Friday, May 31, 2019

The Trials of Job

It’s been rather hectic at work during the past few months. Which, of course, is a good thing because we all remember a decade ago when it was so UN-hectic at most businesses that many folks lost their jobs.

During this hectic time, it can get quite stressful, and I occasionally find myself muttering, “I must have the most stressful job in the world!”

This is a rather foolish thing to so say, since I don’t even have the most stressful job in my office. We have a team of commissioned salesmen, and they not only have to deal with cranky contractors all day, but not a penny of their income is guaranteed. If they don’t sell anything, they don’t get paid anything. I don’t know about you, but going into each new month not knowing whether you’ll receive a paycheck would keep me up all night worrying.

As I was thinking about work-related stress, I started paying attention to other people I encounter during the day. Many times each week my first stop in the morning is at a Dunkin Donuts store. I’m sure my engineering clients are delighted to see me when I arrive at their office, solely because of the technical knowledge, scintillating conversation, and up-to-date baseball information I bring with me. But possibly the bag of three dozen doughnuts I’m carrying brightens their mood, too.

Every time I step up to that counter and say, “Three dozen doughnuts, assorted, and senior discount, please,” the young DD employee’s whole countenance sags. As she glances over my shoulder to see seven other people impatiently waiting in line, for a brief moment the will to live disappears from her sullen eyes. Then she snaps to attention and frantically starts shoveling doughnuts into boxes, all the while apologizing to the other people in line.

At that moment I realize, “Her job is more stressful than mine.” And even though she has the fabulous fringe benefit of being surrounded by tasty doughnuts all day long, I’m pretty sure I do not want to switch paychecks with her.

During the past few months I’ve visited my dentist and a couple of other doctors. I’m sure these folks are well paid, but their day-in, day-out grind must be pretty stressful. When I do my job, there is no risk of accidentally causing an injury and drawing blood and getting sued (unless I have my eye on the last doughnut and someone else reaches for it first).

Then there’s my brother, the cop. Yes, he works in a fairly quiet suburban town, but nowadays there’s the very real chance that some drunk yahoo will try to run him over or take a shot at him. Plus, his shift keeps rotating every few weeks — days, evenings, midnight — which makes sleep deprivation a way of life. His job is definitely more stressful than mine.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the most beleaguered and tormented character in the entire Bible is named Job. (Pronounced “jobe,” but we all know what those three letters really spell.) Talk about stress! Job endured a series of devastating losses to his family, property, and personal health. Through it all, his so-called friends “cheered him up” by insisting that he surely had done something awful to deserve such hardship.

And don’t forget the folks who work fulltime for newspapers, who enjoy low pay, long hours, and tons of stress. (I don’t fall into this category, by the way, as I’m just a freelancer).

So, the bottom line is, my job is hardly as stressful as I think it is. But it would be nice if everyone was a tad less agitated at work. Especially me.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Can Only Catholics Be Saved?

I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify something. A few weeks ago, while talking about the sacrament of Reconciliation—known as Confession to us old-timers—I made this statement: “The Catholic Church is the only institution in the history of the world that offers answers to the two deepest longings of the human heart: true forgiveness of sin and eternal life in Heaven once our time on earth is over.”

After that particular essay made the rounds, I received feedback from some of my Protestant friends. They asked, rather forcefully, whether I was claiming that ONLY Catholics can go to Heaven.

Oh my, that is definitely not what I was trying to say. I am in no way repeating the mistake promoted by Fr. Feeney in the 1940s. (Cliffs Notes version of his story: Fr. Leonard Feeney of Boston preached that only Roman Catholics could be saved. Despite admonishments from his bishop and even the Vatican, he persisted and eventually was excommunicated. Thankfully, he admitted his error and reconciled with the Church before dying in 1978.)

