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‘Fer Cryin’ Out Loud’ Category

  1. How to Change the Rules in the Game of Anxiety

    August 6, 2017 by Diane

    This week, I played the game of anxiety in the circus of my mind.

    It goes like this:

    Visualize the worst possible outcome for a future event and fixate on it, running the movie loop in your mind until your body reacts with sweaty palms and skipped heartbeats and a rise in blood pressure and a plethora of digestive issues, and then visualize the worst possible explanation for what’s happening with your body.

    This is considered round one.

    You may continue playing rounds, choosing different future events to obsessively worry about. You’ve won the game when you become a nervous wreck.

    I realized there’s a better game.

    It goes like this:

    Visualize the best possible outcome of events and fixate on them, running the loop in your mind until your body reacts with a smile and a bounce to your stride and a wide-open grateful heart, and then fixate on how wonderful you feel.

    You might have noticed it’s the same game.

    It just has different playing pieces.

    Since anxiety is a game manufactured in the mind, it occurred to me: why not set the mind to visualizing happy tidings rather than worrisome thoughts?

    Oh, you can’t fool the mind?

    That’s what I thought. Until I caught on to the fact: my mind isn’t all that bright.

    I’m sorry, but my mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s nothing more than whatever squirrelly thought I’m feeding it. Don’t believe me? Here’s a test:

    Imagine eating a lemon. Can you see the juices squirting as you cut into it? Can you smell it as the two halves fall away? Now, suck on one half of the lemon.

    I’ll bet your taste buds are tingling like crazy right now.

    See? Your mind was duped into thinking you were really eating a lemon, and sent that message to your taste buds.

    Granted, it’s not my mind’s fault that it’s none too bright. After all, it’s buried under a lot of grey matter without eyes to see or ears to hear. It relies on me to give it the real McCoy.

    It’s my fault for feeding it a bunch of malarky.

    Dave had surgery this week. I volunteered to be nurse for the day.  Had someone else volunteered me for the task, I would have questioned their sanity. Sending a hypochondriac to be a Florence Nightingale is a sure sign of Squirrels in the Doohickey.

    But I love the guy, so I stepped up to the plate.

    Here’s how:

    I worried endlessly, peppering my thoughts with “what if?” scenarios. What if the surgery goes badly? What if he gets sick from the anesthesia? What if he starts bleeding? What if he gets an infection and I have to take him back to the hospital? What if the surgery goes badly, he gets sick, he gets an infection, his incisions bleed, and I keel over? That was my real concern; that I wouldn’t remain upright through the whole ordeal. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle whatever happened, and Dave would end up taking ME to the hospital.

    I worked myself into a proper anxiety attack. I fretted. I ruminated. I lost three pounds.


    Then the moment arrived: the changing of the guard.

    Carolyn, who drove him to and from the hospital (definitely not a job for a hypochondriac), brought him home, and I showed up, ready to take over.

    I took a deep breath.

    I cautiously called his name, and stepped inside.

    Dave was peeling off his shirt. He turned toward me.

    I avoided looking at his gauze bandages. I wondered about all that rusty-colored stuff on his skin. Blood? Antiseptic? Please be antiseptic.

    “Warning!” he said.

    I braced myself. This is it.

    “I saved my gallstones,” he said. “They’re in a bottle on the kitchen floor. Wanna see?”


    I almost cried in relief.

    “Um…maybe another time. How are you?”

    “Good! I don’t feel any worse than I do on Monday mornings getting up for work.”

    I gave him a sponge bath, a shoulder massage, and some energy treatments, opened a package of Saltines for him to eat, and hung around until he got into bed. Then I watched over him from the Jesus Chair.

    I was able to do this because, well, the visualization I had conjured up was much worse than the reality.

    And before arriving, on the verge of panic, I grasped the epiphany that anxiety is a mind game. The true winner games the system.

    Since my mind does an ace job reacting to my fearful images, why not choose images that tap into feel-good chemicals, instead of all that adrenaline and cortisol? I told myself I can just as easily visualize lying on my sky blue blanket on a vast green lawn, a cool breeze wafting by, the faint sound of a bi-plane motoring overhead, someone mowing their lawn in the distance, a father, perhaps—nice, safe, comforting, neighborhood sounds.

    Then, instead of worrying about whether I would be okay, I could focus on making sure he was okay.

    Game over.

    Now, about those gallstones…

    I did take a peak. Then I left Dave with a small bag of cherry pits from my lunch, so he could show them to the guys at the office. “Look how big my stones were!


  2. The Mini Refrigerator that Turned into a Giant Headache: Part 3

    July 30, 2017 by Diane


    If you’re not up to speed, the whole lovely affair started here. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

    Back now?

    To recap: After my thirteen-year-old mini refrigerator gave its last gasp, I needed to get a new one. Turns out they don’t make mini refrigerators the way they used to. That’s what the not-so-mini refrigerator repairman told me when he came to examine the faulty seal on the Magic Chef unit I had purchased after returning the other two appliances that were not up to par.

