First Things First

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Health and Strength and the Joys of Living

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Today I am reminded why I don't take voluntary layoffs. They are forced upon me like poison when I least expect them.

As the year rolled to an end, I promised -- threatened -- I'd take a week from my training to allow the body's systems to rest and repair. I had the telltale signs. The joints were glowing, the central nervous system was shorting out, the heart was racing, the digestive system was rebelling, the muscles were aching, the spirits were sinking and the mind was numb. No pump, no burn, no drive.

The real problem: no courage. Laying off the iron is like leaping off a cliff.

Laree, of course, knew this weakness well and taunted me periodically (every 30 seconds) with cute remarks, like, "Hey big fella, how's the old layoff coming along?" or "What will you do today with your free time? Get a job?" or "Ya can't do it, can ya, ya neurotic lump."

"You're askin' for it, Laree. Boom, Zoom! You, moon!" (Long live Jackie Gleason!)

In the middle of this month -- the first month of the year, I might add -- I twisted my ankle. Ankles are meant to be twisted. Protruding precariously from dangling legs, they're equipped with floppy feet that rush off hastily and carelessly in various directions over gravel, ladder rungs, curbs, wet grass and stumps. A sprained ankle swells and throbs and hampers walking. No problemo. It also requires several lifetimes to repair cuz we insist on using the bulging thing, hobbling and thrashing about in frantic compensation, which in turn causes the entire body to destabilize, depreciate and malfunction.

I became a hideous contraption in no time. Fine... the perfect recipient of a looming invasion of the Flu from Hell. I was about to be bombarded by fits of coughing, sneezing and gasping to accentuate the bouts of staggering, stumbling and groping. Above it all I could hear my cutie pie calmly saying, "I told you to get a flu shot, Bomb Bomb."

And to think a few days ago I was considering a pleasant and well-earned layoff -- a brief vacation, if you will, a time to rest, repair and reflect. Ah, the joy of living... joie de vivre, as the enchanting French like to say.

There's more. Exactly in the geometric center of it all I had an appointment with my cardiologist to discuss the results of some tests to evaluate my heart's current performance, or lack thereof. Recently I've been experiencing some shortness of breath, a condition not uncommon to dashing and distinguished congestive heart failure patients. Rats.
So there I am coughing, limping and clinging to various laboratory fixtures and medical equipment in the doctor's environs as he goes over my stack of records. He's my new doctor -- brilliant I'm told -- but the creasing of the wiseman's brow is neither novel nor bright. Above my amusing repertoire of snorts and wheezes I hear him recommend an angiogram -- a sort of scoping of the heart -- to determine the condition of my arteries. A stent (or two) might be needed to open restricted areas.

Simple. I agree, amid the ruffling of tissues and scuffling of sore feet. I have two stents now, what's four or more? In two weeks I hope the flu will have flown, the cranky ankle and its unfriendly attendants will have scattered and the beating heart will be beating to receptive and welcoming arteries. 

There's irony. Midway my afflictions, due to a prearranged construction project, it was in my interest to vacate the house for the day. Feeling better than dead, I decided to go to the gym and stimulate the lagging immune system. Laree suggested (You promised!!) we go to a matinee showing of Rocky Balboa. She's so cute, as you know. I opted in the interest of health for a brief tune-up at the iron pit stop. Zoom, zoom.

I felt okay, so I blasted it. What the heck? Why not? Funny thing about training, once you get warmed up, the juices flowing and stupid firmly stuck in place, a momentum carries you along, a kind of momentum resembling a length of dominoes toppling till they've all fallen... motionless, silent, flat. And that's how I felt when the catastrophe was complete: a pile of fallen dominoes. 

I returned home a sorry thing. That which ached before now screeched. After the twitching stopped, I vibrated. My head became a large runny nose, my throat hissed, the ears rang. My immune system was annihilated, my ability to fight infirmity obliterated. Recovery was overdue, forgiveness too late. I'd have to die to get better. 

