I’m not good with doctor visits, even routine ones. During my last physical the internist said, “Are you under stress?”
“Since I was born. And especially when I see you. Is that a problem?” My heart pounded with anxiety. What horrible news was he about to deliver?
“Everything’s great,” he said. “I simply want to make sure you’re managing your stress levels.”
“Why? What could go wrong?”
He seemed to be picking his words carefully. “Nothing yet, but the long-term effects of stress can be very harmful — as we get older.”
“Are you saying I’m aging?”
“We all do,” he said.
This visit was so stressful that I nearly crashed into another car on the drive home.
“Hey Sweetie, how was your physical?” my husband asked as I stumbled into our house.
“Peachy keen,” I snapped. “Do we have to talk about it? It’s making me very tense.”
“You do seem rattled,” he said cautiously.
“It was just the drive home,” I explained. “I was behind an SUV the entire time.”
“Sounds like normal commuting,” he said.
“This SUV had a bumper sticker that said ‘It’s all good.’ If that isn’t the most stressful thing to see in front of you when you’re stopped at an endless red light, I don’t know what is! It’s like a reproach to people like me who aren’t mellow enough.”
“You know I made you that relaxation CD so you wouldn’t react like this while driving.”
I burst into tears. “It wasn’t just the SUV!”
“What was it?” He seemed genuinely concerned.
“The doctor told me I have to stop being so stressed out because I’m getting older!”
“Phew,” he said. “I thought it was something serious.”
“What’s not serious? Do you know how stressful it is to try to reduce one’s stress levels?”
He smiled. “This is a great opportunity to join me in something you know I do every day.”
“Oh no,” I said. “I’m not meditating.” He’s been bugging me to do it with him for years.
“Just fifteen minutes. Is that so much?”
“It takes me two minutes to make a Mimosa,” I said. “Which would do more for my stress levels right now.”
He serenely took my hand — don’t you hate it when spouses are serene? — and led me over to the area of our living room where he meditates. He pulled me down so I was seated next to him.
“Let’s begin,” he said. “You pick a number between one and twenty. We’ll count up and back from it to center our breathing.”
I thought about which digit would be most soothing.
“It’s been five minutes,” he said. “What’s your number?”
“I was thinking 3,” I said, “but figured we’d be rushing up and back. I thought about 19, but worried I’d lose track counting that high and then I thought about 6 but that’s boring and –”
“I’ll pick it,” he said. “10. Now all you need to do is select a peaceful image to visualize.”
“Like what?” I asked. “You know I specialize in imagining disasters.”
“Picture a beautiful lake view.”
“Got it,” I said. “Wow, my lake is not just beautiful — it’s rockin’ glacial! I’m feeling so peaceful. So joyful. So — oh no! Here comes one of those annoying jet skis!”
“Sweetheart.” His voice sounding less tranquil. “You need to let whatever happens happen. If there’s a jet ski, go with it.”
We went back to meditating.
My husband interrupted. “Why are you making that weird noise?”
“I’m going with irritating sound of the jet ski.”
“Do it in silence,” he said testily.
We meditated again. Suddenly my husband shook me. “You’re not breathing,” he said.
“I was afraid I’d make too much noise.”
He got up. “This session is making me completely anxious,” he said. “The stress is catching! I wouldn’t be surprised if your doctor took a Valium after you left. I’ve got to have a Mimosa.”
I called out after him. “But I’m not feeling any stress for the first time in my life! Uh-oh! Feeing no stress is stressing me out about when it will come back.”
“Don’t worry about it.,” my husband said. “I’ll make you a mimosa too.”
“Thanks, Sweetie, “ I said. “Put a strawberry in mine, please, and then maybe I can really relax.”
Oh, no!, I thought. Maybe I should have an orange slice instead. Then I decided that if I wrote down everything that was happening to me, I’d be less stressed about it. But how to end it? That’s the most stressful thing of all.
Polly Frost’s new book, “With One Eye Open,” is a collection of 25 of her humor pieces. Her website is http://pollyfrost.com.