Everything from Z to A: How’s Life Treating You?

“Did you stop and smell the roses today?” Z asked.

“I smelled a lot of coffee,” A said.

“I ask that because I’m amazed by how many people fail to take stock of their lives,” Z said.

“I know it,” A said. “Life is a series of moments, good and bad, but how many cycle through the good in preparation for the bad? They’re onto the next moment soon after a moment.”

“Some of the times, they’re preparing for the next moment while in the moment,” Z said. “It drives me crazy. Flowers stress them out. “I need to buy a vase now that you gave me flowers. What vase would be most appropriate for this particular flower?” Did you know certain vases don’t highlight various flowers very well? I know nothing about flowers apparently. And if you don’t buy the proper pot for a plant why bother purchasing it in the first place? I have no idea about this stuff. I’m not ready for primetime. They don’t even smell the flower. They smile, and all that, to be polite, but they’re not there when they accept them. They’re in some place where this whole flower thing will somehow go horribly awry. They don’t live in moments. They worry about them.” 

“I’m guessing this is probably based on something from their past,” A said after mmm hmming Z through his description.  

“Oh it is. There are some matters from their past that lead them to constantly prepare for the future,” Z said. “The minute after they complete a project, they’re onto the next. There is no appreciation of a completed task. They’re onto the next one while they’re doing this one, and when they prepare, they over prepare. They do that because they want everyone to enjoy the moment, which is an admirable quality, but they forget to enjoy it themselves.” 

“They actually sound pretty normal,” A said, “and normal can be annoying, but it’s not as annoying as abnormal. My rule of thumb is if people don’t annoy me, they will, eventually, when I’m done digging deep enough. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to find annoying flaws and determine if you can live with them.”  

“It’s probably a good rule of thumb,” Z said, “especially since I annoy the people around me by trying to find what might annoy me. Add to that the fact that I’m not getting better looking with age, and I probably shouldn’t be as picky as I am. Most men age well, I have not. I don’t know if I was ever attractive, but I’m pretty sure I’m not as good looking as I once was. Do you still find me attractive?”  

“I never did.” 

“Speaking of rules of attraction,” Z said. “Do you ever consider how lucky we are that our body continues to operate, at a healthy level, every day?” 

“I appreciate that more and more as I age,” A said. 

“All right, but you didn’t ask me the question I expected,” Z said with a smile. “Which is how does good health make us more attractive? Since you didn’t ask, I’ll just launch. Some people are just naturally better looking than others, but those of us in the mid-to-lower tiers look for indicators in a mate. The first, and most obvious,  are found in the skin and hair, but they’re so obvious that we make conscious decisions on who to date based on what we see in them. Our subconscious decisions focus on other, not so obvious indicators. A great set of teeth, for instance, are an unusual trait to seek, but we all do it in subconscious ways. We all love a great set of teeth, but how many people say I chose to date Amy over Teresa, because Amy has better teeth? And the indicators in her eyes and lips suggest greater hydration practices, and we all want to kiss a healthy set of moist lips, even if we don’t consciously make note of the difference, unless there are exaggerations.”

”I’ve never thought about it with that much focus,” A said, “but I’ll grant you that a person with healthy features is generally more attractive than someone who has something like frayed hair, and poor dental hygiene.“

“What about those people, and we all know one, who can eat anything, drink to excess and smoke, and they’re healthy as an ox?” Z asked. “I live with the notion that God is fair, until I meet those who watch what they eat, exercise 2.5 times a week, and then on Tuesday they come down with liver failure. “What the hell? How did that just happen?” we ask. It just does. It’s the cold water, cruel answer. We can go crazy when it’s our loved one, trying to figure out why, but the point blank, inarguable answer is that some of the times it just happens. What’s the difference? Why does it happen to some and not others? Is it all about genes and genetics, or is it some measure of luck that it doesn’t just happen to us?

“How many people do you know who’ve had their whole world upended due to some devastating malady and injury young in life?” Z continued. “It leads me to think those of us who woke up healthy today are a marvel of science. We’ve all heard the line that everything we do in our younger years catches up to us eventually, and some people abuse their body with food, alcohol, and drugs, but some don’t. Andy Kaufman claimed he didn’t have any vices in life save for chocolate ice cream, and he died of lung cancer at thirty-five. Thirty-Five! How did that happen? It just does. He said he never smoked a cigarette in his life. If that’s true, how unlucky is that? How many people die thinking it was the chocolate ice cream that caught up to them? Andy thought that. Why would he come up with such a ridiculous notion? Because he had no other explanation. He probably went crazy trying to come up with some answer to his devastating situation, and that’s what he came up with.”  

