Parkinson’s and Stress

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Without stress, my life would be empty.

A No-Tailed Cat in a Room Full of Rockers

Stress? If stress burned calories, I’d be a supermodel.  I am one of those people who can find a dozen worst-case scenarios for any situation.  Granted I’m also pretty good at coming up with solutions when the fecal matter impacts the rotating oscillator.

Sadly though, for all the time and energy devoted to worrying, most of it goes to waste.  Doesn’t really stop me from stressing though.

William Wordsworth, worrying

Oddly enough, stress is not just a 21st-century problem.  In the poem, “The World is Too Much With Us”, by William Wordsworth, he stressed about how we’re so busy buying and selling and racing around we forget how to see the beauty around us. And that was 200 years ago.  I can only imagine how he’d react today.

Here’s an excellent example of how I generally let stress take over my life.  No matter that I’ve been going to the dentist for decades, it is still an event that is filled with peril.

For example, I will spend the week (or month) before a dentist’s visit dreading it. I try to come up with any excuse to pick up the phone and postpone (read that cancel indefinitely) it.  Eventually, I force myself to follow through with it and guess what, the fear is all in my head. There’s no pain, no trauma, no drama.  (in between visits I always seem to forget I have an awesome dentist.)  It took the pain of two bad teeth to bring me in willingly.  Guess what? It was awesome! I am pain-free and able to chew with impunity.

Happy Anniversary?

If there was a first prize for the most stress-filled day, my last Anniversary would have won it hands down.

The only thing I wanted to do was to spend the afternoon with my daughter and her friend at the Market Square Holiday Bazaar (they were ringing the bell for the Salvation Army) and have a nice, quiet dinner with my daughter and my husband.  It was going to be the high point of a rather dull week.

Two days before my anniversary I get a phone call from one of my Old People Posse, Wilma. (I collect old people like Pokemon cards.) This tiny, sweet, 90-year-old widow wanted to go to see the Nutcracker and needed me to drive her. Of course it is on Saturday, my anniversary.

The Devil on my shoulder immediately says, “Oh, hell no”.  Then the stupid, meddling angel sitting on my other shoulder goes, don’t be a jerk, (though jerk wasn’t precisely what I was thinking).  “The play is from 2-4. You’ll have plenty of time to get Downtown, the Bazaar doesn’t end til 6.” Sometimes I really hate that angel.  So with much trepidation, I agree.

Then the hampster ball of stress sets in and starts rolling.

1-Oh crap, I have to drive her bigass whale of a Caddy in actual traffic.  I’ve seen cruise ships smaller than this thing.  Maybe I can throw her into the front seat of my Dodge Sport pickup, she can’t weigh more than 80 pounds. And she probably won’t break, right?

2-Will I be able to leave the other member of my Old People Posse, an 85-year-old man with Alzheimer’s Disease by 11? It sometimes takes a while to get out of there because he tends to cling to my arm.  (He holds onto me like Rose holds a floating door.) That would give me about 15 minutes to run home, change my clothes, grab something to eat, feed the dog, let out the cat, check the mail, get some gas and get to the last two in the Posse, my parents.

Stress Hamster

3-Can I get away from my Mother by 12:45? Mom has this funny habit of suddenly needing a drink, a snack, a trip to the bathroom, or anything else she can think of just as I get ready to leave every. single. day.  This after hours of, “You need anything? Nope, I’m good”. That will give me enough time to drive back to Wilma’s and slowly, ever so slowly walk her out to the waiting vehicle.

4-If we leave the Theater by 4:15, will I have enough time to drive her home and then drive 45 miles in the opposite direction back to Knoxville?

5-What if there’s traffic? Or a parade? Or a funeral procession?

6-Will my new phone, which has cheaper payments and unlimited everything be ready by then? Yes, in the midst of all this my husband was planning on picking up some new shiny phones with unlimited everything.

7-Repeat (Especially when I’m trying to go to sleep)

This is the litany that plays over and over in my head until the morning of my Anniversary.  The stress builds to apocalyptic levels.

(Cue dramatic music…) And then Saturday arrives…

It takes every ounce of willpower to get out of my warm, comfortable bed.  I just can’t face the cold and the dark knowing it’s going to be one of those days.

I decided to get my outfit together before I leave, save some time later.  My black skinny jeans will be perfect. After a fruitless search, I give up. They are nowhere to be found.  I don’t have time to search for them. I’ll look for them later and race out the door.

