Whenever a nurse is about to strap that arm band on me, I warn them. Before they squeeze that bulb to apply the pressure, I tell them that there’s a good chance my blood pressure will read at least a touch high. Last week, I did just that, and the nurse squeezed the pump and constricted that band around my left arm before releasing it slowly, counting to herself. She told me it was a bit high, which is what I had just told her. The first time I had a high blood pressure reading was sometime to the dark side of midnight in an overcrowded, understaffed, Naples hospital. The serious woman pumped the primer, counted, and told me that this pressure of mine was rather high. She asked if I knew why that might be. I used my blood shot eyes to point first towards the large clock on the wall, and then to the heavy hook buried in my arm. She understood, I think.
The blood pressure was a bit high last week, as it generally is when I’m in a doctor’s office awaiting the most recent verdict on my lifespan. My stomach has been bothering me for a while, not in the way that it presses against my pants in a way that I wish it wouldn’t, but in a mostly achy, dull sort of way. It hasn’t been right for quite some time. Perhaps it was my diet, consisting of healthy enough foods in unhealthy quantities. Perhaps it was stress, caused from this or from that, depending on the day and the hour. The first culprit was lactose. The Dairy State isn’t some outdated license plate moniker, like “Live Free or Die”, but it is instead a living, breathing, fact of Wisconsin life, and I am nothing if not a lifetime subscriber. Cheese is good, cream too. Have you ever eaten cereal with half and half instead of milk? Me neither.
So I took to putting some sort of coconut creamer in my coffee for a while, and I avoided things with cheese. For a few days, this seemed to help, but then it didn’t. So I poured real cream back into my lonely coffee and set about figuring out what else might be causing this discomfort. Stress is one of my closest, most trusted friends. I’ve done much of my best life work when I’m stressed, and I don’t really know how to operate any other way. If I’m not pressing, not stressing, then I feel lazy. Work ethic is a wonderful thing, but it can take a sinister turn when time spent not working or thinking about work is time deemed wasted. With this in mind, I prescribed myself a vacation. Marco it would be, January it was.
I took to the waters there, sun on my skin and wind in my hair, my tanned hands gripping a stainless steering wheel, and for a while my mood improved. But soon after I felt relieved, I felt wrong again. The tide was pushing my boat in ways that I wished it wouldn’t, and my dream of a wild trip through the islands turned into a sad realization that the intercoastal is only a highway on moving water, filled with all sorts of rude testosterone. The water was colored, but not clear, the sun was warm but not hot. The wind blew, a bit too much, sweeping over so much open water and then funneling down those mangrove lined rivers. I may have had the prescription right, but the cocktail was all wrong. There was too much salt and too much wind. There was water all around but none to swim in, and there were fish to be caught but all with large teeth and strange scales, and at least one variety that made my hands itch for hours after handling it. This medicine had not worked.
And that’s why I sat in the office last week, and why on another day they put medicine into an IV and pushed a scope down my throat. When I woke up later, with a request for water and a fresh awareness that even though the scope went down my throat before finding its way into my stomach, my pants were undone and disheveled (true story), I didn’t feel much better. I felt a bit relieved that there was no pastor or priest at my bedside, but I also still felt unwell. I went home, slept through some Olympic events that I didn’t care to miss, and went back to work.
My boat is buried under snow in my back yard. Most store their boats in shelters, I store my boat behind a section of woods behind my house, proving that out of sight really is out of mind, but only some of the time. You see, the doctors haven’t yet figured out what’s making my stomach feel a bit off, but when I think about that boat and I look out at all this ice, I have a feeling what would make everything better. I need sun on my skin and breeze in my hair, and I need scenery with colors in places other than the sky. I need a blue lake ringed in green foliage, and I need it STAT. My attempt at fulfilling this need last month failed, and it did so because it took a few of the right components and administered them in the wrong context. I don’t just need sun and water and my hands on a steering wheel. I need some Lake Geneva sun, and some Geneva Lake water, and my hands on my own steering wheel. Until then, I have a feeling my stomach is going to be bothering me.