The ego is a sinister companion, a lousy first-responder, an impatient patient, a deceptive partner in deed, a boastful friend in need. Who can trust him? Or her?

There's more. Laree caught my cataclysmic Hell Flu and is now at her computer, head leaning against the screen and fingers clutching the keyboard. Her nose is red and wet; the pink tip of her tongue protrudes ever-so-slightly. I offer her advice; tell her tales of my recent harrowing experience with the killer virus, my inspiring victory and feed her the remains of my medications, which I'm quick to point out did nothing to alleviate the dreadful pain and miserable suffering I endured. I assure her only the tough survive.

Be strong and courageous, I repeat once again in my soothing baritone voice. She smiles bravely. Those who don't know the dear girl might misinterpret her loving expression as a sneer of contempt. Tsk!

Where do we go from here is the question, this, the third week of the month.

We are, as are so many of us from hemisphere to hemisphere, on the one-step-back lilt in our two-steps-forward progression of our travels. Those who are keen enough to observe life's peculiar mechanics recognize the transitory placement and move on. Better days are ahead. We do our best day by day. This is the day at hand, thank God. 

Those who do not notice and accept, worry and regress. It's hard not to fret when looking up from a step down. I don't mean to sound cute or perplexing, but too often worry drains and enflames us. Be thoughtful and cautious, but not worrisome and doubtful. Letting things happen is not letting things go awry; it's not abandoning or neglecting that which is important. It's simply letting life take its natural course for a few wild and crazy moments while we trust, have faith and don't doubt. Try it. I dare you.

More irony. I line up my ducks, cover my bases, have contingency plans A and B precisely in place, and make my bold move. Swell. Everything falls apart, especially me. Then, one fine day, everything falls apart, except moi. I get sick, injured, threatened and disorganized -- no workouts, bub -- and I can't or don't have time to worry or fret, and life goes on, moment by moment, as it was meant to go on.

It is written that man is not to worry. Be aware, considerate and attentive, yes, but do not worry. It's a sin. Dang, that's a hard one. I have less trouble with do not steal, or do not murder, or do not drink soda pop.

Bombers: Do our best is the best we can do. That includes no low-flying rollovers along crowded boulevards, no dive-bombing above school zones and no rip-soaring within 25 feet of the earth's populated surfaces. Keep windshields clean, gas caps secure and tighten ailerons sufficiently.

Oh, and one minor qualifier before closing up shop: Amid our weekly conversations which are intended to share, inform and encourage (as opposed to divide, confuse and defeat), I think it's important and balanced to occasionally attend the less-than-bright-side of life. When I do a few bombers suspect I'm falling apart and letting go, slipping over the edge and taking the plunge.

"He's losing it," they say.

Truth is, I'm trying to find it.

Fly high always with thanksgiving... DD


First of all, your body is fully fortified, right? No matter what time of day it is, when your workout is before you, you should be amply supplied with vitamins and minerals and protein, fats and carbohydrates. You know by now to unfailingly fuel yourself prior to and soon after your workout for maximum training effect -- cellular energy and endurance, gratifying muscle response, hormonal health and muscle recovery. These enrichments result in mood augmentation, enhanced vigor and confidence, maximized tenacity and spirit and sharpness of mind and creativity. I won’t get into longevity, bone density, quality of life, the immune system...
We acquire a ton of equipment, commandeer half the garage and park the car in the driveway, or we buy a platinum membership at The Club, drive across town, park somewhere, anywhere and sweat, strain and tear up our joints, all in the name of health and strength. And, then, we proceed to feed ourselves like junkyard dogs -- cheap protein and two-for-one vita-paks from Wal-Mart. Crazy, man!

Bodybuilders are like little kids (hi, Ma!), you’ve got to remind them to tie their shoelaces, flush, zip, button and stuff like that -- the obvious. That’s why I advise a vitamin fortification and a protein shake before and after each and every workout.


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