Thursday, February 6, 2014

Habits: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly Sad

Next week Ben's school is hosting a Healthy Habits Fair.  His Jazzercise teacher told us they would be performing and that we were welcome to attend and also participate by getting things like bone density tests and blood pressure checks.  Basically it is a "be good to your body aka mixer for the area old people" the day before Valentines Day.  Regardless, Ben is excited that he gets to be on the morning announcements advertising the event.

The school also ran a poster contest for all grades to help decorate the event space.  Ben designed a poster showing himself making good and bad choices.  I'm not quite sure how you change ethnicity when you smoke or appear to become a cyclops, but I'm proud of the time the effort he put into his poster.

The healthy habit talk has made it into Ben's current vocabulary with many discussions about making good food choices, making sure exercise is part of your day, going to bed at a reasonable time, choosing to play outside over playing video games.  A couple of the snow days he went with me to the gym and ran laps. He asked me to show him how to use the bike, the rowing machine, and the exercise ball.  I'm sure we looked funny as I showed him some yoga stretches. If I can encourage him in any way to think from a healthy state of mind, it is worth the second glances from folks wondering why we were doing down dogs together.

Ben asked me the other day what Mema had died from, that he knew she was sick and had a special chair . He asked if she died because she didn't have healthy habits? Wow, what a loaded question.  I thought about it and then responded that Mema had an illness that became very hard to treat, even going to the hospital did not make her well and that her sickness had made her die.  I said that she did do many things to try and get better but that many of the things that made her sick started a long time ago and over time became hard to reverse.

I used the chance to speak to how the little choices we make every day give us a chance to live a long and healthy life. It was the most honest answer I could give him on his level. It was also one that I could live with without unleashing some deep seeded anger that my mom was behind much of her own demise.

In a horrible segway, I've read or listened to several pieces remembering actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman this week  There have been discussions a plenty about drug use, celebrity, rehab, many with a resounding judgement that while a tragedy, that he did this to himself.  True, and no one can deny that drug use starts with personal choice.  Sadly, I have seen/read little in the way on the nature of addiction being spoken of as an illness and not a character flaw.  I have compassion for his kids who will one day read their names as part of a Google search about their dad's tragic demise.   I have compassion for his partner that seemed to be making a call of tough love of unimaginable proportion.   I am selfishly sorry for the next 20-30 years of films never to be made by such a talented actor.

Bill and I were talking about favorite films and characters the other night upon hearing the news of the death. For Bill, he loved "25th Hour" with Edward Norton and "Charlie Wilson's War" with Tom Hanks.  As much as I thought Capote and Doubt were Oscar worthy as anything else made in their respective year, my two favorite movie's were released in 2007.

Both used a sibling relationship as the centerpiece of the movie.  In "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" he plays brothers with Ethan Hawke in a story of a botched robbery and extortion of the family business with horrible consequences.  In "The Savages" he teams with another of my favorites, Laura Linney, to play siblings taking control of their aged father in the search for end of life care. In both movies, the relationship and dialogue between fictional siblings is seamless. Even non verbal body language exemplifies the unbelievable stress each character is under and the shared burden that ties them together.  They are completely believable as siblings experiencing the most stressful time in their lives and the need to rely on each other.

Of the several pieces I've read, A. O. Scott's article in the New York Times captured why his death is such a loss to those who considered him a master at his craft:

He did not care if we liked any of these sad specimens (of characters.) The point was to make us believe them and to recognize in them — in him — a truth about ourselves that we might otherwise have preferred to avoid. He had a rare ability to illuminate the varieties of human ugliness. No one ever did it so beautifully.

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