Sunday, April 19, 2009

nature vs. nurture

She worried about seeing the doctor because she’d shown up ten minutes late. She worried about the germs on the plastic seats in the waiting room, the three pounds she gained when she stepped on the scale, the smell she left when filled the sterile cup in the bathroom. She worried about the water she wasted when she flushed the toilet.

She worried about all the complaints that she had; she worried how she might come across. She worried about her stomach pain, her abnormal bowel habits,Am I not eating right? She worried about her husband’s performance at work during the day, about whether or not her children would suddenly stop breathing at night. She worried about making her son’s soccer practice and picking her daughter up from preschool. She worried about the food the family ate, about the additives & Red Dye #40 in the Kool Aid her kids drank at the birthday party last weekend. She worried about her house, the untouched laundry by the washer, the termites that might be quietly tearing down their house.

She worried about her children’s college education, about their monthly budget, about spending too much & not saving enough. She worried about not clipping enough coupons, about visiting the doctor too often, about being over-the-top-conscious of all the germs.

She worried about her health, about her fatigue & not feeling well. She worried about her performance as a mother, her involvement at church, her role as a wife. She worried that her stomach pain might be something bigger than just a bad stomach ache.

And it was.

She worried about the medication she was given for the bleeding ulcer. She worried about the side effects & the cost her family had incurred because of it. She worried if it was contagious or genetic—if her children would get it too. She worried that she might die in her sleep, leave her husband earlier than retirement due to unplanned death, or fall into a giant sink-hole on Main Street.

She worried about cancer, about heart attacks, about obesity. She worried that the soup she bought yesterday wasn’t organic or the meat she fed her family might have had hormones in it. She worried that she wasn’t taking enough vitamins, wasn’t getting enough sleep, and wasn’t exercising as she should.

She worried. And she worried. She worried when she woke up, when she ate her meals; she worried as she fell asleep at night.

And I can’t help but wonder if the one who didn’t worry, who took life as it came, who kept stresses to a minimum, who ate the foods he enjoyed, who found a sport that kept him fit, who found a spouse he loved, who raised his children with spontaneity; I can’t help but wonder if that one didn’t live longer, live richer, live happier.

A growing debate exists in modern medicine: nature versus nurture. Is it our genes or our environments that dictate our health, our personalities, our longevity? Is it our upbringing or our innate individuality that dictate who we become? And is it our habits, our exercise, our food-conscious tendencies that keep us healthy, or is health in our genes?

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