Why being healthy really matters

Being healthy is overwhelming. Walk 10,000 steps, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables, exercise three days a week, drink eight cups of water, sleep eight hours a night, and while you’re at it, squeeze in a 20-minute meditation session.

It's practically a full-time job, tracking habits and keeping up with constantly shifting trends. Anyone who appears to have it all together is fooling you.

But why do we care? Honestly, why does anyone really care? Toned legs, flat stomach, more energy? Sounds great. But wait, there’s so much more.

For your family

IN A MONTH I lost both my remaining grandparents on my mother’s side. They both lived long lives—my grandma at 86 and my grandpa at 92—but our family grieved frustrations about how it happened.

My grandmother, Annaliese Kotewa.
My grandma died of cancer. On Christmas Eve she was stricken with “a cold” that revealed itself as lung cancer within a month. This bout wasn’t her first fight with cancer, either. She battled ovarian cancer two years earlier.

But this time, she didn’t want to fight anymore. She was tired of chemotherapy and relentless doctor visits. Weeks after diagnosis, she was trapped in bed on hospice care. Her rosy cheeks paled. She couldn’t speak coherently. She couldn’t do anything.

My grandfather, Pete Kotewa.

I refuse to believe the natural state of aging is disarray. I refuse to believe we’re meant to be riddled with diseases that hijack our mind and dominate our body. I downright refuse.

My grandpa died suddenly a month after my grandma did. Heart issues followed him later in life but nothing knocked him off his feet. But then he fell, alone. A stubbornly independent man, he refused to live a life where he relied on others for basic needs. He cracked his skull hanging a shower curtain. His death thrust more guilt and frustration on our family—couldn’t we have prevented it? 

While disease didn’t break him, I wonder what could have prevented the incident. Careful foot placement? More muscle mass? Greater bone density? I don’t know.

I wanted to scream, “Does anyone every die peacefully in their sleep anymore?”

THE NIGHT AFTER HIS FUNERAL we went to the bar for some unhealthy coping. After all, health isn’t just a physical manifestation.

Reality thrust itself upon us. My grandparents were the thread that knitted our patchy family together. Without them, we’re unraveling.  

I imagined myself as my aunt. Would I be close to my siblings when we got older? Or, would we refuse to speak to each other? Would our children know each other? What will my nieces think of me when I’m older? Will I be the cool aunt teaching them pranks, or will I be a friendly stranger?

Slurpin' curry with my mom. Bay City, MI.
I imagined myself as my mother. What kind of home will I nurture? Will my husband be a loving father? Will I be active, fun, and encouraging? Will I be as selfless as she is?

I imagined myself as my grandma. Will I be the matriarch of the family? Will my children, their children, and maybe even my great-grandchildren gather at my house for the holidays?

Or will my children watch me suffer a painful death? Will they be burdened with my care?

Yes, I like to think they would love me. I like to think they would do anything for me. But I don’t want them to do anything for me—I want them to see me thrive. I want to travel, do burpees, and solve problems until I die peacefully in my sleep. 

I WANT MY FUTURE FAMILY to be warm, open, and loving. I want them to be vulnerable with each other. I want them to actually know each other. 

I’ve never felt close with my family and so when I had a falling out with friends in high school, I felt completely alone. The pain of loneliness can be fatal. According to the Daily Mail, loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or living with alcoholism. 

Social support is absolutely essential for a healthy psyche and in turn, a healthy body. I want to give my future family supportive and loving relationships. 

Yes, I’m hurt. Yes, I’m optimistic. But no, I’m not naïve anymore. We can make our lives whatever we want. We can’t control the people in our lives, but we can control how we interact with them. We can choose to be kind. We can choose to be vulnerable. We can choose to start a conversation. 

Hopefully they choose to take the outstretched hand.

Pure Michigan moment at Tahquamenon Falls. From left: my fiancé, Chris; and friends Justin and Evan.

Being healthy matters because we are more than a human stumbling through the world. Our lives impact others—even the tiniest moments. 

No matter what “family” means to you, being healthy matters for them. But being healthy matters for you, too.

Want to read more? Click here to read "Why being healthy really matters (Part 2)."


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