Hello, Strange. This is Name You’ll Hear Wrong But Promptly Forget calling from your company’s program where we try to get you healthier, which is partially for your benefit and partially because we really hate paying high rates on health insurance for the lazy midwestern-American chunk of McFlab you call a butt. You signed up for getting calls to discuss your health.
Oh. Right. Yeah, I did, didn’t I? I think it entered me into a contest to win an iPad or a kidney or something.
So the health assessment you filled out shows just a few areas that you might want to work on to achieve better health. Let’s see here. Exercise, stress management, strength, sleep, height, foot odor, procrastination, lack of tidiness, taste in clothing…
I’m sorry, what?
So, exercise? We could talk about that if you want, or what area would you say you’d want to work on most in the next several months?
Well… maybe not.
I guess stress relief.
Sure. Is there a difference?
Yes. So, okay, stress management. One of the best ways to manage your stress is through exercise.
So what do you currently do for regular exercise?
No, I mean what do you do when you are exercising?
I… I don’t. I don’t exercise. Not on purpose.
Well, what have you tried?
I’ve tried to avoid exercising.
Okay. Do you know what your numbers are?
What numbers, exactly?
I know it was three digits over two digits.
How often do you see your doctor?
When I need antibiotics, I guess.
So… so what kind of exercise have you thought about?
Well, that’s the thing. When I think about exercising, it increases my stress. Because I haven’t found any exercise that I enjoy.
Have you tried at all?
Here and there. I tried weightlifting, but I found it tedious and I wasn’t seeing results. I don’t swim. And I’m not the type to try Zumba or anything like that.
What about walking? Nice brisk walk?
Well, yeah, I’m okay with walking, but it gets pretty cold and rainy here, so I can’t do that all the time. Plus, I just never feel like it’s doing me any good. I don’t see weight loss, and I don’t feel more energy or anything like that, and I don’t feel like I know if I’m doing it right or wrong to actually get any benefit.
What about just playing basketball with your friends?
Well, most of my friends don’t live within ten miles of me, I’m pretty sure most of them don’t play basketball, I’m absolutely terrible at basketball, I don’t enjoy playing it, and the fact that it involves spending a great deal of time proving to myself over and over how inept I am, it doesn’t exactly relieve my stress.
Worse at that than at basketball, plus all the other aforementioned issues.
Any other sports?
Listen, the problem is that I’m extremely competitive. I don’t have to win all the time, exactly, but I have to feel like there’s at least a fair match. And when you’re as bad at sports as I am, you don’t get fair matches. You get frustrated because you’re overmatched. All the time. And when you get frustrated, your stress goes up. So, no. I don’t do sports.
Have you thought about joining your local community center or YMCA?
No, I haven’t. Because I don’t think my town has a community center, and I have no idea where the nearest Y is, and what would I do there anyway?
Well, they offer things like… um… weight rooms, and pools, and basketball courts… and… um…
You realized what you were saying, didn’t you?
No, I haven’t thought about joining anything.
What about yoga or tai chi? Do you know anything about them?
Just that they look weird.
They can be very relaxing.
The thought of doing them suggests to me very tight control. I feel like I’m under way too much control as it is. I’m wound very tightly. I feel like I would be trying to assume positions and I would just feel my fury growing.
Have you tried deep breathing? You lie down and breathe in through your nose and hold it and breathe out through your mouth. You might even fall asleep.
No, I haven’t tried that as stress relief.
You’re saying it wouldn’t relieve the stress?
It would help you manage it.
You forgot my name. It’s okay. I expected it.
Yeah, okay, listen. I’m not trying to be difficult. I know that’s probably hard to believe, but I’m really not. I would love to find exercise that was right for me. I would love to find a healthy way to lose weight and get in shape that didn’t just add to my stress. And it’s not that I thought you’d have any new ideas. I’ve been through all of this sort of stuff before. But the only time I ever did anything physical that made me feel good was when I was in high school, and I used to punch some gym mats as if I were in training for boxing. I’d occasionally work them so hard that my knuckles would bleed. For years, I had tiny little scars on my hand. They finally faded away in my late twenties. And it felt good because while I was doing it, it overcame my general high school feeling of helplessness. I felt like I was strong enough to take on my challenges and leave them hurting. And it was only after I washed the blood off my hands and put my school clothes back on and went back into the hallway that I’d go back to being stressed and trapped in situations I couldn’t get out of. But it wasn’t just the feeling of strength. It was the feeling that I was capable of solving my problems through violence. I’m much older and smarter now, and while violence still has its base appeal, it’s not something I want to pursue. Punching things now won’t de-stress me. They’ll just serve to remind me that the situations that stress me are ones I can’t fight my way out of. There’s no bad guy to blame, there’s no puzzle to solve, there’s no magic word, no deus ex machina, no sudden revelation that pushes me through to the other side. There’s just stress, like everyone else has. And right now it’s actually lower than it typically is, because I had several weeks off of work and I’ve logged a fantastic number of hours holding my daughter. So I appreciate that you’re following up on whatever I signed up for, but if you’re not calling to tell me that I won that iPad, I think I’m just wasting your time.
You just don’t care for hard work?
I love hard work. Give me a project to accomplish with muscle power, and I enjoy it. But find one more part of my life that’s adding a routine with no feeling that there’s accomplishment at the end of it, and I will scream hard enough to rupture blood vessels in my eyes.
Well, you know, life isn’t about the destination. It’s about the journey.
I’m sorry, no. It’s about both. And adding an activity that feels pointless because I don’t see progress? That feels like a detour away from the journey I want to take. Give me an activity where I feel like I’m accomplishing something — something that doesn’t make me feel like an uncoordinated weakling — and show me how it’s doing me some good, and we’ll talk. Otherwise, I think we’re probably done with the call, don’t you?
Okay. Well, I’ll be following up in four to six weeks to see how your new commitment to exercising is working out for you.
…Yeah, okay, whatever. Sorry about my tendency to be honest. I hope you have some exercise you can do for stress relief.
Mostly, I drink.