The two wonderful things that I mentioned, true forgiveness of sin and eternal life in Heaven, are made possible solely by the supernatural power of Jesus Christ. The Lord, and the Lord alone, has the ability to save sinful and selfish humanity. We must be clear about that. Having our sins forgiven and avoiding the fires of Hell are possible only because of the grace of God. Grace, by the way, is defined as unmerited favor, something we do not deserve, nor can we earn on our own. It is a gift from God.

Now, of course, when God offers us the gifts of forgiveness and salvation through grace, we have to accept those gifts and use God’s grace to change our lives. As St. Paul explained in his letter to the Ephesians, we are saved FOR good works, not saved BY good works. (See: Eph 2:8-10.)

This good news of forgiveness and salvation through Christ is the heart of the Gospel message. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

That is the message, and Jesus is the source of the power that can make it happen. However, Jesus established a church here on earth, and He gave that church the authority to preach this message to the whole world. For the first 1,000 years of Christianity, that church was the Roman Catholic Church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is very clear about our “separated brethren” in other non-Catholic Christian communities, including Eastern Orthodox and Protestant denominations. The Catechism says these groups possess four things: valid baptism; the right to be called Christian; the Word of God; and most important of all, the means of salvation. So, anyone making the claims Fr. Feeney made is opposing clear Church teachings.

But let’s not forget, it is an undeniable fact that all Christian denominations, including those of my Protestant friends, received the Good News of forgiveness and salvation originally from the Catholic Church. Even Martin Luther, no friend of Catholicism, acknowledged this. He said, “We are obliged to yield many things to the [Catholics]—that they possess the Word of God which we received from them, otherwise we should have known nothing about it.”

So, don’t get nervous, my friends. I’m not doing a 21st century version of Fr. Feeney. I was just pointing out that the two things the human heart desires desperately—true forgiveness of sin and eternal life in Heaven—are made possible by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

This is the Good News of the Gospel, and only one institution has been proclaiming this message consistently for almost 2,000 years: the Catholic Church.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Too Scared to Fall Asleep

There was a very scary news story the other day. (OK, that’s not saying much. There are dozens of news stories every day that could be classified as “scary.” Most of them begin with this sentence: “Standing before a bank of cameras and microphones, Senator Richard Blumenthal urgently warned…”)

The scary story to which I’m referring began with this sentence: “Federal health officials will require drug makers of popular sleeping pills to add warning labels after reviewing cases of dangerous, sometimes fatal, incidents tied to the drugs.” There was no mention in the story of Sen. Blumenthal offering urgent warnings, but just give it a few days.

The brand name drugs in question are Lunesta, Ambien, and Sonata. (Hmm, that kind of sounds like a musical trio. “Thank you for coming to the Peter, Paul, and Mary memorial concert. Our first act joins us all the way from Birkenstock, Vermont. Please welcome Lunesta, Ambien, and Sonata!”)

I am familiar with those brand names because I watch golf on TV. Apparently, the only companies that are allowed to buy advertising time for golf tournaments are pharmaceutical companies and luxury cars. Or maybe they’re just targeting the average golf viewer: an old person with money. (I only qualify in one of those two categories. Guess which one?)

The Food and Drug Administration reported that in recent years there have been 66 incidents where injury or death occurred after a patient took one of these insomnia medicines. The most common dangerous behaviors were sleep-walking and driving while asleep.

Wait. What? DRIVING while asleep? Yeow!

I’ve heard of sleep-walking, which usually results in someone opening the refrigerator first thing in the morning and saying, “Hey, who ate the entire apple pie?” while another person shuffles sleepily into the kitchen, with pie crust crumbs all over his face, and replies, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

But sleep driving? That is definitely more serious than a missing apple pie. The news story explained that among the 66 cases, 20 resulted in death. The 46 non-fatal occurrences were not exactly stubbed toes and paper cuts. They included falls, burns, near drowning, hypothermia leading to loss of limb, and self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

In recent years, I’ve been having more and more difficulty sleeping through the night. I figured it was either because I’m getting old or because I watch too many scary shows on TV just before bedtime featuring Senator Chicken Little. And after watching all those TV ads for Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, I was planning to ask my doctor if a sleeping pill prescription might help.

