reminder that all souls are individuals, and more than ever, I avoid what passes for social media’s take on animals. If you’ve read my work before, you understand I’m not into labels, and I see non-humans as peers. They are not my children. Nor are they babies. I’m no one’s parent. None of this is new to anyone who has been paying attention.
Sam has just turned four. Em will turn three in March, sharing a birth month with Atticus. There is a giddy satisfaction within knowing most of their lives are ahead of them.
We have no travel plans for this winter or spring. That’s different from the last few years, and it could change, but for now, we’re staying put.
The focus is on my writing.
This blog is something new. It gives me a place to post longer passages away from Facebook. While the Following Atticus page will continue, this is a place for readers. You’ll notice you can even subscribe. When a post is written here, you’ll be notified. Eventually, the plan is also to create a free newsletter that will go out once or twice a week. Some posts will still go up on Facebook; some photos will as well. But most photos are going on our Instagram account (tom_samwise_emily).
Winter is a time for quiet walks in the woods among snow-laden trees, simmering soups, reflection, writing, prayer, and meditation for this writer. It’s a new beginning. As the sun shares more of her light with us each day, I hope to share more with you as the year progresses.
Onward, by all means.
Thanks for reading.