My health is good, how’s yours?

I remember hearing this story on NPR back at the start of the year. Basically what it says is that if you get to middle age as a non-smoker, with good cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure, your chance of dying of a heart attack is super-low. But if you have two or more of these risk factors, you only have a 50/50 chance of getting to The End without a heart attack.

On hearing this, I felt an overwhelming urge to tell my twenty-year-old self to get with the program, that my already-middle-aged self couldn’t do anything about it at this point. Twenty-year-old self thumbed his nose at me and ate more Cheetos.

I hadn’t had a physical in a few years (in my defense, my doctor told me the last time to come back “in a few years”), and I don’t think I’d ever had my cholesterol or glucose checked. Like ever.

So, on the cusp of 42, I scheduled a physical.

My doctor is a hoot. She’s like 6 foot, tall and muscular, and could snap me like a twig. She’s also funny and personable, and likes taking some time to chat. We went over how I’d been, how I was interested in this blood panel of stats, and, oh yeah, we have this little prostate thing to check, now that you’re over 40.

I had been expecting this, but was holding out hope because in some places on the Internet you can find people who say you can wait until age 50 before checking your prostate health. Of course, other places on the Internet will tell you it’s best to check your prostate health yourself. And those places have video. The Internet is all about picking and choosing your sources, right?

My doctor hadn’t been to either of these sites, apparently, as she went on to deliver a very detailed description of what she was about to do. In the end (rimshot!) it was quick, painless, and really kind of anticlimactic. It seems my prostate is fine. She tossed her glove, washed her hands, and we went on to stories about her kids (apparently they’d LOVE my t-shirt).

On Monday, I got my blood test results. And as it turns out, I am well within the healthy norms for all the things they check.

So, yay me. Not dead yet.

In reading the linked study (yes, the actual study, yay Internet! I forgive you for the prostate self-test videos), a couple things are clear.

First, I still have a long way to go (age 55) to really meet their criteria, so I have some time before I can start huffing cans of Reddi-wip for breakfast.

And second, lowering the incidence of heart disease and heart related deaths (and stroke, they mentioned, too) really requires preventing risk factors from emerging, rather than treating them once they exist. Getting regular blood tests to monitor your blood pressure, glucose levels, and cholesterol can be key in noticing when things are getting bad before they get bad.

Which means, go see your doctor, twenty-year-old selves.

The search for church

I’ve never been a religious guy. I don’t believe in God. I see a lot of the crap that goes down in the world in the name of one God or Another, and it doesn’t do much to change my opinion. My mother used to take me to church when I was little (she took the whole family), but all I got from it was an abiding love for sugar cubes and a memory of a burning bush collage I once made.

As a young and not so young adult, I dabbled in churching, but nothing ever stuck. I married Catholic, so we tried that (shout out to Sacred Heart in Omaha!) but we also checked out the Methodists and several Unitarian Universalist congregations.

But you know what? Going to church every freakin’ week is hard. So we didn’t.

Then we had kids. Coupled with our recent move to Kansas City—a move we hope and plan to be our last—that set us to church hunting again. The local Catholic parish is pretty strictly conservative, so they were out. We tried a UCC congregation in the neighborhood, as they are pretty inclusive, yet still Christian (something we wanted to try on for size), but between feeling like fresh meat and their public reciting of the creed (which I will paraphrase as “do good in the name of Christ”), we did not feel completely comfortable.

So we went back to the well, and looked up the local Unitarian Universalist church. The Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church (SMUUCh, and if that isn’t reason enough to join…)

The first time we visited, we found it full of people. Young, old, families. There was singing, and food afterwards, Sunday school and a sermon. It was like real church! As we walked up to the front door, seeing Priuses in the parking lot, the hipster glasses on the woman greeting us at the door, I turned to Tiffany and joked, “these are Our People.”

But I was right, I think. Four months later, we are members (if you know us, you know we don’t buy ice cubes without researching them for a month prior). The community is large, vibrant, engaged and engaging. They have extensive religious education classes, extensive adult groups, and a strong community service ethic. The church is active in the national UU organization.

And, if you’ll pardon the language… they are Liberal as fuck.

So, we’ve found a community. It happens to be a church. They have accepted us despite our foibles, as they accept everyone. They will help us learn and grow and most important of all, they will help our children learn and grow and be Good People.

I still don’t believe in God, but I have always believed in something. Now I can go, once a week, to be with people who also believe in something. This isn’t our first time at a UU church. They vary widely, and depend significantly on the minister at the front of the room. But more importantly, the community behind the church is what drives it (and, more prosaically, hires and fires the minister…) That community is what we were looking for, what we have found, and what we have joined.

Thank God.

I wish you all the best of luck finding a community you can connect with, churchy or not.