But not now! I’d rather be a little tired during the day and doze off at work at 3 p.m., than to do a zombie act in the middle of the night and take my car for a brain-dead cruise at 3 a.m. (And regarding that apple pie, if it goes missing, well, that was me, but don’t worry, I was wide awake at the time.)

The news story said over 30 million prescriptions were filled for Crosby, Stills, and Nash sleep aids in just 2018 alone. Wow, that’s a lot of people who have trouble sleeping through the night. Or maybe it just means the TV commercials are very persuasive and people are doing what each ad suggests: “Ask your doctor if BeyoncĂ© is right for you.”

Even if I wanted to get a prescription for sleeping pills, it probably wouldn’t matter. As soon as Senator B. gets wind of this story, he and a couple of congressional colleagues will introduce legislation to outlaw these drugs. That press conference will remind me of another famous trio: Moe, Larry, and Curly.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Cathedral of Notre Dame Built by Faith

I’m sure you saw the heart-breaking images last month of the massive fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Before the fire was even extinguished, hundreds of millions of dollars in pledges were already pouring in to pay for the rebuilding effort.

I heard one media commentator say, “Faith built the cathedral, and faith will rebuild it.”

There is no doubt it was faith that built this massive, spectacular cathedral beginning in the year 1163 A.D. One of my favorite authors, Dr. Peter Kreeft, discusses the majestic Gothic cathedrals in Europe in his brilliant little book, Jesus Shock.

Kreeft explains that the cathedrals built in the Middle Ages are genuine miracles, since their architectural majesty was far beyond the construction capabilities available at that time in history. “What in the world explains these miracles?” Kreeft asks. “Nothing in the world. That’s what makes them miracles. Christ alone explains those cathedrals. Stonemasons did not build them; faith built them. His Real Presence built them, and His real presence was worshipped in them. They were built not to house man worshipping, but Christ worshipped. They were His houses; that’s why they had to be better than man could possibly do.”

I don’t know much about architecture (except that as a HVAC guy, we’re always complaining that the architects don’t give us enough space to install the heating and cooling systems properly). But I fully accept the claim that the European cathedrals are a miracle of construction. After all, back then there were no electric motors, no hydraulics, no modern cranes, no rail cars or trucks to transport construction materials, and no computers to aid the design process.

There is a story I love about the cathedrals. During construction, artists crafted intricate stone carvings at the very upper edges of the structures. These beautiful works of art could not be seen by any human being. They were way up out of sight, and in those days, there were no hot air balloons, no helicopters, no drones with cameras, and no Google Earth satellite images.

So, these guys labored month after month, year after year, to create beautiful sculptures—sculptures that no man would ever see. Why did they do it? Because they knew God would see it, and their desire was to please Him. Talk about faith! That is the kind of passionate faith that built those magnificent cathedrals.

The media commentator I heard said that faith built the Cathedral of Notre Dame almost 900 years ago, and that is quite true. But then he said that faith will rebuild the cathedral. I’m not so sure about that. Certainly, hundreds of millions of dollars goes a long way getting construction work done. And the government of France seems very determined to do whatever it takes to restore Notre Dame. But don’t forget, France, along with most of Europe, is a post-Christian culture. The percentage of citizens who still go to church and believe in God is shockingly small. It has become a thoroughly secular part of the world in just a couple of generations. (And in case you haven’t noticed, the U.S. is following in Europe’s footsteps at a rapid pace.)

A lot of cash can erect impressive buildings. The skyline of Manhattan is a prime example. But faith, true faith in God, is needed to create a structure so sublime it stirs up spiritual longings in the depth of your soul. The stone workers who created Notre Dame 900 years ago had that faith. It’s yet to be seen what a team of secular construction crews can do in the early 21st century.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if this tragic fire, besides destroying the roof of Notre Dame, also rekindles the faith of secular France? Let’s pray for that nation, which was once called “the eldest daughter of the Church.”

