“What time does the gym open today?” Craig asked me.
I was sitting at my desk in my office researching ink. “Ummm… I think it’s closed today,” I responded jokingly.
“Oh really?” He wasn’t amused. “It’s closed today? I highly doubt that, Miss Ice Cream. I’m still mad at you about that.” He walked away and started getting his workout clothes ready.
I rolled my eyes.When I posted that picture of that decadent bowl of ice cream yesterday after work, I knew I was gonna get it. Craig tends to get overdramatic anytime I indulge even a little bit, whether it’s a cookie or a bowl of ice cream. “Ok, come here,” I said. “We’re going to cuddle.”
It’s funny, anytime, we need to work things out, I know the best way to do this is to cuddle with him. We’re not looking at each other, but we’re physically close, which allows us to be vulnerable and honest. “Honestly, it’s just jealousy,” he said. “I’m jealous that I can’t let myself have indulgences even though I encounter them every day.”
“Ok,” I said. “So let’s talk about that. Why do you feel like you can’t do that?”
The thing is he’s obsessive about being healthy, about wanting to prolong life while avoiding death as much as possible. So when I was diagnosed with diabetes, it terrified him. He didn’t even want to even consider the possibility of me outliving him. “I don’t want us to die in our 50s, I want to live well into our 80s.”
While it was an ideal wish, it’s not something that can easily be accomplished just by eating right and exercising. Sure, it helps, but countless times there are stories of people who live perfectly healthy lives who die early on in life because of some freak accident or some unavoidable medical condition. The part that worried me the most about what he said was that his expectations were beyond our reach as mortals.
“See I think of it differently,” I said. “While I agree with you that we should try to live as long as we can, I don’t think we have that much control. Instead, I see it like this: no matter when we die, whether it’s 20 years from now or tomorrow, we should always be able to look back at our life and say, ‘Yes, I’m happy with what I’ve done so far.'”
We should live the life we want to live with no regrets.
He paused for a moment before agreeing with me. He told me someone had interviewed people with terminal illnesses and asked them to give advice to the living. Their words were sad, but the most common theme among their advice was to stop working so hard. That reminded me of something that my dad said to my mom while he was in the hospital those final days.
My dad had just retired that year after 40 years as a lab tech at a major hospital system in Dallas. It was a significant milestone, one that was celebrated by many friends and coworkers at a large reception held for him. But unfortunately, almost immediately after he retired, he became very sick. “I wish I had retired years ago,” he told my mom.
Months after he died, I was cleaning out his home office and I came across printouts of cruises and European vacations he had been researching. Apparently he planned on taking my mom on a big vacation once he retired. And because of that, to this day, I can’t imagine him saying those words to her without crying.
I sat there for a few moments in silence just thinking. Tears began to roll down my cheeks and Craig asked what was wrong. “Something reminded you of your dad?”
I nodded. I told him about what my dad had said to my mom and Craig held me tighter.
I told Craig, ever since then, I decided to live my life without fear. I grew to become a more assertive person. I tried new things. I came out of my shell and I dated different types of men I would’ve never given the time of day. I learned to be more adventurous and resourceful. I was no longer the predictable Kristine who chose the safe route, the route that everyone expected of her. I was the Kristine who took the route she felt like taking because it was her choice and no one else’s.
But I’ve learned that when it comes to indulgences, there has to be a trade off. if I’m going to indulge, it’s going to have to be worth it. Yesterday I’d had a particularly stressful day at work, after which I left early so I had a couple hours to kill before Craig would be home. I decided to try out this ice cream place where they serve Thai-style rolled ice cream. “I could’ve just as easily gone to Kroger and picked up a pint of Ben & Jerry’s for half the price but same amount of calories,” I said. “But it wasn’t just about the ice cream. It was about the experience. I loved being able to watch them make the ice cream right in front of me. That part was so cool.”
And see, that’s the thing about it for me. I don’t just want to do the same boring thing I can do any other night of the week. I want a memorable experience, like that bowl of rolled ice cream. Because when you add all those memorable experiences together, you have a life that you can look back on at any age and say to yourself, “Yeah, I think I did pretty good.”