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.