Friday, May 17, 2019

Woodstock at 50? No Thanks

The golden anniversary of the Woodstock music festival is still three months away, but I’m already starting to get sick of hearing about it. And by mid-August, I bet that’s all the media will be talking about. Ugh, wake me when it’s over.
Many people are exclaiming, “Can you believe it’s been 50 years since Woodstock?!”

Yes, I can believe it. After all, 1969 was a long time ago. What I can’t believe is that a bunch of narcissistic Baby Boomers, now in their 60s and 70s, still think Woodstock was one of the most, if not THE most, important event in human history.

Sorry to burst your bubble, guys, but Woodstock wasn’t even the most important event of 1969. I’d put Joe Namath, Neil Armstrong, Golda Meir, Stonewall, and the Mets higher up on the list.
Over 400,000 teens and young adults descended on a town in rural upstate New York and spent three days living like farm animals in the mud. Really? That’s the most important event in human history?

Oh, excuse me. The previous paragraph is an insult to farm animals, who at least have the good sense not to take LSD or believe a guy named Todd from Scarsdale when he says, “Yeah, baby, I’ll love you in the morning!”
In 1969 I was 12 years old, so attending out-of-state music festivals was not exactly on my radar at that moment. I was more concerned during that summer with helping the Clinton Cardinals reach the Little League regional playoffs. (We didn’t make it, by the way, thanks in large part to the grand slam I gave up, the first of many instances where I pleaded with coaches, “Just because I’m left-handed does NOT mean I can pitch!”)

If I had been, say, 21 years old in 1969, I might have journeyed to Max Yasgur’s farm for three days of non-stop partying. But if I had done that, and assuming I hadn’t fried my brain on bad acid, I would not have spent the next half century telling everyone how morally superior I was because I chose “peace and love” over “war and death.”

You see, at the same time all those young Americans were slogging through the mud while being assaulted by brutal sonic attacks from Jimi Hendrix, another group of young Americans were slogging through the mud while being assaulted by brutal RPG attacks from the Viet Cong.
Far too many of the Woodstock revelers proudly proclaimed how wonderful they were because they refused to fight in an unpopular war. But taking a stand back then against the war in Vietnam did not involve any personal sacrifice, such as the risk of being arrested and imprisoned. No, in those days all you had to do was enroll in college and you were deferred from the draft.

In the meantime, all the kids who ended up in Southeast Asia, including the 58,000-plus who never made it home alive, either could not or chose not to finagle a deferment.
I’m not saying all those guys who went to Woodstock should’ve joined the Army. This is not a discussion about the rightness or wrongness of Vietnam. But those Woodstock partiers did not have to act like they were the most wonderful people in the history of the world — an attitude that regrettably still persists with far too many Baby Boomers.

So, in a few months Woodstock will dominate the news headlines. Multiple music festivals are scheduled for that region of New York. Many Baby Boomers will return to relive they youth. And I guarantee they’ll be the first ones to whine and moan if they can’t get a wifi signal or if the Chardonnay is too warm.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Two Greatest Commandments the Key to Happiness

A lot of people nowadays are desperately seeking happiness. This may seem odd, since our modern society is fabulously prosperous. I’m not minimizing, of course, the fact that there are plenty of people in our nation who are poor and struggling. But overall, the vast majority of citizens nowadays are overwhelmingly blessed, especially when compared to previous generations of Americans. These days most of us have an abundance of food and clothing and comfort and entertainment and electronic devices. People today have much more leisure time than folks did years ago. And yet, far too many of us are unhappy and unfulfilled, and the more we try to make ourselves happy by purchasing more stuff, the more miserable we feel.

