On Wednesday morning, after dropping off Deborah for preschool, I called my doctor. I had been feeling chest pains all morning and finally realized that they were not going to subside.
The urgent care had the sweetest nurse ever. (my regular doctor couldn’t see me). She was soothing and very adept at hooking up the EKG machine to me. I told her how silly this all was, really I was fine, but she just kept putting these warm little suction cups all over my body.
I get a little nervous about heart stuff because my father died when his heart just stopped on him. It’s happened to several cousins in my family too.
“Has it happened to anyone in your family under 40?” the doctor asked.
“Well, yeah. One cousin died when he was 39 while he was playing at a softball game. But he’s like a first cousin once removed so, you know, pretty distant.” He nodded his head.
Fortunately, after some computer glitches, they told me that my EKG looked great. Then the doctor started pressing different pressure points that really hurt, and he told me that the muscles around my rib cage were inflamed. He asked if I had felt stressed that morning.
“Well no,” I said. “I was mostly just mad at everybody. You know, bugged.”
He raised his eyebrows.
“Well I was trying to get Debi out to preschool, and the cleaning ladies were coming over, but everything needed to be picked up, and I was just mad at my whole family for being such slobs, and wondering why can’t my boys just find a hamper instead of throwing their clothes on the floor. But, no, I wasn’t stressed. I was just mad.”
Because if I was mad, then I was still strong, but if I was stressed, I was weak. I had been fighting tears the whole time I was in that blasted examination room, but hey, they were angry tears.
The doctor was really kind, spent a lot of time with us. The advice was pretty simple: take Ibuprofen, drink lots of water, slow down. Anxiety and stress can cause heart problems, so yeah, don’t get stressed.
Anyway, I felt relieved and sobered and foolish after we left. Sheesh, why hadn’t I just taken some Iburprofen that morning? But deep down, I knew that I needed to slow my life down. I’m always trying to get so much done, but dabgumit! I am not an automaton! I was not put on this earth just to be efficient!
Still, my brain was still stuck on efficiency and kept offering me suggestions: maybe grafting in two more arms? Finally I accepted that there were some things in my life I was just going to have to drop. Even if I could get everything all done, would I be happy? Would I feel peace? Would I be the kind of person that people wanted to be with or would they just give me space so I could get my grocery shopping done in under fifteen minutes? Yes, Becky, I think I saw the syrup two aisles down.
This morning, my husband and I went to the temple, and there I received clarity. Instead of asking myself, Do I need to drop this? Can I still do that? I asked, What is most important to me?
It was amazing when I asked myself that question how few things came to my mind. Loving the Lord. Loving my family. Loving my neighbors. Keeping this home in order. Learning as much as I can.
I needed to just focus on the priorities until I felt I had a better control of things. (Ha! Ha!) Once (or if) I did, then I could start thinking about slowly adding more to my life. So for the next few weeks, I’m going to talk about this process of prioritization. I’ll talk about children’s books too, but you guys don’t really read those posts much anyway.
And here is my first day of simplifying.
How have you learned to manage stress in your life?