Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Distress

Tonight I am experiencing some distress, cognitive dissonance that saps my strength and resolve.

Last week, my car died. It was twelve years old, and I bought it from my brother two years ago after I totalled my previous car in a stupid accident that was 100% my fault. Mary and I have only bought one new car since we were married in 1989, and we have owned around 10 or 12 cars since then, most of them limping along before dying relatively dignified deaths. My old Toyota Tercel that I had during nursing school had fenders stuffed with newspaper and cardboard to give the Bondo something to adhere to, the body having rusted away to almost nothing. I tried to spray-paint it blue, and then Mary added artistic swirlies with some white spray paint. We called it "The Cloud Car". It's a long and less-than-illustrious lineage of scrap metal.

My distress comes from the fact that my spare time is now taken up with shopping for a car. Used car lots, dealers, Consumer Reports, the Internet, the opinions of friends and strangers alike---all contribute to a maelstrom of conflicting and maddening information that tries my patience. I am utterly annoyed and resentful that I live in a culture/society in which having a car is a necessity, as well as the fact that I have constructed my life in such a way as to compund that necessity. I could live in a city where public transportation is convenient and inexpensive, but I have become so sensitive to noise and pollution and crowds that I can barely stomach forays into little old Amherst, population approximately 20,000. City life is an impossibility for me now, hence the choice to live where I do---sort of a sub-suburban area, if you will.

One might remark that if I made different lifestyle choices, I might be able to live where I presently do and still make do without a vehicle. To this I acknowledge that this may be true, but I am now so accustomed to my lifestyle and its dictates that making such a radical change would be quite distressing in and of itself. This is truly a post-modern dilemma: trapped in a world that I never made, but stultified when considering how to leave it, or at least modify it. Now, I could live in a Bhuddist retreat like one friend of ours, or at a rural yoga retreat center like other friends nearby, but that does not preclude having telephones, computers, cars, and the like. Living on a secluded retreat devoid of public transportation, a car is perhaps more necessary, unless one has shed oneself almost completely of the burden of ownership to such an extent that borrowing the occasional car for forays into the city are sufficient, not to mention hitchhiking and bicycling.

When we were at a Honda dealer tonight and I was beginning to melt down from fatigue and frustration, I said to Mary, "Promise me we'll someday live in a place where we won't need a car." I'm sure she thought to herself: "Absolutely---especially in order to avoid dramatic scenes like this with you again!" I was not at my best, and now I lie on our bed, laptop perched on lap, reviewing the events of the day and my emotional implosion of less than two hours ago.

Another distress signal today is in the area of health. I was taking medication to lower my cholesterol for several years, and all of these medications caused me a great deal of agonizing muscle pain. Thus, for the last six months, I have spent a great deal of time and money on acupuncture and Chinese herbs in an attempt to no longer take such deleterious medications. I have also lost more than fifteen pounds and increased my exercise substantially, cleaning up my diet as much as possible. Sadly, I received the results of my blood tests today and my cholesterol panel shows that my numbers are all significantly worse, and my risk of heart disease has increased by about 50%. I take these numbers seriously since my father has had two heart attacks and my mother has hypertension and pre-diabetes. So, distress in the physical world of metal and rubber, as well as the corporeal world of sinew and flesh have manifested today in my personal orbit.

The car issue is one that will have to be solved soon---I'm renting a car by the week in order to get to work, and that'll start to add up if I continue much longer. (I can't drive Mary's car because it's a standard and my back goes out every time I drive it.) The health issue means a follow-up appointment with my provider, and the very disturbing reality of trying yet another cholesterol-lowering medication, side effects be damned.

Modern life--er, post-modern life---seems frought with pitfalls and sandtraps. What is one to do? For the moment, I blog away, shed my distress through writing, and prepare for what I hope will be some rejuvenating sleep. A heaviness in my heart pins me to the bed right now. This too shall pass.
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