I’m out of English Breakfast tea, and putting up with Dragonwell Green. This is not a happy state of affairs. I’ve made tea and toast my breakfast for decades. The tea varietal may shift, a bit, from English Breakfast to Darjeeling to Lapsang Souchong, but it’s always black, and always taken with milk. The toast has gone through a few incarnations too, from English muffin, to Trader Joe’s whole wheat bread, and finally, La Brea Whole Grain. But the basic equation is pretty fundamental to my day.
Every sip of the bitter green tea shocks me, just a bit. And then I think, “Well, maybe it’s good?”
This morning I read an article about an early detection test for Alzheimer’s. As Time Goes By is a blog for and about people over 50, and Ronni Bennett, the editor, posted to ask her readers, “Would you want to know?” I read the comments, wondering what my answer would be. Because that’s a pretty big deal, right? Finding out if you’re going to develop full-blown Alzheimer’s, before it happens. We all know we’re going to die, but the culture has allowed us to put that knowledge away for most of our lives, store it as a barely-detailed black and white sketch. A diagnosis of this kind of disease colors everything.
I’d go ahead, I think. I’d find out. Not for any fatalistic or dramatic reasons, putting one’s affairs in order, taking that long-dreamed of trip to Bhutan, repairing relationships. Just because I’m optimistic by nature. The voice in my mind is most often apt to say, “Well, maybe it’s good.” A test for early Alzheimer’s would mean more data, and more data would mean a more clearly mapped problem, a mapped problem offers more chance of solution.
I really don’t like my green tea, but there are many reasons it might be good I’m stuck with it, this morning. First, change. As I age I circumscribe my physical world. I sit more often in the same place. I sit more often, period. Change may keep our brains on their metaphorical toes. Second, green tea. Do you all know the research? Green tea is supposed to be good for you. I find it tastes kind of icky, but really, one morning without the milky sweetness of Organic Breakfast is probably A Good Thing.
The most compelling reason to take an early Alzheimer’s test would be the urgency added to what I already know. I know life is short. I know I should exercise more. I know I should drink green tea. But I coast, a bit, on a history of health and stamina.
Yesterday I had lunch with Colleen Wainwright, of Communicatrix. I read her blog to help me figure out how to do some things better, so we talked, in part, about doing things better. About turning 50. About realizing one can no longer power through. I brought up Leo Babauta, who has accomplished the things we all entertain. Get fit, lose addictions, become a writer and person of import. Somehow his power of intent surpasses mine. Generally I hate to be exhorted, but I listen to Mr. Babauta, because he’s the real deal.
He says, if you want change, start with one thing at a time.
I resist green tea. If I had a diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s, if that explained my memory losses, if I thought green tea might help, I’d give up Organic Breakfast despite its sweetness. If I were diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s, I know I’d convince myself there is a cure. Cheerfulness does that to a person. The other day I parked on a suburban street, on my way to buy new yoga pants. When I came out of Lululemon I couldn’t remember where I’d put the car. I walked around, remembered. But I experienced a brief and disorienting moment the likes of which I do not want to repeat.
Cheerful is good. When you’re young, more often than not, uninformed cheerfulness is just fine. It’s called dreaming. And since we never know all there is to know, proceeding on a whim, or a hope, may turn out exactly as wished. Or the process of exploring whims may transform the wish – whatever you find becomes something you always wanted.
There’s a time for tilting at windmills. I’ll even saddle up your horses.
But there may also be a time when bitter had best become sweet. You summon up cheerfulness in the midst of some colder truths and press on, warm. We chipper sorts are quite capable of denying an awful lot, but I’d rather bring cheer to the full face of truth and hope it survives. In other words, aim true for full knowledge, as much cheer as one can muster, and a very mindful plan.
It’s still morning. People dear to us sleep nearby, and there’s bread on the counter. I feel breath all around, including my own. Also the refrigerator motor. It all counts. Have a wonderful weekend.
Note: I have edited this to make clear, I’m not so courageous that I’d want to know about a tragic end, only so optimistic that I’d tell myself a cure is possible.