and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
February #4

The feng shui of getting older
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, February 24, 2006

My birthday resolution was to be focused for the rest of my life, to pay attention while doing one thing at a time so that when I die, my last thought won’t be of the 101 other things I should be doing instead.

My plan was to meet my next year while soaking in a bubblebath, in the glow of the Feng Shui candles (Earth, Fire, Water, Air) that Chip’s father Woody gave me, while listening to music with my Ipod. Yes, I have learned how to program it. Amazingly simple, once you grasp that it is not itself a computer, but just a little recording thing that picks up the music you have downloaded into your computer like any other file, paying 99 cents a song.

So there I was, as I turned 63 late on February 17th, eating chocolate birthday cake, watching the Olympics, reading Howie Carr’s riveting “The Brothers Bulger,” and listening to my Ipod in between taking congratulatory phone calls and email from family and friends.

Well, it was too cold for a bath, anyhow, especially since I don’t have one of those soaking tubs and there’s no heat in the bathroom. Instead, I jumped in and out of the shower in the laundry room where I can warm my terry bathrobe in the dryer, before going out to dinner with my partner Chip at my favorite restaurant.

He used to offer to take me “someplace nice” but has given in to my Papa Gino’s preference, was pleased that I recently discovered one in nearby downtown Beverly. And he has come to admit that the Papa Platter, with spaghetti, meatballs and ravioli, is superior Italian cuisine.

My new birthday resolution is to give up on the feng shui ambience dream. I shall never achieve serenity in this lifetime. I will be needing at least one more, to be reincarnated as a lady of leisure, with expensive tastes. Either that, or we already know that heaven has candles and music; all I’ll need to add is a deep clawfoot tub, and a new body with which to ingest gourmet meals.

But how many more years do I have to wait? Just in time for my birthday, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a quiz with which we can determine our risk of dying within four years. I took it immediately, in case it would give me reason to finish my birthday cake right away.

For some reason, the quiz reminded me of the abatement form I filled out recently. Can assessors really determine the true market value of my house? Can doctors truly determine my real “death risk”?

There were only 12 questions in the latter form; you add points for all the supposedly bad things, like having cancer or diabetes. I got stuck on Question 3, where I was supposed to add a point if weight was normal or underweight. Isn’t that backwards? Shouldn’t we be adding a point for every extra ten pounds?

I understand adding points for smoking. But some of the questions were open to interpretation. The quiz asked if I have difficulty bathing. Well, yes, when it’s cold, without plugging in a space heater next to the tub, which could add to the risk of dying by electrocution.

It added two points if, because of a health or memory problem, I have difficulty managing my money. Would that I had such an excuse for impulsively buying that blender set I saw last week while flipping channels for Olympic events. On the other hand, I plan to use to it make smoothies out of fresh fruit and vegetables, so won’t that add to my lifespan?

By the way, if you watch that infomercial, do not pay $40.00 for shipping and handling. Cancel the order and they will probably call you back with a better offer.

Seriously, this quiz can’t be serious. It adds two points if you “have difficulty walking several blocks”. Since when are bad knees life-threatening? If it refers to difficulty breathing, it should say so. I assume that is the reason you get a point for having difficulty pushing large objects like a living room chair; a bad back or broken arm wouldn’t count.

I hate to think of the people who have failed this test and are now managing their money badly because they think they won’t need it after four years. On the other hand, it’s always good to be ready. Based on my answers, I have a less than 4 percent chance of dying in four years, but I’m still going to burn those feng shui candles, as soon as possible, just in case. Will try to finish Howie’s book today. I should note that running into Whitey Bulger, and being recognized as someone who knows him, would be worth a lot of points on the death risk index.

And since being overweight doesn’t seem to count for anything, longevity-wise, I’ll have another chocolate cake, please.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.