Yesterday I had my scheduled “Be Well” visit, one of the many annoying assaults to my dignity that I must endure, like a pigeon pecking a button for a pellet, to earn a lousy (taxable) $600.
A slim, bright-eyed doctor strode into the room. He looked all of twelve years old.
“So! Let’s talk about your Be Well goals for the year!”
I was taken aback. “Oh! I actually have been thinking about those all week, but I’m still working on them. I promise I’ll have them by my next phone appointment with my Be Well Advocate though.”
“Mmmhmmm,” he said with his fingers poised over the keyboard, “But I have to put them into the system, so let’s go ahead and work on those now.”
“NOW?!” I said in a mild panic, “Well, OK. I will…ummm…try to exercise four days a week.”
“Good one!” he said with an encouraging smile, “One more.”
“I’m blanking. Do you have any suggestions for me?” I asked.
“How about…I will meditate three times a week for five minutes. That seems easy enough, right?”
“Yes, but…shouldn’t it be something that I would realistically do?”
I continued to muse out loud, “I know I should lose some weight, but I also feel like the goal should be something that would actually be achievable…”
“Drink less?” he proposed.
“I don’t drink.”
“Eat less sweets at work?”
“I don’t eat a lot of sweets.”
“Eat a greater proportion of vegetables at meals?”
“I don’t eat meat.”
“Well! You’re just perfect.”
Exasperating medical health professionals is one of my special talents.
Until this year, it used to be the case that instead of going to a doctor, the Be Well program would require you to move through stations set up around a large conference room. At one station you would get weighed and measured. At another station you would get your blood drawn. At the final station, a nurse would interpret your results and give you recommendations to improve your health.
One year, a well-meaning nurse tried to get to the bottom of my high cholesterol numbers.
“Do you eat a lot of sugar?”
“No, I really don’t.”
“Do you eat a lot of fried foods?”
He started to look at me with suspicion.
“I don’t eat meat, just fish occasionally.”
His eyes narrowed and he asked, “Fatty foods?”
“Not really, although…I do eat cheese,” I conceded.
The nurse pounced: “You MUST. EAT. LESS. CHEESE.”
Now, under pressure to come up with something, anything, I blurted out to the doctor: “OK, I have my second goal!” Forgetting all my scruples about setting a goal that was both realistic and achievable I announced: “I will eat less cheese.” I cringed as the words spilled from my lips, fully confident that no stupider-sounding goal had ever been set in the history of the universe.
Doogie Howser exacted his revenge on me.
“Hah! That’s the exact opposite of MY goal. My goal is to eat MORE cheese. I fantasize about quitting medicine and becoming a cheesemaker! But my wife says I have to pay off all my med school loans first.”
Well, I suppose we all have our crosses to bear.