The escape from my 85-year-old gentleman goes pretty well.  I sneak out while he’s sleeping and get home with some time to spare.  This just might work out after all.  Still can’t find the black jeans so I go for the blue. Minor problem solved.  (I do find them 3 days later in with my shirts, go figure)


The escape from my parent’s house goes well, also. I anticipate her stalling tactics and head her off at the pass and actually leave 10 minutes earlier than I planned.  All of that worrying was for nothing I think to myself.

I arrive at Wilma’s home in plenty of time. Then the day goes pear-shaped

It’s time to head to the theater and she’s not ready yet.  Which sweater should she wear? Which necklace should she wear? Do you have the tickets I ask? No, her friend will give them to us there. Her friend’s husband and daughter are dancing and she had extra tickets.  I can feel my blood pressure rising with every passing minute.


I lead her out to the whale.  I’ll just drive slow, I think. Turns out the Caddy is totally fun to drive. Like driving down the road in a couch.  Another worry shot down.

Due to the massive amounts of people already at Clayton Center for the Arts we are forced to park in the back lot of Maryville College.  Once she’s safely deposited into her wheelchair, we sprint past others who are slowed down by walkers.  We arrive at the theater with 5 minutes to spare.  And no sign of her friend with the tickets.

We leave a message on her voice mail, we roll past the throng waiting in line to go in, no sign of her.  The lights flash to take your seats, theater employees ask if we need help, trying to move us along, my blood pressure has reached what I think are dangerous levels, and suddenly, like an angel from the Land of Sweets, Wilma’s friend appears tickets in hand.

We take our seats and relief washes over me like a tidal wave.

Mouse King

Ah, blissful relief, we made it in time, the show will be fantastic. Then Sasquatch sits down in front of me. He had to have been at least six foot four and I swear I saw satellites orbiting his head.   I spend the first act leaning to the left to peer at the half of the stage I could see over his meaty shoulder. It’s cool though, the mice freak me out. Rather dark for a children’s tale I think.

During intermission, Wilma’s friend leaves to get her daughter ready for the Arabian dance and I slip into her seat.  Ah, bliss.  So that’s what the stage looks like. Very nice.  Then a woman sits down in front of me with her jumping, coughing, completely bored 2-year-old.  (Who was the spitting image of Cindy Lou Who)

Still beats Sasquatch right?  Well, apparently no one had ever explained to this woman that having all of your hair piled a foot high on top of your head might make it difficult for the people behind you to see.  At least her head was thinner than Squatch’s.  I lean left or right to see, depending on which side the 2-year-old isn’t jumping on.

Mercifully they leave when the 2-year-old won’t stop crying.  (She never really recovered from the fight with the Mouse King.) And we watch the rest of the ballet in peace.

Now, the only thing to do is fight the crowd, get out of the door, race to the car, get Wilma safely back home and drive 45 minutes to Knoxville.  It’s only 4:15 we can do this.  I’m only feet from the exit…

(Cue trumpet: wah wah waaah)

“Can we go say hello to my friend’s husband and daughter and tell them what a great job they did?”, Wilma asks.  The rational side of my brain thinks, “Well, it would be the right thing to do.”  The stressed-out, freaked-out side thinks, “Oh hell no!”.  I just want to sit down and cry.

So, of course, we go say hello. All of my careful plans fold like a house of cards.  We take pictures and mingle and chat. We leave at 5 o’clock.

Like Elsa, I decide to just let it go.  And the relief it gives me is overwhelming.  I text my daughter and tell her it’s going to be a while. She says don’t rush, I’m not missing anything.  I bring Wilma home, tell her I had a great time and head to Knoxville with my husband.

And Then…

Oh my God, there was a freaking parade! So we had to go around the other way.  And yes, the new phones don’t work in the mountains so they’re going back.  But, you know what? I just let it go.

I met up with my daughter (the one on the left), and we shopped while my husband drove back to the phone store. Our original phones won’t work until the SIM cards can be brought over from another store and installed. I look forward to a day of no phone contact. It’ll give me a chance to de-stress from this one. We had a great dinner at Nama’s. We shared some wine and laughs about her stressful day, too.  And the Bazaar will be going on next week also. My headache clears and my blood pressure lowers.  In spite of the stress and the freaking huge minor inconveniences, it was a good night.

I’m still not sure if all that worry was helpful or hurtful. (I’m leaning towards hurtful.)  I accomplished a lot in a very short time.  But maybe it’s time to rethink how much time I spend worrying.  Maybe make it a New Year’s Resolution. I’ll worry about it later.

Today I’m feeling great, not a care in the world.  Though I must admit, that sky is looking a little funny.

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