Well, I’ve got the answer. I know the key to a happy life. All you have to do if follow the Two Greatest Commandments in the Bible.

Oh, come on now. I saw you. Don’t roll your eyes.

I fully understand that the Commandments in the Bible are not very popular these days. People are convinced that following the Commandments will take away all their fun and make life boring. A lot of people hear the word “commandment” and immediately think of strict rules imposed by oppressive authority figures who only want to keep us in line and obedient. In other words, many folks think biblical commandments will take away all our freedoms and make us miserable.

Well, that could not be further from the truth. The biblical commandments are not designed to take away our fun, they’re designed to keep us from hurting ourselves. The Commandments are not a cage into which we are locked, they are railings on the edge of a cliff that keep us from falling to our deaths.

The Old Testament lists the famous Ten Commandments, but in the New Testament, Jesus summarized these down to a simple and basic two. And the Two Greatest Commands will not in any way make us miserable; they will, instead, fill us with peace and happiness.

When asked which was the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus said there are two: “Love the Lord your God will all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind…and love your neighbor as yourself.”

What do you mean, “Is that it?” And stop rolling your eyes.

Let me ask you a question. What is a person on his deathbed more likely to say, “I wish I had spent more time at the office,” or, “I wish I had spent more time with my loved ones”?

Correct, his loved ones. And why is this true? Because entering into loving relationships is the whole reason we exist. It’s why God made us. Loving relationships are the true source of joy and happiness and fulfillment, not the latest iPad or a new car or a shopping spree at the mall.

Human beings were created for love. Jesus knows that better than anyone, since He is, as John’s gospel explains, the One through Whom everything in the universe was created. Jesus knows we must enter into two types of loving relationships: the first is with our Creator, and the second is with our fellow human beings.

The Two Greatest Commandments, as explained by Jesus, are the only reliable way to have lasting joy and happiness.

What’s that you say? A new car will make you happy? Well, I’m sure a new car will bring you a lot of delight and pleasure…for a while. But it’s very fleeting, and you certainly can’t take that BMW with you after your time here on earth is over.

Do you want to know what you CAN take with you when your time on earth is over? Your loving relationships. Why don’t you try to follow Jesus’ Two Greatest Commandments? Try to love God more, and love your family and friends more. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much happiness it brings.

And for goodness sake, stop rolling your eyes!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Another Desperately Needed 12-step Program

“Hi, my name is Bill, and I’m an exaggerator.”

“Hi, Bill,” everyone in the room replies in unison.

I stand awkwardly for a few moments, unsure of what to say next. Then the leader at the front of the room, a man named Joe, calmly says, “Don’t be nervous, Bill. I know this is your first Exaggerators Anonymous meeting. We’re all here to support you. And of course, we’re all in the same boat with you — we struggle with exaggeration. Not run of the mill lying, mind you, but exaggeration, you know, tall tales, stretching the truth, malarkey, and good ol’ fashioned B.S.”

All 20 or so people in the room look at me, nod their heads in agreement, and smile. Yes, we’re all in this together, I realize. That calms my nerves a bit. The leader says, “Just tell us about your struggles, what you’ve been going through lately.”

“OK,” I reply softly. Then I take a deep breath and say, “Well, where to begin? I guess I’ve always been tempted to exaggerate. It’s probably genetic. You see, I come from an Irish-American family, and with our heritage, we believe it’s more important to tell an interesting story than an accurate story. We call it ‘blarney,’ and playing fast and loose with the facts is kind of what we do. I’ve probably been to a million family parties where someone tells a funny story, and when the laughter subsides, someone else will say, ‘That was a fine story, lad. It would’ve been even better if it were true!’ And then everyone starts laughing again.”

Joe, at the front of the room, gently says, “Bill, you just said you’ve been to these family parties, umm, a MILLION times.”

I quickly close my eyes and shake my head. “Oh man, see what I mean?” I moan. “I do it without even realizing it!”

