“Less stress,” prescribed the doctor in charge of lowering my stubbornly resistant and persistent high blood pressure after reviewing a month’s worth of readings predominantly in the stage 2 and 3 hypertension range.
“Less stress,” I repeated. “How so?”
“Take some time for yourself,” he replied, giving me a pat on the shoulder as he headed to the door. “I’ll call in your new medicine.”
“Right,” I replied. Another new medicine. And less stress. Because I’d already cut out salt, abstained from alcohol for months, lost a few pounds and added more fresh wholesome food in my diet. And of course, tried half a dozen other new medicines, each with a suite of side effects – muscle cramps, dry mouth, migraines, thinning hair, sleeplessness, depression and lethargy to name a few – but none that consistently lowered my blood pressure. The trick I was told, was finding the right combination. Which still eluded us.
The odd thing is that I don’t feel unusually stressed. This, an aghast friend tells me, is merely because I’ve become acclimated to stress over the past decade. She assures me that anyone who works more than 60 hours a week in two jobs, is a single parent to 3 teenagers and a college student, typically commutes an hour and a half a day, lives a semi-pioneer lifestyle that requires hauling water, and still lives paycheck to paycheck, is STRESSED (the caps lock is her, not me).
We’ve scaled down, I tell her, the chickens and goats are gone. She rolls her eyes. “But your car,” she says, “and your house!” It’s true the car is showing signs of deterioration – we’ve put over 70,000 miles on it since we bought it a few years ago (it had 107,000 miles then) and at age 15 the electrical system is on the fritz with odd issues like lights that don’t work and a car alarm that goes off while you are driving down the road (embarrassing) and a non-working heater and AC. More worrying is the rusted undercarriage that portends the loss of the rear axle some day. I try to go gently through the potholes and defer thinking about it. The mechanic told me that I’d know when it went out as the back-end would no longer be controlled by steering!
And the house? It mostly works (aside from the lack of running water issue and the listing to one side which means doors won’t close properly). True, it’s quite hot in the summer and cold in the winter and suffers from damp nearly all year round. And it seems small and cramped even though it’s larger than our last few abodes. The lack of a driveway is a hassle during the rainy season, it’s true, as even 4-wheel drive isn’t enough to safely navigate the hill. It must be familiarity that causes us to view it with impatience and disdain.
I’m not sure what I can change to fulfill the “less stress” prescription. More time for me means less work which means less money which means more stress. So I buy a candle that smells good and says “Balance” on the side, and a pint of Haagen Daaz vanilla, blackberry, chocolate ice cream and as soon as I post this blog entry I’m going to light one and dig into the other, listen to the rain and wind (and not think about the mud) and enjoy some brief stress relief. Ommmm.