“We are lucky on the big things, the life and death issues,” A said, “but we’re also lucky with the little things. A friend of mine started getting ulcers that were so painful they affected his quality of life. He said he practiced good health before, but the ulcers made him a fanatic. How did they pop up in the first place? He and his doctor went over his diet, and they couldn’t find anything in particular. As you said, it just happens to some people. Others have earaches, toothaches, and all the other aches and pains that seem trivial until you’re the one suffering from them. You’re right though, some people abuse their body, and some don’t, but I’m inclined to think that the separation between good and poor health is something as unfair as genes. Those of us who aren’t suffering from some ailment based on genetic predispositions don’t know how lucky we are.” 

“Do we have a genetic predisposition to a chemical imbalance in the brain that results in depression?” Z asked. “I knew a guy who became depressed at fifty. As far back as anyone remembered, he was relatively normal, happy, healthy man. Then one morning, he didn’t want to get out of bed. He didn’t have a mind-shattering, life-altering moment that brought on the onset of depression. “It just sort of happened,” they said. The idea that it makes no sense to anyone, including his doctor, is frightening, because if it can happen to him why wouldn’t it happen to us? What’s the difference between him and us? How do we prevent it? Does it just happen to some of us, or are there years of neglect and abuse that lead to it? Is it based on age, a midlife crisis of sorts, diet, lack of exercise. We don’t know. They don’t know. They can’t pinpoint when the depression began, but one day, one month, or one year they find themselves either marginally or clinically depressed. If he experienced some indicators younger in life, we could use genetic predispositions to explain it, but why did the onset wait until he was fifty? 

“At one point in his decade long battle with depression, they had to switch his medication,” Z continued, “and they say that his reaction to the medication was such that he took his own life. Did the medication over balance one chemical, or fail to balance the way the first medication did? Is the whole process of balancing chemicals one that once we become more familiar with them, we’ll be able to regulate the stew better? Will further study of DNA and RNA help us understand it better? Is a high functioning liver genetic? What about the pancreas, and the lymphatic system? How do all of our systems work in harmony, day after day, to maintain good health?” 

“We have a miraculous machine no doubt,” A said, “and even though I believe the difference between good health and poor health has a lot to do with genetics, I question that too. I question it only because I’m overwhelmed by the idea of it. You mean to tell me that one of the primary reasons my friend died of lung cancer and I didn’t is based on the lungs the two of us received from our respective lineage? I’m not saying it’s wrong, but it’s difficult for me to grasp. I don’t know what I’m talking about in this area, and as I’m about as far from a geneticist as one can be. I understand how understanding our gene code better can unlock a number of these mysteries, but can it explain everything? Atheists complain that the religious use God, and His mysterious ways, to explain the current gaps in the explanations our modern science provides, but do modern scientists use the gene code in the same way? The science we have now suggests that genetics plays a major role in good health, but will we believe the same thing 100 years from now? Will future science embolden and strengthen this concept, or will future scientists laugh at our present reliance on DNA to explain gaps in our current knowledge?”   

“It’s way above my pay grade too,” Z agreed, “but what about those who do make that money? What do our current minds of medicine do to cure the body of its ailments? They prescribe pain pills to help us deal with the pain of healing. “No wait, I’m really hurting here, and all you’re giving me is a pain pill? I want you to fix my organ and get it working again.” Our best course of action, they say, is to let the body heal itself. But, I’ve seen supplements in drug stores that suggest that it can aid in restoration. “Those claims are mostly crap,” our doctors say. Our marvelous machine often heals itself better than the most brilliant minds of medicine can. They also know that it’s better for the body to heal itself. Healing hurts of course, and some of the times the best plan is to take pain pills that help us deal with that pain, and “call me in two weeks if the pain persists.” Relying on the body to heal itself doesn’t always work, of course, and when it doesn’t they go to the next course of action, but it works so often that most brilliant minds of medicine know that the best course of action is to simply sit back and wait for the miraculous powers of the human body to heal itself.” 

