While coming up for air from the cave of my project-makings, sometimes I get the impression that some people who don’t know me very well think I am crazy, which I actually don’t secretly enjoy as a compliment. Except for the way my friend Willy (who took that photo up there) puts it: “You can’t lose your marbles — you never had any marbles to begin with!” I don’t love being called crazy because I’ve actually cultivated a lot of discipline and vision over the course of my life, and the fact that I take preventative measures with my health makes me think I’m not crazy at all. As an artist, you can’t afford to get sick because it can get expensive and throw you off your whole game.
Of course, everyone faces emergency medical situations they must deal with, but in a general day-to-day sense, here are some steps I take to ensure I am in good shape mentally and physically.
I never sneeze into my hands. I sneeze into the inside of my elbow. A British microbiology professor once told me that frequent handwashing is more effective at preventing sickness than flooding your system with vitamin C. If you sneeze into your hands, you’re spreading the germs onto whatever you touch, and your fingers eventually find their way back to your face or your mouth and it’s just this never-ending cycle. It’s also gross to watch people sneeze into their hands in public, ’cause a lot of people know about the whole not-sneezing-into-your-hands thing.
Sneezing into the inside of your elbow allows you to stifle the sound, control the spray from your nose and mouth, and the germs stay right there till they eventually go away somehow. I guess the germs just dry up while they stay there since no one rubs the inside of their elbow onto anything.
I eat as much simple, wholesome, uncooked food as possible. It’s not necessary to get fanatical about Raw Food or Atkins Diet or Starving — I’ve found the fastest, cheapest and healthiest way to feed myself when I’m hungry is to stop by the supermarket and grab a banana and two carrots or a whole coconut, an avocado, maybe a cooked piece of chicken from the deli. I also keep a giant bag of jasmine or brown rice handy. If you eat whole servings of plain foods that are full of good fats or fiber or certain minerals or vitamins, you won’t need vitamin pills, which are debatable in their effectiveness because some people say your body can’t digest the pills properly. I don’t know.
Writing about eating healthy can sound a little condescending to a reader because it’s not like people just don’t know what healthy eating is. If you find yourself unable to stop eating large amounts of crap, it means you are partly dehydrated and partly manifesting an unease within yourself that must be dealt with more accurately and quickly.
I mean, I still forget to drink enough water, and I’ll eat at McDonalds or raid the donut box at the office meetings, but I don’t feel guilty about it afterwards because I’m always walking and buying stuff from the produce section. Which brings me to the next part:
I don’t drive. I don’t say this to be preachy because I REALLY appreciate it when somebody gives me a ride somewhere or helps me move something. These people are better than I am because they’ve mastered the art of owning, financing and maintaining a big, dangerous, fast machine.
But for me, it’s more of a priority to walk because it is exercise and a great antidote to mental unrest. It gives me time to think, as well as not think. And taking the time to walk somewhere is an effortless way to relieve stress, which is also a major cause of sickness. Stress lowers immune system function. By walking or biking everywhere, I can avoid the stress of having to come up with the extra money for paying insurance and gas, or of crashing into or killing someone and accruing medical and legal fees. That way I can use my extra money for plane tickets to New York or Europe or Seattle or wherever. (Travel is good for your arts career.)
At the first notice that I’m getting sick (scratchy throat, weakness, etc.), I minimize physical efforts and lay low, drink orange juice with packets of Emergen-C and I make a slow-cooked chicken soup with a whole chicken and a whole onion that you take out after an hour (’cause this onion will suck up extra weird frothy chicken stuff you don’t need) and some carrots and celery and garlic. It’s the classic cure-all fondly referred to as Jewish Penicillin. The sooner you respond to symptoms of sickness, the quicker you’ll recover.
Also, respiratory problems or chest problems can come from bad bacteria coming from your teeth and going down your throat. Sometimes daily or monthly, I swish warmed, melted coconut oil for 15-20 minutes in my mouth and then spit it out. This keeps the mouth very healthy and it’s also great for your teeth.