Welp. I finally have high blood pressure. I went to a walk-in clinic recently what for turned out to be a case of bronchitis. More accurately, I’d decided to stop in there after a physical therapy session for my neck, which causes my back to go out in high stress situations. And for me, it’s been a wild couple of years, stress wise.
Anyway, my blood pressure was really high. High enough to make the nurse go, “huh,” and take it again. Then take it again ten minutes later. And then ask me to come in the following week to take it again, to see if it went down after I stopped taking the prescription she was about to give me for the inflammation.
Both of my parents, all of my grandparents, aunts, uncles… every one of us has dealt with heart disease. My father and one grandmother died of it. My mother had a stroke a couple of years ago. Another chronic illness impacting African Americans at disproportionate rates; the stress of living in these United States is killing us.
Killing me. My neck, my lungs, my heart.
Funny, the way stress expresses itself in the body. Not ha-ha funny; more like peculiar. And even though it’s peculiar, it is not unusual. I looked them up, the emotional causes of trouble in my physical self, and sought ways I might give them extra support beyond medicine. This is what I found:
My neck. Lack of emotional support.
My lungs. Inflamed feelings that need to be expressed.
My heart. Longstanding emotional problem not solved. Hardening of the heart.
Unappreciated, nearly seeing red, hardening by the day. Yup, seemed right on target, ask me. The cold world is certainly taking its’ toll.
And then my phone rang.
My spouse is in California. My mother is in France.
That realization is the only reason I even answered the call. Instead of letting voicemail take a message I could return when my hands weren’t full, I opened the line. My spouse is in California. Power outages, wildfires. My mother in in France. Bombings and I don’t know, too much wine.
Anything at all could be happening.
A melodic, smooth jazz kind of voice said, “Hello, how are you doing?” I held the phone, and got my change from a cashier at a roadside stand, smiling her goodbye.
“May I speak to the Head of The Household?” I stopped dead in my tracks, switched the phone to the other hand.
“What’s that?” I was yelling, because a truck was going by, and another call was coming in and I coulda sworn that Smooth Jazz just called my phone to ask to speak to a grown up.
“I’d like to speak to the head of the household please.”
“Uh, yeah, I don’t use that kind of language. Who’s calling?”
The line went dead. I don’t know what he wanted, but he didn’t want it from me. This man wanted to go straight to my manager.
And just like that, I’m livid. I know it’s some kind of marketing thing but I don’t care. My fury sounded like this inside my head: Hasn’t Smooth Jazz learned yet that he’s out of line? It’s our phone line, our kids, our stuff, our home. Anything that anyone might sell us goes past me, whether my spouse is in California or not.
And another thing, I’m not calling that man my husband any more. He is not my husband. He and I are partners in this marriage game. Husbands are for livestock, and I’m not that. I am a fully functional, adult human, trapped on the On ramp after exiting the regular workforce to get these kids raised, and that does not make me a dependent, it makes me incredible, Asswipe. And don’t even get me started on who is responsible for the entirety of the emotional labor for this family.
And then I stopped myself- If I was mad that a telemarketer won’t deem me important enough to consult with, I was in need of serious affirmation.
Steps needed to be taken, beyond the usual “don’t smoke, exercise, lose weight, eat healthily” kinds of recommendations, and immediately. I want to survive my youngest daughter’s childhood, at least. I don’t want her to have to do life without me. And I know she’s got a dad, but he’s not me.
Yoga is the support I’m offering my neck. When I am calm, I’m able to meet my emotional needs more readily, despite what the world tells me about the worth of those needs.
My heart gets a painting class on Sunday afternoons. I want to spend time with color and light and give my heart the space it needs to be soft again.
I’m giving my lungs a therapist. A Black, female therapist who doesn’t have to learn about and validate me and my culture before she’s able to help me process and speak my Black, female, GenX truth.
And finally, I’m going back next week to take my blood pressure, and if they want me to, I’ll take medication to support my wellness.
And then, I plan to merge.