“We shouldn’t neglect the healing properties of water either,” A added. “My doctor asked me about water one time. “How much water are you drinking?” he asked. Now, I knew water was a good thing, and I tried to drink more of it for better health in a more general way, but he added, “It can cure what ails you.” I considered that a throw away line. I thought it was something he said so often, to so many patients that it didn’t have much meaning, but I know enough about myself to know that such lines will stick with me if I didn’t badger the doctor for more details.

“What do you mean water can cure what ails you?” I asked.”

“Well,” he said, “drinking enough water can cure muscle pain, it can make you feel better in ways that can aid in achieving better mental health, and it can balance out salt in the body.” He’s all about the word can, because he knows how much we love our absolutes and the resulting unrealistic expectations that follow.”

“Most of us have heard that cure-all stuff,” Z said, “and we all know that this simple element is the best prevention for dehydration, but how many of us sit back and think about the depth of a line like what your doctor said, it can cure what ails you. Drinking more water can promote greater wellness and prevent some of the debilitating conditions we’ve talked about today. When people talk about good health, they all go to food and exercise, you are what you eat and all that, but I drill down deeper to the fundamentals of good health, and laying at the bottom of that well is water and sleep. 

“Yeah, don’t forget about sleep.” A added. “Water and sleep. Body builders are always looking for that magic elixir to greater muscle development. They seek brightly packaged supplements that aren’t shy about selling their brand of nirvana. How many supplement stores do you have in your area? They’re everywhere. They’re like the stagecoach charlatans of yesteryear rolling into a town square to sell their miracle cures to unsuspecting customers. Are their claims entirely fraudulent, probably not, but they’re not nearly as over-the-top effective as they claim. I’ve heard some, who are not in the supplement industry, claim that you can throw most of those supplements and protein shakes out the window and get an extra hour or two of sleep for similar and sometimes better results.” 

“We would much rather buy good health than rely on fundamentals like water and sleep,” Z said. “Imon Point says, “I have a product that helps the muscles heal 30% faster after a workout.” “That’s interesting,” Mary Quite Contrary, interjects, “but did you know that my product has the capacity to also build muscle while aiding in the healing process? You simply must try my product.” I have product, do you have product? We want better health, and to get there we think we have to spend money on it, so we buy machines, products, and gym memberships.” 

“How many gym memberships are purchased and rarely if ever used?” A asked, nodding in agreement.

“It’s an incredibly profitable industry,” Z said, “because the no-shows do not put the wear and tear on machines that they would if everyone showed up. You would think that if people decided they were not going to enjoy the fruits of their membership that they would cancel their membership, but cancelation rates are extremely low.” 

“Because canceling a gym membership is like canceling your quest for good health.” 

“Exactly!” Z said. “My dad was an interesting character. He purchased a series of books on the lives of saints. They were leather bound and lined with gold flint. They were beautiful books. As a kid, I was not permitted to touch them. My dad didn’t touch them either. My mom said something shocking to him one day, “It’s not enough to own them, you have to read them.“ The fact that my dad repeated that line so often suggests that the thought never occurred to him. I think he thought to own them is to own them. I think he thought the purchase, and the careful preservation practices he employed made him more holy. My guess is he thought St. Peter would greet him at the gates with, “I saw that beautiful collection you bought on us. That must’ve set you back a couple paychecks. Come on in my friend.“ Gym members might be equally shocked to learn that purchasing a gym membership is not the key to good health. You have to use it.“  

“It is fascinating to think how much we complicate matters by trying to buy the products that promote greater health, better well-being, and some marketed form of absolute serenity,“ A said. “When if we just concentrated more on the age-old fundamentals, like drinking more water and getting more sleep, we might be able to cure more than we ever dreamed possible.”

“As with everything else in life, some of the times it’s not that simple,” Z said. “That’s the line you hear most often from complicated people who complain about complications. If you dare to propose to them that their complicated problem could could have a simple solution, they treat it like a personal insult. “It’s not that simple for me, I have an ailment that defies your age-old fundamentals. Trust me, I tried them.” Some of the times, it is more complicated, but some of the times, the solution is so simple that most people disregard it, because it can’t be that simple.”

“The complicated people who love to complain,” A said. “I know them well. I was raised by one. They might know as little about their problem as we do, but they know the wrong when they hear it. You spent your whole life complaining about various health problems, trying to make them appear more severe than they were. Now that you actually have a severe health problem, does it validate all of your complaints, or does it nullify them by comparison, and when you’re finally laid to rest, what are you going to talk about?” 

“In the absence of something to complain about,” Z said. “We will find something to complain about.” 


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