At Large : Time for a stroll
Life is stressful enough without holidays. Beginning next week and packed into every day until the year ends, parties, dinners, dances, concerts, gifts, decorating, cooking, kids, cousins, parents, grandparents will all multiply till they wring heart-rending yelps of psychic pain from even the blithest spirits. It is the background music for the holiday season.
And, really, it's no wonder. How can any ordinary human deal with the demands of the next few weeks, especially when you consider that everywhere there is a wretched supplementary catalogue of worldwide woe.
I mean, there's the housing crisis and the financial system constipation. Then there was bailout number one, and now the bailout for the auto builders, the one for the housing industry, the one for the states, the one for the insurance industry, and the one for the folks whose mortgages are being foreclosed. (I've done lots of bailing in my time, and it is never fun.)
Then there's deflation, which will make for a killer deficit, soon to be followed, after the recession/depression ends (if it does), by inflation, which will mean higher taxes to reduce the national debt and higher interest rates as well. Then, add to all that the oncoming winter and the uncertainty about next year. The widely held view is that everything, everywhere is off-track. It's enough to take the wind out of anyone's sails.
Then there's the contempt in which we are held by sadists, totalitarians, bombers, cave-dwellers, and the global fainthearted and fanatic. They can't be expected to change their view of us merely because Barack Obama will be the next president. Taken all in all, it's miraculous, I suppose, that any of us can manage to put one foot in front of another, knowing what we do, or what we imagine, about how bad things are.
Worst of all, there's Thanksgiving, and what have we to give thanks about? We will just have to find a way to deal with the good will and the holiday spirit that's about to be unleashed upon us. Who can possibly cope?
Right off the bat, there's the Friday after Thanksgiving shopping kickoff for Christmas gift buying. I don't know what to buy for anybody. I haven't given it a thought. I may make all my presents this year. Someone near and dear to me wants one of those GPS things for the car, which may be the most difficult gift to make. Such things don't lend themselves to design and construction from stuff I have in the garage. It's stressful.
For instance, consider turkey choices. The oldest daughter will preside over Thanksgiving for family and friends. We're responsible for the gravy, but, heedlessly, I offered some advice on turkey selection. I told her the best bet was the Butterball, self-basting with the pop-up that tells you when it's done. Once it's in the oven you can turn your attention to the marshmallow yams. But it turns out that although the Butterball is low stress, it's high fat. Our hostess has been doing turkey research, and the Butterball performs its magic because it's laced with chemicals and salt. Who knew? There are free-range turkeys now, and organic turkeys, and holistic turkeys, I suppose. She's striking off in a healthier direction with her Thanksgiving menu. I'm sure that's good.
I read Jane Brody's Personal Health column in the New York Times every week. She's up on everything and full of common sense. I figure if I pay attention and don't miss a column, I'll find out just in the nick of time what I absolutely have to stop doing or eating or thinking to avoid the deathblow that I'm sure is lurking in my lifestyle.
"What many doctors fail to take into account," Ms. Brody wrote about stress, and especially holiday season stress, "is the effect of a constant or oft-repeated outpouring of these hormones on physical well-being." (Hormones, I've come to believe, are at the root of all evil, though I have no data to prove it.)
"It is now known, for example, that undue stress inhibits the responsiveness of the immune system," Ms. Brody explains, "especially the natural killer cells and macrophages that are the first-line warriors against infection and foreign invaders like cancer cells.
"Chronic stress can also raise blood pressure and blood sugar, constrict major arteries and interfere with normal digestive processes. These effects, in turn, increase the risk of hypertension, heart disease, strokes, chronic reflux disease, diarrhea or constipation, and insulin resistance, the precursor of Type 2 diabetes."
You may be saying to yourself, Why did I even start to read this column, and I understand. But, after this, Ms. Brody, feeling your pain, says, "But enough of the bad news." And I say, Amen.
Ms. Brody counsels pre-planning, no procrastination, delegating some of the work, and being realistic about what you can accomplish. Is that the same thing as, how much you can take, I wonder?
The advice itself is extremely realistic. "Grin and bear it," she writes. (And, you know, I've come up with that remedy on my own. For years, I've believed that it's a cure-all for what ails me.)
But, here's the practical advice: "For those people you have to see but would rather not, like the aunt who is always telling you what to do, the brother-in-law who brags incessantly or the cousin who regales you with details about every one of her ailments, either ignore them or try to take them less seriously. See if you can find some humor instead of annoyance in the situation." (I'm thinking, this Brody must be a saint, in spite of apparently being acquainted with all the members of my family.)
She suggests a walk, which may be her way of saying, run for your life. But no, she doesn't mean flee the scene. She just means a walk. I suppose, if nothing else, it will get you out of the house.