“That’s OK. That’s OK,” Joe quickly assures me. “It’s going to take a while. But recognizing our unconscious exaggerations is a key goal of this group. You’ll get the hang of it soon, I’m sure. Go on, Bill. Tell us more.”

“All right,” I say. “Well, besides my family situation, I also have another strong temptation to exaggerate. You see, I write a humor column each week for the local newspaper. And basically, they pay me to make things up. Now, it’s not completely fabricated stuff. For example, I would never write about being at a fictitious 12-step meeting. No, not dumb stuff like that. It’s more like discussing everyday events in my life — my family, my job, the sports teams I like, what shows I watch on TV — and then wildly embellishing it. And the thing is, the more ridiculous and outlandish the exaggeration, the more positive feedback I get from readers!”

“Oh, that is a real problem,” Joe says somberly. “Any other things you’d like to share, Bill?”

“Well, there is one more aspect of my life that might be a problem,” I say nervously. “For my fulltime job, I am, umm, I’m in sales.”

A collective gasp rises up from the room. Joe’s jaw hangs open. Murmuring begins, and someone whispers, “That’s the exaggeration hat trick. His case is hopeless!”

Joe finally quiets the room down. Then he says, “Bill, thank you so much for sharing. Please take your seat, and you and I can talk privately afterwards. Now, it’s time to hear from our other new member.”

Joe looks to the back of the room and points. A large man with curious orange hair stands up. “This is ridiculous,” he exclaims. “But Melania insisted that I come here. So, here goes. My name is Donald….”

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

New Men’s Group: ‘Jerks for Jesus’

Recently, I attended a men’s weekend retreat, and during one of the presentations the speaker said, “Before his conversion, St. Paul, known then as Saul of Tarsus, persecuted Christians relentlessly, even to the point of having some believers sentenced to death. He was a real jerk.”

Then the speaker said, “But after his conversion, St. Paul became sweet and kind and lovable, and never said a harsh word to anyone ever again, right? Right?!”

No one in the room said anything. We weren’t quite sure where he was going with this. Some of us thought, “Well, umm, I guess that’s true, since saints are supposed to be kind and loving and holy.” Others thought, “Hmm, when I read the Acts of the Apostles, it doesn’t seem like Paul was all that sweet and kind.”

However, before anyone could say anything, the speaker answered his own question. “No! He was not sweet and kind,” he declared. “St. Paul was the same loud and brash and zealous guy he was before his conversion. During his entire Christian ministry, during all of his missionary journeys, St. Paul was still a jerk! But he was a ‘Jerk for Jesus,’ and that made all the difference.”

Now, before you misunderstand—as most of the guys in the room did—and think the speaker was bad-mouthing St. Paul and minimizing his effectiveness as a saint, the whole point was not that Paul was an irredeemable jerk. The point was: God can use people to do His will despite their flaws. He sometimes even uses people’s so-called flaws to make them more effective ministers of the Gospel.

St. Paul is a perfect example. If you read the Acts of the Apostles, and then read between the lines in Paul’s many New Testament epistles, a portrait emerges of a man who was intense and driven and blunt. The average person who observed Paul in action might conclude that he was one of the most obnoxious and annoying persons ever; in other words, a real jerk.

But think about the situation at that moment in time. It had only been a handful of years since the Resurrection occurred. The entire Christian church consisted of a bunch of uneducated fishermen in Jerusalem and the folks who followed their teaching. In order for the faith to spread, God needed someone who was intelligent and well-spoken, as well as brash and relentless and completely immune to criticism from others. (How many of us can make that claim? Come on, be honest. In the face of criticism, most of us quickly change our behavior because we’re afraid other people won’t like us.)

