When I was a kid, we learned a rhyme in school that, I suspect, was aimed at encouraging us to eat fruits and vegetables instead of candy and gum. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” For some reason, I was terrified of doctors when I was a little girl, so I never forgot this little gem. I think in my young mind, I pictured myself throwing the apple at the guy in the white coat, so great was my fear. Ah, the minds of children.
Those teachers were right, you know, about the fruit, I mean. Of course, we all know that now. A healthy diet and consistent exercise go a long way toward helping us live as many years as we have in us. Since I was a kid, we’ve also learned that not only is smoking cigarettes not cool; it kills us about as fast as any other bad habit we pick up. We’ve learned that cooking for hours on end under a broiling summer sun is another really bad idea. Gone are the days of tanning ourselves, using baby oil until we look like a worn old shoe. Those of us who did that also sprayed lemon juice in our tresses as we broiled; did they ever tell us that was bad for us too? Probably.
There’s another key component of maintaining good health that I didn’t understand until I was in my 30s, and it ranks right up there with those I just listed. A school teacher didn’t tell me this one; my husband did. You see, when he and I met, I was a single mom. I worked a corporate job in Atlanta. I made sure that my children played soccer, went to birthday parties and did all the things their friends did. In other words, I was a stressed-out, Type A, over-achiever who was wearing myself out. Every day, I’d wake up and start paddling as fast as I could, calm and collected above water, frantically struggling just under the surface. I never made “me” time because to do so, in my frantic mind, would have been selfish and frivolous.
And then I met my husband. We had been dating for just a few months when he gifted me with a day of pampering – hair, nails, the works. I still remember my reaction, stuttering and stammering dozens of reasons why I simply could not spare an entire day all for myself. He listened to me for a minute, and then he explained something to me, something I haven’t forgotten since. “You give and give, to everybody, all the time. Every now and then, you have to do something for yourself that fills you back up.” Sounds simple enough, I know, but a single mom with two young children, a demanding job, and a grinding commute operates on auto-pilot after a while. She’s ever-vigilant, never gearing down even for a few minutes. She’s worn out and stressed out, and stress is a killer, folks.
Obviously, I figured out that this guy was a keeper and married him. And ever since, no matter what else is going on in life, we make sure we set aside downtime. It might be a trip to the beach, a weekend in the mountains, or just a trip to spend time with family (that we like). It could be a cruise, or it could simply be a drive to someplace we decide along the way. The point is not the destination; it’s the journey. It’s time we spend together, as a couple or as a family, that shuts out the demands of the world and makes room for just us.
So yes, “an apple a day” is sound advice. But while you’re eating it, put up your feet. Put down your phone. Turn off the TV. Oh and for heaven’s sake, while you’re doing that, don’t smoke or sit out in the sun without your sunscreen.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was published in 2016. It is the true tale of a crime that took place in Gwinnett County nearly 40 years ago. Her previous three books are written with Southern humor. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national true crime radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend. com. When she’s not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family, and life in her beloved South.