Janet Sheridan: Mind-spinning questions
June 13, 2013
I sighed, scowled and fidgeted as the problem I needed to solve stomped around in my head, trailing a mob of what-ifs. Unable to concentrate, incapable of making a decision, unsettled and overwhelmed, I reiterated the pros and cons, tried once again to find an alternative and wished someone would tell me what to do.
My dilemma: would it be better to eat breakfast before exercising or to exercise before eating?
Faced with major issues — the sort financial advisers, Annie's Mailbox and horse whisperers deal with — I confidently collect facts and opinions, consider options and determine a course of action. True, I sometimes rue my decisions — a 1972 major investment in pork bellies, for example — but I don't waffle when making them.
The choices of everyday living, however, frequently befuddle me; and, when I've had too much coffee, are capable of spinning me into delirium.
I wish someone would start an advice line I could call for help with my dithering. I'd like to have access to an interested, intelligent and objective stranger who could rescue me from the insignificant uncertainties in which I wallow: Should I drive to Steamboat on icy roads with poor visibility for lunch? Could my laundry detergent be causing the rashes that make my face look like a scratched radish? And how would I look in skinny jeans?
I also would call such an adviser to check the veracity of tidbits I glean from the Internet and fret about: Do I really need to wash a watermelon before I cut it? Will sitting with my head hanging between my knees for two minutes every day really ease my sciatica? Is it true that I can replace a venti latte with three Big Macs from McDonald's?
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A calm stranger on the other end of the line, who doesn't know me so could never tell my friends about my frantic calls, also might be able to end the fussing I do after I cut my finger or experience mild abdominal discomfort. Do I go to the doctor about this? Is it serious enough? Should I wait a day or two to see if it goes away? Will the doctor think I'm a hypochondriac? Or a baby? Do I want to sit in the waiting room with all those sick people?
A victim of the white coat syndrome, I have high blood pressure only when I go to the doctor. I'm convinced that my blood pressure doesn't leap out of bounds because I'm in the presence of a medical professional, but because of the waiting and worrying involved with my appointment.
First, as I wait in a reception area full of sick people, I argue with myself about whether I should mention to the receptionist that I've been sitting there for the better part of an hour. Next, I sit in a paper gown perched on an examination table — my toes turning to ice cubes; my mind magnifying my symptoms until I'm at death's door — and fuss about whether I should poke my head out the door to make certain the building hasn't been evacuated.
When the waiting and self-arguing stretch too long, I divert myself by mentally quoting poetry: there's nothing like a dramatic rendition of "The Raven" to clear one's head.
Then, I go home with a new prescription and watch TV commercials featuring lawyers who want to represent those who've suffered ill effects from their medications: "So remember, contact us if you or a loved one have died as a result of taking…"
If I've died, you probably won't hear from me, sir.
I'll be in heaven, dithering about whether my cloud would look better if I wallpapered it.