Regina uses the word “THREAT.” That’s an attention-getter, isn’t it?

A threat is something you don’t ignore. A threat is a hulking guy on a dark street, moving towards you with a purpose. A threat is the smoke detector going off with shocking, ear-shattering suddenness. A threat is something rustling the leaves RIGHT THERE where? THERE I don’t see anything I KNOW WHAT I HEARD I’M LEAVING it’s your backyard, you live here SHUT UP.

I have very definite notions of what a threat is – but Regina, with her training and decades of experience, has a broader definition.

(Regina is my biofeedback counselor at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA. I went to her at first because as I drew closer to the first anniversary of my husband’s death, I’d begun to forget things and go mildly crazy; Regina helped. A lot. But I stayed because her insights are like flipping the switch on the Las Vegas strip, and suddenly something dark and a little dull is lit up and flashing and moving and hoochie-coochie girls are doing a razzle-dazzle over the main doorway, and that seems like a USEFUL thing to have happen every Friday, yaknow?)

I was thinking about the concept of a threat because a friend of mine mentioned in passing that he was – as he put it – planning on applying a little 420 in response to a stressful situation. (Or he said something like that; I don’t exactly remember. I’ve always been too much of a nerd to be in the know on pot culture.)

(Jonathan, the dead husband, used to say that in high school, the code was “Is she cool?” That meant – is she likely to hang out in a nearby stand of bamboo and furtively smoke a joint with us? By this definition, I was most certainly NOT cool.)

Where was I? Trapped by parenthetical thoughts…

Right. My friend was going to take the edge off a situation with a puff or two of chemical relaxation.

So I was thinking about stress – about how everyone has a coping mechanism of one kind or another. Maybe you smoke pot or cap off your day with a glass or wine or stein of beer. Maybe you bite your nails or pick at your feet. Maybe you buy containers of Ben and Jerry’s with no intention whatsoever of making it last for more than the twenty minutes it will take to get you home from the grocery store and to the nearest spoon.

Barbara, my genius trainer at Body Dynamics, points out that exercise is an outstanding stress-reliever, and she’s right – but somehow I don’t crave half an hour of cardio as much as I crave potato chips and a good reading lamp when I’m overwhelmed by my day…

I had a point, didn’t I? I did. It was the dawning understanding that Regina would say any response you make to STRESS is actually a response you make to THREAT.

That changes the perception a little, doesn’t it? Responding to a threat is something immediate; you HAVE to do it. But every person on the planet believes – no, knows – that the presence of stress in your life is just something that’s there; like you have to eat every few hours and you’ll need a bathroom eventually and your neck muscles are tired by the end of the day from the tension created by holding back the urge to DECK THAT CREEP WITH A QUICK LEFT TO THE JAW.

We live with stress; we let it build up and we tolerate it… or we THINK we do. But really: Stress is a source of threat, and you have to respond to it. You DO respond to it. Maybe it’s getting mildly buzzed or maybe it’s eating something or maybe it’s staying up far too late because THAT at last is time that YOU control…

… but if you think you’re not responding to the stress in your life, then you’re fooling yourself.

That’s sort of interesting, isn’t it?

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“Coping.” The other definition of the word is from carpentry or masonry; it’s the decorative top of a wall. See how much you’re learning?





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