Thursday, July 19, 2012


National MS Society's e-mail describes a study suggesting that stress is bad for people with M.S.

No shit, Sherlock. Go find me anyone that stress is good for.

Perhaps both the Society and I are battling a limitation of the English language by using the single word "stress." As one of my magic teachers told me, "There's a difference between unnecessary tension and necessary tension." Ask any serious athlete... you need a certain amount of "stress" to build your strength and your skills.  More than the correct amount causes damage. As one of my physical therapists said, "It needs to hurt good, not hurt bad."

Challenge is "stress." Appropriate challenge is beneficial stress; inappropriate, and more importantly unwinnable challenge, is definitely bad stress. Leaving a job at which you just don't belong relieves stress. Leaving a relationship in which you no longer belong in relieves stress. But if (for example) you're a composer, working on a piece a music isn't stress, it's fun, even if the work is long, difficult, or even sometimes tedious.

So, here's an example of ambiguous (on the surface) stress... Walking with my walker or with my hand on a rail/wall is something that I can do. Walking for too great a distance (whatever that distance may, on that particular day, be) is something I suppose I can do, but I really, really, really, don't enjoy. "Don't enjoy" to the point of knocking on the door of suffering... sometimes ringing up a "cost" of energy that I really, really don't want to pay, because it can be quite unpleasantly high.

I haven't been enjoying eating as much as I used to, and not just because I don't feel hunger pains... Nearly every day, I go through my "internal menus" of things that I could have (and that list is very long in international-cuisine-rich Southern California, even for someone on the zero-dairy diet), but I find nothing in the list that I actually am craving. Add to that ambiguity the cost of simply getting to where the food is, and my enthusiasm for eating goes even lower. Cook at home, you say? Well that also starts with "what do you want," which I can't always identify; too often, I want nothing. And also, too often, it's the "energy" thing... In the Goode Olde Days, I was a very enthusiastic home cook. Still am, sometimes. Sometimes. But not as often as I used to be, because standing at the cutting board or the stove gets too difficult, and the work areas are not at easily-used-by-someone-not-standing heights. Frequently, I'll go to a freeway-close-at-the-right-time-of-day Taiwanese tea shop/restaurant, not just because I like it (which I do) but because it's a very short distance from parking to food. Other places that I have enjoyed... car-to-food distance is too great, so I don't visit them anymore.

Now, do I need "more stress" to strengthen myself? Some more stress... yeah, probably. But it needs to hurt good, not hurt bad. And it's getting over the "yeah, but it's gonna hurt" hurdle that's the hardest part right now. Part of that is a mental thing... Not jumping ("jumping"--again, English limitations, locomotion-based figures of speech describing motion you no longer perform) to the conclusion that "it's going to be baaad, don't do it!" just because it's going to be non-zero bad.

Again, it's a "the way out is through" kinda thing, and embracing the traveling of "the road through"... but the tricky part is finding what road leads to "through" rather than a dark and deep pit, with a very, very, hard bottom. Without falling into the pit, obviously. And I don't think that's cowardice... I think it's prudence. After all, who'd want to run out of gas in the middle of the desert? Fill the tank before you go; or, if your tank doesn't hold enough to cross the desert... take another road. It may still lead through the desert, but it won't lead you to "trapped."

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