March 26, 2008
Analyze this, or the post that required a BP cuff and a jar of olives.
Did I mention that I was diagnosed with hypertension two weeks ago? I don’t think I did. I was. I’ve lived my life as one of those people with freakishly low blood pressure and it’s something on I which I prided myself. When I was at urgent care for an unrelated ailment (read: leprosy or some other old-timey disease), the nurse took my BP twice and failed to give me the usual high five either time. She told me the reading (something like 1700 over 20) and then hurried to get the doctor, who then stood outside my closed exam room door and shouted alarming phrases like “highest ever seen!” and “silent killer!” and “smoke the evildoers out of their holes!” My HTN apparently accounts for my frequent migraines, the ones that differ from hangover headaches in that they make me want to lock my kitties in the freezer for their incessant purring. Not really, but migraines do make me want to eat bowlfuls of olives and pretzels. And what do olives and pretzels have in common, class? Olives and pretzels are covered in glorious, glorious sodium, God’s finest mineral next to the diamond. So I’m supposed to avoid salt and smoking and alcohol and sex and happiness, the doc says, and this sucking the joy out of life will result in lowered blood pressure and an increased life span without salt and smoking and alcohol and sex and happiness.

I’m also supposed to avoid stress, which is a task I consider similar to those special kids having to steer clear of sunshine. Is that realistic? I’ve done my best this week, reducing fights (although I’ve been in at least two) and drinking (didn’t imbibe for five days straight, my longest stretch since infancy), and minimizing the glorious, glorious sodium. I haven’t had a migraine in a week.

And then my Daily Buddha-mail arrived. It came after lunch yesterday, as usual, despite Stacy getting it earlier on the West Coast than I do in the East, which makes no sense given that she’s not even awake to read it. I generally love my daily Buddha bit, the gentle love in my in box reminding me all about and acceptance and not freaking out because Stacy got her email like seven hours ago already, and warm fuzzies about being present in the moment. But in this moment I was angry; for the first time in seven days, I felt a pang of pain in my temples. Because the Buddha message was all about validation and love and sunny skies, and I get that, but it was also about accepting yourself as a good person when you do bad things. And putting that bad choice in a little Tiffany box with a bow and just getting on with it, already, because self-acceptance and a love of you trumps all, sugar! Come again?

Let the record show that I am not a believer in rubbing the dog’s nose in it when you come home to a mess on the kitchen floor. I used to adhere to such a philosophy, with dogs and boys and mothers, but I’ve since learned that such behavior does nothing but make the dog and boy and mother run and hide in the closet. Which is rewarding for a short - and so very sweet - sliver of time, one only made sweeter if your captive is hiding in the closet in some form of Underoo. I am a believer, however, in self-analysis accompanying this self-acceptance everybody is toting around like a brand new Burberry. I know I’m sounding a little unsympathetic – and quite possibly a little Golden Girlish – but back in St. Olaf a dose of self-judgment was always in order, as it should be. Life isn’t a series of after school special moments of “Gee, what I did was really shitty and not even the cat will look me in the eyes,” followed by a thumbs-up, “But I’m a good person deep down in the bowels of my soul, so it’s all good. Let's go for ice cream sundaes!”

My psych friends will boo and hiss at me for encouraging labels, but at times people are bad people. It doesn’t mean they always are, but yep, for this stretch of the life highway, they are what they are. When we subscribe to the “I’m a good person who does bad things” way of living, accountability is gone. We can simply go about our business as if nothing else - and no one else - matters. Why attempt to figure out why you do certain crummy things, and more importantly how not to do them again, if you’re a good person after all? So I cheated on my husband; why think that through? It happened, it’s donezo. It was a bad decision and I’m moving on. Really? I’d hate to see the choices she's making at 60. What about something more subtle? I said something belittling/lied/joked at her expense/didn’t tell the full story. And I know it hurt her feelings. But I didn’t mean to. Ugh. Without some sort of introspection to accompany blanket self-acceptance, what will discourage him from going through life wearing interpersonal blinders? We’re left living life doing what feels good in the moment. We’re left with Petri dishes of Get out of Jail Free cards. And no one likes to play on the swings with a Petri dish. Just ask Eliot Spitzer.

