Well, according to the calendar it’s been seven months since my last post. It was a completely unintentional hiatus, brought on by several things working together to mess up my creative mojo. Okay, some of it was procrastination. If you’ve been reading these posts any time at all, you know that’s one of my weaknesses. Or strengths. I’m really good at procrastinating, so you decide.
After my mother-in-law passed away, I had to focus more on things at home – namely, keeping my wife occupied so she didn’t have too much time to sit around and think. We went to the gym a lot, watched some movies, and took in a few comedy shows. I think I might have been in a few of them. The comedy shows, not the movies. Maybe someday.
In May, we went to Florida to scatter Jane’s ashes in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a well-needed break from the routine, and before the week was out Jane had the last word. The beach was fairly crowded that day, and we didn’t want to take care of business too close to the other swimmers, though I have to believe they would have cleared a spot for us – real fast!
So we found a stretch of beach that was mostly covered in underwater rocks, a safe distance from those who would prefer not to know what we were doing. My wife and I waded into the water to begin what should have been a solemn ritual, but Jane had other ideas. The first wave that came along knocked me to my knees. The next one knocked me on my butt. As I tried to stand up, the waves kept rolling in. Everybody on the beach was laughing hysterically, and by the time I finally got to my feet I was covered in ashes – my wife had emptied the bag while I was fighting the waves to regain my balance. As I said, Jane got the last word. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
So here we are, seven months later and I’m finally getting back to the business of writing. I found out the hard way with my earlier posts that trying to write a new article every day was too much, so this time around I’ll keep it to a more leisurely pace. Meanwhile, I’ve launched the new Health & Humor website (www.healthandhumor.org). I hope you’ll take a moment to check it out.
Life has had its share of ups and downs this year. Four weeks ago today I was laying in a hospital cardiac ward recovering from one of the worst nights I’ve ever had, followed by a test that brought me to the brink of what I perceived to be imminent death. It started with a dull headache that lasted ten days. I finally realized I should check my blood pressure and it was higher than it’s ever been. Well, until the next morning. At 245/157, I knew I had to go in.
One of the first things they did was give me nitroglycerine. They said it would “relax” the blood vessels in my heart. Yeah, like an instant burst of air “relaxes” an old balloon. Pop! The problem is, my heart needed the extra blood flow, but my brain didn’t. And apparently, nitroglycerine doesn’t know the difference. My head throbbed for the next three hours. Later that night the nurse asked if I was having any chest pain – I lied through my teeth.
They gave me different medicine all through the night, but by morning my blood pressure was still way too high. Next came the stress test. They started with a radioactive dye, then put me on a scanner. As I stood up from that test, I almost passed out. Apparently all the medicine had finally kicked in, and my blood pressure was crashing. I was supposed to walk on a treadmill, but I couldn’t even sit up. So they finally decided to give me a chemically-induced stress test.
All I can say about that is I’d rather fall down on the treadmill and get shot off the back. The nurse described symptoms I may feel, but said some people don’t feel anything. Well, good for them. As she pulled the needle from my IV, I thought I was one of the lucky ones. Two seconds later I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I couldn’t breathe, I was about to pass out, and my whole body was on fire. I seriously thought if I passed out I would die. It was that intense.
The whole time the nurse was trying to calm me down. “Stop squirming! You’re fine!” That’s easy for her to say. It’s like a flight attendant saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve begun our final descent. You may have noticed that the aircraft has gotten really quiet – that’s because both engines fell off and this plane glides like a rock. Please return your seat backs and tray tables to their full upright position and secure any loose items. We’ll be on the ground shortly.”
After the test, my blood pressure was so low they couldn’t read it. An hour later, I was finally able to sit up without getting dizzy. As it turns out, the test was “normal” – meaning I didn’t die on the table. By that afternoon my blood pressure was still in the safe zone so they handed me a couple of new prescriptions and sent me home just in time for my birthday.
So what caused all the problems? It was stress, pure and simple. Too many things were going on all at once, both at work and at home, and I let them get the better of me. Meanwhile, I had decided maybe I didn’t need all the medicine I was taking, so I dropped one. As a result, my blood pressure slowly crept up until it hit the critical zone. If it hadn’t been for the ten-day headache, I might not have known until it was too late. Lesson learned.
A week after I got home, I took a trip to North Dakota and Minnesota to do eight comedy shows with an old friend. The shows were great and we had a really fun morning radio appearance with the DJs at Rock 105 in Fargo, ND. It was just what the doctor ordered. Okay, the doctor probably would have pitched a fit, but my mind and body loved it. Since I came home, my blood pressure has been running around 117/70. Meanwhile I’ve seen my cardiologist, and he gave me a clean bill of health and said I can go back to the gym. Problem solved.
The point to this is, even a guy like me who makes humor a huge part of his life can fall victim to stress and anxiety. Bills pile up, vehicles start making noises, family demands increase, and rigors of the job slowly begin to consume what little brain power is left. And the thing is, none of those things can be avoided completely. All we can do is find a healthy way to deal with it. And there’s nothing healthier than finding the humor in the situation and allowing ourselves to laugh. Try it.
Tomorrow is Christmas Day, and I fully realize that many of my readers celebrate this season in other ways according to their own faith. In fact, some don’t celebrate it at all, and that’s okay. I would wish every one of you a wonderful day every day of the year, so I have no qualms about wishing you all a Merry Christmas. May you find peace and happiness wherever you are. See you next week!