About a year ago, I had a little bit of a heart scare. It turned out to be nothing, but I’m 29. I didn’t have any internal event like ‘heart problems’ even tentatively on my schedule until maybe my late forties. At that time I wouldn’t feel terrible about a little health blip popping up on the screen, scaring me into a life of wheat grass, flax seed, and light cardio. But I’m 29.
Now, a year after that event, I discover that I have fatty liver. Apparently it’s genetic. It came to my attention as a small, random pain in my chest, which turned out to be some minor fatty liver after professional investigation. Bullshit. My Doctor tells me not to worry, just to lose some weight and exercise more. I’m 29.
I think it must be hard to live the lower middle class family life in Ohio without dying of cancer or heart disease. Indeed, if you look at a sky-view picture of Ohio, it’s shaped like a heart. If you look at that same sky-view with the rivers represented, you can see all kinds of little cracks in it. That our license plates claim Ohio as ‘The Heart of It All!’ must be a very dark joke.
(It occurs to me just now that the title of this piece may be a double entendre. When I wrote it, I intended it as an offhand reference to ‘Fight Club’. But Jack is also the name of my five year old son, and a lot of these health issues I’m talking about are genetic…yikes.)
So, I guess I’ll try to straighten out. Since I quit following sand-crazy desert religions, I’ve felt a little less anxiety. I still prayed from time to time after breaking up with the invisible sky daddy, but now I think I’ve got that under wraps too. When I feel overwhelmed by the goodness in my life, I simply take a deep breath, and feel exhilarated; like I’m getting away with something.
It’s hard to stay away from the fast food restaurants; especially Taco Bell. I love their Chili Cheese Burritos, and it’s easy to justify eating them for lunch when they’re so cheap, and I’m usually too busy to pack something for myself. It’s also hard not to listen to talk radio, which I admit I get a cheap thrill from (probably the same kind of thrill people get from watching Jerry Springer), although no doubt it increases my stress levels.
My friend Brandon and I got together for lunch the other day to catch up. We talked about Patton Oswalt’s bit about people who voted for George W. Bush in 2004, which segued into a conversation about general health, both in a physical way and a more abstract way. Brandon and I—both family men now—have found our politics drifting steadily leftward over the past few years, simply because we are responsible members of society, and now—as family men—we are invested in its success like never before. We talked about how we want to teach our kids the importance of volunteering, of healthy skepticism, and of democracy & pluralism. We want them to be invested. We don’t want them to have to wrestle with silly religious myths, secular or otherwise (to be filed under ‘silly religious myths’: Any offshoot of one of the desert religions, communism, libertarianism, etc.). Life is complicated and often unsexy. A lot of life is about hard work, and a little bit of it is about luck.
I would count genetic predispositions towards fatty liver and heart conditions as bad luck. Since I’m passing that bit of bad luck on to the kids, I want to make sure that I model the right kind of stress management and other healthy behaviors in order to make sure they can compensate. I can’t give them good luck, but I can—hopefully—show them what hard work looks like.