    “Think about it,” he said. “Companies don’t make money unless a customer is buying their product. So they manufacture refrigerators to last as long as the warranty. Three years. Tops. Then you’ll buy a new one.”

    I recalled the tennis shoes I had purchased that had a six-month guarantee. My environmental hackles rose.

    The repairman, a genial balding fellow with glasses, checked the seal. “Oh, this is normal,” he said, pulling the seal completely away from the door. “It’s supposed to peel away. See? Then it tucks back in nicely.”

    “Uh…doesn’t that mean air is getting in?” The top corner still gapped.

    He ignored the question. Instead, he told me about the interesting customers he’d encountered.

    There was the guy who worked as a crane operator, who helped some NASA scientists with an experiment by dropping things from on high to see if the objects would remain intact. This was part of the design process for the rover. Unfortunately, everything shattered. One day, the crane operator leaped off his crane, landing with flexed knees, and said, “Ah ha! It needs knees!” And he became forever famous (at least in the world of NASA) for the brilliant idea of flexible legs on the rover.

    There was the guy who was shot in the head, the bullet lodged in such a precarious position that operating on it would have killed him. So the surgeon had the brilliant idea of putting the guy in NASA’s (again?) centrifuge, which whirled the poor fellow around at high speed, magically dislodging the bullet from the same hole it went in.

    “I love meeting interesting people,” the repairman said, and looked at me as if waiting to hear what brilliant idea I’d contributed to humankind.

    I thanked him for his time, and sent the jolly man packing.

    And before you ask, YES, he did tell me those stories, because this is the sort of repairman the universe LOVES to send me. I interpret this as either:

    1. I need a more exciting life
    2. This is material for my blog
    3. I’ve just been duped by a big fat liar


    I wracked my brain for a brilliant idea on how to get the refrigerator back into its box, back into my car, and back into the store without sending my back into another spasm.

    The plan I came up with was this: buy yet another fridge, and store The Magic Chef in the garage temporarily, JUST IN CASE.

    As luck would have it, Dave had a buddy at work who had just purchased a mini refrigerator on Amazon. The guy had it delivered straight to the office, and he set it up next to his desk for bottled drinks. It hummed. It purred. It was so quiet, according to Dave, that you wouldn’t know it was on.

    I gave Dave my mini thermometer and instructed him to stick it in the fridge and monitor it. After a week, the verdict was in: the temp never budged above 35 degrees.

    Long story short, I rushed to Target to buy it. As it turned out, it was the EXACT SAME REFRIGERATOR I first purchased before all this madness began, the one that looked like it was made for Barbie-doll food.

    One of the shelves, I discovered, could be moved up or down to accommodate adult-sized food.

    I plugged it in. I set my thermometer on the top shelf. Then the bottom. Then the middle. Then the door. I nudged the temperature control a smidgen up and down and up and down until it was just right, and then I loaded my food onto the shelves.

    I am here to report: The refrigerator doesn’t purr.

    It has a faint high whine. Like tinnitus.

    Dave wouldn’t notice because he’s got tinnitus.

    I’m learning to embrace it.

  3. The Mini Refrigerator that Turned into a Giant Headache: Part 2

    July 2, 2017 by Diane

    If you’re following this blog—and isn’t it required reading somewhere?—you’re familiar with The Refrigerator Incident. Specifically, the mini refrigerator, the one that conked out on me that I had to replace, resulting in a few hours of back-breaking effort getting a new one in and out of my car, and out of its box, only to discover that the inside shelves would only accommodate enough food for three days if you’re two inches tall.

    So it was back to the store with the new fridge to trade in for something human-size. The only glitch? Getting it back into my car.

    But first, I had to get it back into the box.

    I scooted the refrigerator onto the bottom cube of cardboard, no problem. The rest of the box fitted over the top with ease. The problem was connecting the two sections.

    If I had been thinking clearly, I would have duct-taped the top and bottom together around the side. Instead, I decided to proceed as if they were attached, by sliding the whole shebang down my hallway, over the lip of the door, and across the uneven pavement into the garage. In the process, the refrigerator slid off the bottom. I pushed it back on, squashing the box. It slid off. I pushed it back on, and so on until the moment of truth arrived:

    How the heck was I going to get this monstrosity into the back sear of my car in one piece?

    It was then I noticed a warning on the top of the box:

    Do not attempt to move this by yourself. Get help. You could damage your back, or worse.

    I wondered about that. What’s worse than damaging my spine? A hernia? Could I lose some fingers? Take out a knee? I decided to ignore the warning and push the refrigerator top first into the back seat of my Corolla. And there it remained until I figured out how to get help.