Saul of Tarsus was the perfect man for the job. When he was relentlessly persecuting Christians, he didn’t care what other people thought about him. His only desire was to do God’s will. When Jesus appeared to him on the Road to Damascus—and informed him that he was in fact NOT doing God’s will—the mission completely changed, but the person did not. Now known by the Greek version of his name, Paul was just as relentless and unconcerned about what others thought of him. That is, he had the perfect personality to spread the Christian Gospel all over the known world, even if many considered him to be a jerk.

The message the retreat speaker was tying to get across is this: if we submit ourselves to the Lord, He can use our strengths and weaknesses and personality traits to do His will.

If God has called you to preach the message of Christ in a place that’s never heard the Gospel, then maybe you need to be relentless and zealous and completely immune to criticism. If God instead has called you to be a witness for Jesus to your family and friends and coworkers, then maybe the most effective technique is to dial back the jerkiness.

We should start a new Christian Men’s Group, called “Jerks for Jesus.” I know someone who would make a good member. He’s the guy typing this sentence.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Being a Senior is a Pain in the Aspirin

Last week I discussed the difficulties I’m having trying to adapt to being a senior citizen. I’m very new at this, having joined the ranks of the Geezer Brigade just a few short years ago. There are no training classes or instruction manuals to offer guidance on the proper behaviors and protocols for those of us in our 60s and beyond, so I’m just kind of muddling my way through it.

Here is a perfect example of how difficult this can be. A couple of years ago, my doctor suggested I start taking a baby aspirin each day to lower the risk of heart troubles. Apparently, good ol’ aspirin helps reduce the chances that goop (the official technical medical term) will stick to the inside walls of a person’s arteries and cause a blockage.

So, I started taking a tiny aspirin tablet every morning. They even sell it with a little heart shape on the bottle and the words “Heart Healthy.” Senior citizens, ironically, are now the key target market for St. Joseph’s Baby Aspirin.

Anyway, this morning I received an urgent email message from A.A.R.P. The email was titled, “New Advice on Daily Aspirin.” Recent scientific studies have discovered that a daily aspirin regiment may help heart health a little, but the benefit is greatly outweighed by a 38 percent increase in gastrointestinal bleeding. So, the aspirin is doing the “anti-goop” thing in the heart arteries, but at the same time it is doing the “spring a leak in the gut blood vessels thing,” too. (“Spring a leak in the gut blood vessels thing” is, of course, also the official technical medical term.)

Here is a summary of the new guidelines: If you’ve already had a heart attack or stroke, then you should keep taking the daily aspirin. If you’ve never had a heart attack or stroke, then don’t take the baby aspirin as the intestinal bleeding risk is worse.

However, the scary email concluded with this delightful advice: “Don’t stop taking a daily aspirin cold turkey. It can create a rebound effect that can trigger a heart attack. A 2017 Swedish study found that abruptly stopping a daily aspirin raised the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 37 percent.”

Oh, great. I’ve been taking a baby aspirin every day for two years. What am I supposed to do now? I’ve never had a heart attack or stroke, so I shouldn’t be taking the aspirin. But if I stop, the heart attack and stroke odds go way up. Sheesh.

The only specific suggestion the email offered was to talk your doctor about it. Yeah, but he’s the guy who told me to take the aspirin in the first place. By the way, he also is the guy who asked me, during my annual physical a few month ago, if I wanted to start taking cholesterol medication. “Why should I do that?” I asked. “You’ve been telling me for the past ten years my cholesterol is fine.”

“Well, they recently changed the guidelines,” he explained.

Oh really? “They” changed the guidelines. Who exactly are “they”? The pharmaceutical companies that make cholesterol pills?

As my woeful story clearly indicates, it’s not easy being a senior citizen nowadays. the rules keep changing. I wish there were training classes or instruction manuals.

But now that I think about it, it was very easy and instinctive for me to start complaining about pharmaceutical companies. As everyone knows, this is a requirement for all seniors. (Along with the other requirement of discussing in graphic detail all of your recent medical procedures.)

Maybe I can get the hang of this without any training after all. Hey, let me show you my surgery scar!