No, I don’t think people should label themselves as good, bad, mediocre, fantabulous, or any other lame adjective for their entire lives; that indeed can be crippling. Your mistakes should never define you long term. But there are times when you should be thinking about your actions and their consequences, even in hindsight, before simply accepting them as part of the beloved and accepted and most cherished! YOU. I lived without doing so for many years, and lost more than one loved one before snapping out of it. So trust me on this, no matter how much you want to buck the statement: Sometimes, this you just being you? No. It isn’t all good.


Blogger Chantel said...

I also don't think that you have to "pay" for having a good time or that to have a good time you need to work hard. As humans we were born hedonists. Society has made us into puritanical hypocrites. (I bet I didn't spell that right)

Denying yourself everything you like will not make your hypertension better. You can strike a balance with your health and your health. Chocolate, salt, wine and sex are all there to increase your happiness in small quanities.

I quit smoking however I will not touch on this because its not fair to run people over to coals for their weakensses. I still cave and have a smoke when no one is looking.

Blogger Jenny said...

Maybe all you need to do is rant like THIS more often. Because you haven't gone whole hog like this in a while, and its glorious. :)

Blogger YCCM'S' said...

An outstanding point, excellently made. Now if we could just get our justice system to buy into it. Accountability, sure, but the scarlet letter is written in permanent marker and advertised as a target for the self-righteous. And this country is brimming with the self-righteous.

I agree with Chantel about the self-denial thing. If you want to up the stress, take away everything you enjoy, then worry about how long you can go without being happy. Moderation is more effective and at least gives self-discipline a fighting chance on a day-to-day basis.

Blogger bleeding espresso said...

All of this makes me think of how some people use the excuse that they're being "honest" when they're actually being "rude"...since there's a whole sea of "tact" in the middle they're conveniently ignoring.

I hope your blood pressure was lowering as you typed ;)

Blogger Mel Heth said...

What a great post. I've always had trouble with Catholicism because the whole confession thing seemed like a get out of jail free card to me.

I found you on Chelsea's Smack Talking blog - and I'll definitely be back again. :)

Blogger kris said...

be and mh, i thought of both things specifically - the "honesty" phenom and confession - while writing this. scary.

Wow! Hypertension - That's a pretty big deal! I don't think that people should label themselves either! I completely agree! Great Post!

Blogger KathyLikesPink said...

Very well I agree with you completely.

I am also in the newly discovered high BP situation, after a lifetime of blood pressure so low I barely had a pulse. I AM NOT PLEASED.

Blogger Kristi said...

Just an idea... my blood pressure was really high once (after being consistently low forever) and it was at a time in my life where I couldn't sleep -- after getting enough sleep on a regular basis, my pressure went back to normalish (low)... Hang in there.

Blogger Mia said...

No alcohol for 5 whole days ya say??? Hmmm. And I thought two was good. hehehe I've got the high BP too. Avoid stress. Oh yeah, ummm hmmm. No problem.

First, the no sex, drugs, and rock n roll from the doctor. Hey, I believe it has to be about quality of life. Quality of life for me includes good sex and good wine. Bottom line.

As far as the bad, I agree there are a-holes out there. I've been one sometimes myself. Yet I do think there is a truth to some perfect action, even in the a-holeness of it. I still feel bad when I screw up, but there's always some divine action in it. Even if all it is is for me to become aware of something about myself. If that makes sense?

Blogger Melliferous Pants said...

I recently heard a similar philosophy: I am what I am. Which is also code for being a lazy ass who doesn't take responsibility for their actions. I hate that shit.

I understand that we're individuals but I don't think it's appropriate to use personality as an excuse for being a dick head.

Blogger kris said...

You guys are rock stars. All y'all.

MP, I find myself yet again wanting to make out with you. Coincidence? Methinks not. E-FATE.

Blogger Kim said...

Did this post say anything important? You know I can't read anything longer than 3 paragraphs tops. I'm going to assume you're just bitching a complaining again.