    My landlady rents out a room in her house to a young man who works at Google and spends all his free time behind closed blinds, playing video games in his man-cave. For all I knew, he could have been an imaginary tenant, except that every weekday morning his BMW is gone from the driveway when, supposedly, he goes to his job, which involves sitting behind the wheel of a driverless car for eight hours.

    I decided to ask him for help when he returned home. Although I had doubts about his muscular abilities.

    Still, he was my best shot. So I waited. And waited. Occasionally, I went out to my car and tried pushing the refrigerator in by myself.

    Finally, I heard his car door. I dashed outside. I spied him in his J Crew outfit, trying to disappear through the front door.

    “Hey you! Can you give me some help?” (Okay, I didn’t shout “hey you,” I used his real name, which I won’t reveal because he probably doesn’t want anyone to know who he is.)

    To make a long story less long, we got that sucker into my car. I drove back to Target from whence the refrigerator came, found an employee to offload it, and got my money back. I had maybe 18 hours to get my food out of my landlady’s refrigerator before she returned home from Reno with shopping bags full of groceries.

    I drove to Home Depot at a brisk pace.

    I had never been to Home Depot. I parked in the second row of cars near the front of the store, found the refrigerator display, looked inside the various models, decided on a Magic Chef—the only model they had—paid for it, and asked for help loading it into my car. The clerk sent me an elderly man.

    Off I went to pull my car up to the entrance.

    I walked down the second row of cars.

    I walked down the first row of cars.

    I walked down the third and fourth and back again, and up and down and back and forth, pointing my key fob in every direction while pushing the alarm button and all I heard was the elderly man yelling “Come on!” I retraced my steps from where I had pulled into the parking lot and still, no silver Toyota Corolla. Correction. Several silver Toyota Corollas, but none of them mine.

    I pulled out my cell phone, called Dave, and told him someone had stolen my car. And I couldn’t remember the license plate number.

    Then I spotted it.

    In the second row, right where I’d parked it.

    Sheepishly, I drove up to the elderly man who was now sitting on my refrigerator.

    “Thought you lost your car?” he said. “I’ll bet you know where your husband is.” He and his elderly buddy had a chuckle over that, then shoved the fridge into the back seat.

    It took two men to get the thing into the car. Granted, they were old men, but still. Two.

    At home, I scouted around for help. The BMW sat in the driveway. I went in the house and hollered down the hallway, “Hey you! Can you help me again?”

    I heard some rustling. “Give me thirty minutes,” he said.

    An hour later, I called Dave. “If you happen to be out riding your bike today, can you swing by and help me?” Over six miles out of his way, but the guy likes his exercise, so I figured I was doing him a favor.

    “Yeah, sure,” he said.

    And then my landlady returned home.

    Oh, jeez.

    I ran out to warn her. Something in my face, in my repetitive, “I’m so sorry my food is hogging your refrigerator” must have triggered sympathy in her. She brushed my apologies aside.

    “Don’t worry about it,” she said.

    I pointed to the humungous box in my car. She offered to help get it out. We shoved that refrigerator upright onto a make-shift dolly, and rolled it into my cottage. I waited for Dave to arrive to unpack it.

    The sun was setting when he finally rolled up, sweaty from the ride. He took off his helmet and muscled his way through the door. He pulled the strapping tapes off without snipping them—a wise move, in hindsight—took off the box and maneuvered the fridge into its cozy space. We stood back in admiration.

    “I like it,” he said.

    We checked the inside.

    “Me too.”

    And then I noticed: the upper corner was smashed. The hinge didn’t sit properly. The seal wasn’t plumb. The stupid thing was damaged!

    I groaned. I may have cried a little. Dave put it back in the box, pulled the strapping tapes over the top, and carried the refrigerator out to my car. He shoved it in the back seat and peddled away on his bicycle, muttering loudly about people who don’t help.

    Google guy stepped outside. “Do you still need help?” he asked.

    I gave him a beady look.

    The next morning, my landlady offered to follow me to Home Depot in her SUV. I exchanged the damaged fridge for a new fridge. But first, I had the Home Depot guy take it out of its box so I could examine it.

    It passed muster.

    He loaded it into my landlady’s SUV. At home, we dollied it into my cottage. I set it up, and four hours later, turned it on.

    A nice quiet hum.

    By evening, I loaded my food into it.

    The next morning, when I opened the door to get my oat milk, I noticed the seal in the upper right corner of the refrigerator was peeling away. The containers inside had condensation. The new loaf of bread had a big moldy spot. WHAT THE HELL! I drove to True Value, bought a refrigerator thermometer, and hung it on the bottom shelf. Thirty minutes later, the thermometer registered the temperature in the “danger zone.”

    I threw away my food.

    Called the refrigerator manufacturer.

    I’m now waiting for a service technician to pay a visit.

    I wonder if he’ll be as incompetent as the guy who came to demolish the pool with a shovel.

    …to be continued.