Stress-Free Zone

My heart began to pound. I felt ill with anxiety. Would the man whom I had grown to genuinely like, survive the ambush? Unable to hold still, I jumped to my feet and left the living room. The rest of my family sat still, eyes riveted on the television screen. They seemed to be truly enjoying the movie.

Skulking around in my kitchen, wondering what to do with myself, I wished for the one millionth time in my life that I wasn’t such a big baby. Why can’t I avidly watch and enjoy all the horrible stuff that everyone else watches?

The answer is that I just can’t. All my life I have had a hard time watching movies and television shows. The minute there is tension, violence, or anything embarrassing, I feel so emotionally uncomfortable that I need to escape. One of the last movies my late husband took me to affected me this way. I left the theater more than once and I cried as we drove home. Not understanding why I felt the way I did, Arnie exclaimed, “I’m never taking you to a movie again!”

Since all story-lines are centered around conflict, there are few movies or shows that I am able to watch with enjoyment. I am one of the few people in this world who want to know the outcome beforehand. Sometimes, knowing what is going to happen makes it possible for me to sit through the entire program.

A person would think that if I am unable to handle the stress in movies and television shows, I would be a basket case when I experience real life stress.

In my sixty-plus years of family life, I have had to deal with many medical emergencies and had several loved ones who died. Rather than running from the circumstances, I allow myself to be enveloped by the harsh reality and do what is required. Between those times, I try to envelope myself in a stress-free zone.

One family stress that stands out in my mind is when my youngest daughter, Tammie, was three. She had a respiratory problem that required an emergency tracheostomy. I remember feeling caught up in a nightmare, but stayed at her side.

When the decision was made to take my daughter to surgery, I helped the nurses push her bed down the hall towards the operating room. It was spring and someone had taped bunnies and yellow ducklings to the wall. As we passed these pictures, my little girl, by now turning slightly blue, happily pointed at them. It struck me to the heart, that as desperate as her circumstances were, Tammie still found delight in seeing yellow, fuzzy ducklings.

Another crisis came this spring when I received a call about my brother. As usual, I felt the nightmarishness of the situation and wished I didn’t have to take care of it, but did anyway.

In that situation, I decided that a non-emergency visit to the hospital would do, so I helped my brother into the car and drove through town. As I turned a corner, I spotted a huge, beautiful rhododendron bush alongside a house. It was completely covered with purple blossoms.

Pointing the bush out to my brother, I exclaimed with delight, “Look at that lovely bush! Isn’t it wonderful?”

The memory of my daughter’s delight in seeing the yellow duckling instantly came back to me as I enthused over the bush. Does stress make us more aware of all that’s good, sweet and precious in this amazing world?

As I grow older, I am becoming less ashamed of my inability to handle stress during screen-viewing times. You might be wondering if there is anything enjoyable in the entertainment world that fits inside of my stress-free zone. The answer is yes, but I have to work hard to find it.

There is so much stress in plain, ordinary, daily living that I don’t need more. Most movies and television programs are toxic. They don’t relax and bring joy to those who watch them.

 

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