I'm ready to admit I'm really an adrenalin junkie. I don't get off on jumping out of planes or climbing up the side of rock walls. I love the deadlines. I always crammed for exams in college, waiting until the last minute, then coming through in the end. I work the same way, always performing best under extreme pressure.
I wonder what effect these habits have had on my overall longevity. No wonder my immune system breaks down by the end of the year. These things aren't unrelated . . .
I saw this corny soap opera movie the other day where Dorothy Maguire supposedly had one year to live, so her dad bought her a husband, a house and a nice wardrobe. She had suffered from rheumatic fever as a girl, and she had spent her whole life taking it easy.
Now I remember having rheumatic fever the summer before eighth grade. I wasn't allowed to take 'gym' for a year, and I lived a very sedentary life. I had spells like Dorothy's character did, where my heart pounded and I couldn't breathe. For years they said I had a heart murmur. I didn't take any phys ed in high school at all. And then in my 20s I just said 'fuck it' and started working out. (Well, I never said "fuck" in those days, so it's the sentiment, not the semantics.) I started running, even though they said I had 70% lung function and admittedly I had to go sloooow. I started playing tennis.
Last April I took a stress test and the cardiologist was teasing me, forcing me to go as long and as hard as possible. He said the same thing the last technician who performed the same test some 20 years ago said: Your heart is amazing. There's nothing wrong with it.
This is 40 years since the whole summer of drama.
Now maybe someday I'm going to keel over from a heart attack, but if I do, it will be from stress, not from a rheumatic heart. That's for damn sure.