Blogger Amber said...

I definitely think there are good people and there are bad people out there. The difference is that when good people make mistakes, they take responsibility for them. Maybe they learn something from it, and maybe they get a chance to fix it. However it works out, they at least have concern for other people in the world and mistakes are just that. Bad people are the ones who hide behind "honesty" when they're being cruel and who do whatever they want to whenever they want to with no regard for how it affects anyone else. They just don't care.

As for the hypertension, well, join the sketchy health club (meaning a group of people, not an actual health club) as I have high cholesterol and am *gasp* considered overweight. No more buffalo wings...for now.

Blogger KB said...

Oh, god. I totally agree. The "non-ex" definitely did that shit all the time. "oh, well I told you a year ago that I didn't want a relationship, which absolves me from taking responsibility when I act like I do and then do some really shitty thing and then you get hurt."


Blogger gorillabuns said...

I think your BP is situational. You HAVE been under undue stress lately.

I've had HTN since I was 20. I take pharmaceuticals and continue to do ALL the bad things I'm not supposed to because - I'm immature? Yea, I like that answer.

Did you say if they put you on any meds? Inquirying minds want to know....

Blogger Mamma said...

Shit. I was just starting to feel good about myself and now you tell me I need to be introspective.

Crap. You're going to be loads of fun on Friday night.

Blogger WildbillthePirate said...

First of all, hypertension ( high blood pressure) is NOT a diagnosis made in one office visit! If you're doctor did this, he's an incompetant Boob who I would avoid. Hypertension (abbreviated as HTN) is 4-5 SEPERATE readings taken over 4-5 MONTHS!!!

Blood pressure has many factors including fluid level in the body, stress, diet, Family history, position in the menstrual cycle, dis-ease states etc... You can get it while under streee and when the stress is removed, it goes away.

While it is good to lower sodium intake, alcohol and certainly stress, medication is THE LAST STEP in the process! I will comment on the Other matter at another time...

Blogger MereCat said...

I love smoking. I haven't had a cigarette in two years, but I still love smoking. Booze. Haven't had any booze in two days, but still I love booze.

Can't seem to stay off the salt, though.

Blogger kris said...

I love booze and all of you. I'm not on meds, because I'm supposed to follow up with a doc, which of course I haven't done yet, because teaching Cricket to do forward rolls is much higher on my agenda right now. But I am cutting back on the drinking and the salt I'm - gulp - exercising. Watch out - lightning may strike. Although it may hit Kim first, given that she's on the wagon for a month. I'm going to attribute her sweet comment to the tremens.

Blogger Heather said...

What the hell good is it to live to be 109 if you only turn into a miserable, lonely and angry old crazy cat lady?

I say, you only go around once. Enjoy!

My motto is: Do nothing that can come back to bite you in the ass.
'Cause it always will.
Say nothing that you wouldn't say to someone's face.
'Cause it WILL get back to them.

It works for me.

Have a good week. And whatever you do, don't stroke out.

Blogger Mad Scientist said...

Pardon me for being an interloper-I only just stumbled across this blog the other day (I love it already, though). Yesterday I heard a quote that seems relevant to this discussion. A physician said, "Everything in moderation...including moderation." Now those are words to live by!

Blogger Melliferous Pants said...

Funny, I want to make out with you too! Unfortunately, mah junk-in-da-trunk's a bit larger than normal but chances are I'd taste like chocolate. Damn that Easter bunny and his mission to make me bust out the seams on my clothing!

Blogger Bridget Jones said...

Agree with gorillabuns it's surprising that it took this long to get HBP! But it'll fade quickly enough, I hope.

And the second part of your post was right on. There was a good quote about what defines us is not our falls but how we recover from them. The bad part about that is the damage caused in the falling.

Blogger Tiffany said...

That part of your post about "I'm a good person who does bad things" hit me right between the eyes. I've been justifying things to myself for years with that mentality (I only do bad things to myself I promise) and I recently (Monday morning) decided I needed to snap the hell out of it.

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