I was stressed. My new book group was arriving any minute, and I was far from ready. Rats! That was the doorbell.
“Gretchen, come on in. Please excuse my last-minute fussing….”
“Don’t worry, there’s only one thing that has to be ready.”
“What’s that? I’ve got copies of this month’s book from the library, and discussion questions; they’re around here somewhere…”
“Oh, forget all that,” Gretchen laughed. “I mean, just make sure you’ve got enough wine and glasses!”
“No problem in that case. But don’t you folks read the books?”
“Nope! We quit stressing about that a long time ago.”
The other three women arrived together, and Gretchen opened the meeting.
“Welcome to the June edition of the Wine Not Whine Club. Judy, great hospitality — why don’t you start us off? What’s on your mind?”
“Well…okay. My doctor wants me to take a stress test next week, complete with cardiac monitoring.”
“It’s my own damn fault. Something I said about being short of breath a few weeks ago. I’m sure it was allergies, but now I’ve got this test coming up, and I don’t mind admitting, I’m a little worried.”
“Well, as long as your insurance is paying, better safe than sorry — right?”
“But is it safe?” I answered. “Why trouble? What if I’ve only got a certain number of heartbeats for one lifetime, and this uses them up?”
“I don’t think that’s how it works,” said Gretchen.
She’s probably right, but I can’t help it — it’s stressing me out just thinking about it! Not to mention the “comfortable clothes” and sneakers I have to dig out from some closet.
I think it would be a better test to just strap me into a chair and make me watch the news all the way through! Although — come to I think of it, at least they stop a treadmill, when you fall off of it. The news keeps right on coming.
“When’s the test, Judy? Maybe you can start working out, get yourself into better shape by the time you go!”
“That feels like cheating! Besides, it’s hopeless. I tried to at least take some kind of walk every morning, every day this week, and all I’ve accomplished is learning that I just can’t swing it.”
“It wrecks my routine! It would be the height of cruelty to expect me to exercise before my morning coffee. And I’m a sipper, not a gulper, so that takes an hour. Sometimes two. And by the time that’s done, something always comes up that needs fixing all the rest of the day. Can’t go lollygagging around the neighborhood then!”
“What about evenings?”
“Let me show you something.” I rolled up one sleeve, to show my arm covered in angry red circles.
“Mosquito bites.” I pulled my jeans leg up to my knee to show off several more. “This is what I got, out walking yesterday evening. You know how many my husband got, walking with me? None!”
“So evenings are out.”
“And middays have all been ‘weather alerts.’ So I’m stuck with flunking the stress test.”
“Good thing wine is good for the heart!” said Gretchen, and we finished all of both bottles.
I promised I’d report on my test at the July meeting.
“Well, I found my sneakers, and walked and walked, and the doctor tilted it to be a steeper hill, and I walked some more, and he made it faster, until I had to say ‘If you think I’m going to start jogging, remember, you’re the one who warned me about wrecking my knees!’”
“Okay, that’s enough,” he’d said. But he sounded disappointed. “I could only get you up to 80% of your heart rate.”
“What’s — it—sup—posed—to be?” I gasped, breathing heavily.
“We’re supposed to get you to 85%.”
I hadn’t enough breath left to ask — how did he know what my 100% was? What if that was my 100%? And what happens after you reach it?
He looked at all the printouts, then delivered his verdict: “Well, good news and bad news. Your heart was still going strong when your lungs gave out — so I guess it could be worse.”
Or, you could look at it another way — the way I do! — and thank my lungs for taking the hit to protect my heart!
“Either way,” I said, “I’ve put that stress — and that test — behind me for another couple of years.” And we all drank to that!