She was picking the dog hair off of my black sweat jacket. We were sitting at the tram stop on the Overtoom. Our conversation, begun in English, slipped about in Dutch. I recognized her as the small stooped Asian woman who was with me in the hair drying space at the gym merely ten minutes before we met again at the tram stop. She didn’t recognize me. I’m guessing she was from Indonesia and her Dutch was rather difficult to understand. “You have to be careful, “ she plucked some hair off of my shoulder, her eyes gigantic behind her spectacles, “my brother died of dog hair. Cancer.” She clucked.
I asked myself, looking at my bloated stomach in the mirror, what would make me happy. Some years ago, around 15 to be exact I tackled the problems of my metabolism. I was overweight and the only thing that would make me less overweight was exercise and healthy eating habits. I began by eating everything I wanted, only in the form of three meals and two snacks a day. The more you eat, the better your metabolism. I exercised regularly and tried not to overstrain my muscles to enable me to go out and do something fun again the next day. A gentle variety of sporty activities is excellent for your metabolism. Between the ages of 35 and 45 I didn’t gain weight, I even lost a fair amount bit by bit gram by gram.
These days my stomach, flat-ish in the morning, was nearly doubled in size in the evening. Cortisone. That problem that women develop especially around middle age. I asked myself, what would make me happy. My answer had everything to do with the symptoms of my unhappiness and not about the causes. Okay, time to organize a bit more, after all I was at the end of paying lawyer invoices. I could very soon reassign my resources and time management.
I looked in the kitchen cupboards. Oatmeal and one portion of rice noodles. These last two months have been a…well…bitch. I began to fantasize about the new state of the art Tupperware containers I would purchase and in my mind I wheeled a grocery cart around the Asian supermarket and the European supermarket aisle by aisle planning what I would buy to fully stock my cupboards. Why not stock enough dried foods and supplies to last until December? That would make me happy. That became my big plan. I felt happy thinking about my plan. Lots of healthy choices, that was the ticket, not that scrounge up another meal from the dregs in the fridge feeling.
This week on my workday out of the office I decided to check my happiness levels, as part of my new program Head off Cortisone Bloating.
7:30 Wake up. Happy to wake up at 7:30. Check
9:30 Yoga lesson. Was I feeling rushed and pressed getting to the yoga lesson? Was I feeling obliged to tack another yoga lesson onto my week’s agenda to deal with my stress levels, ringing ears? Was I being obsessive? No. I was happy to be there on the yoga mat. It felt more volunteer than obligation to deal with me and my stress levels. Check.
11:00 ING Bank. Did I want to be there? Yes and no. Since January I’ve been trying to arrange a business account. ING sent the letter three times to my old address. Now I was finally able to pick up the last piece to manage the account. Was I feeling stressed? Did I want to punch the I’m-not-allowed-to-be-cranky-person-who-was-assigned-meet-and-greet-customers-at-the-door-but-I-don’t-want-to-hear-your-problem-won’t-let-you-talk-to-anyone-go-use-the-computer Customer Service Rep? Yes. I took a deep breath, after all this time I was there assured that I would get the info I needed. Penciled check, kinda not stressed but still aggravated, historically aggravated I would say.
11:30 Supermarket. Still waiting for payment. Ten Euros budget. Five of which will have to feed the dog. Stressed? Nope. All I needed was a 39 cent container of yoghurt, otherwise I could manage another two days with x,y and z in the fridge. Check. I might get paid this week.
13:00 Warm up, singing. Stressed? Not about voice, in prime condition. How much did I need to warm up? Did I have time to take the dog to the park? Park ride 15 minutes away, need to drop dog back off and leave for coaching lesson at 14:35. Hmmmm, check kind of worried.
13:18 Put dog in bike basket. Stressed? Nice weather, she liked the park last time we went in May. Bit of a treat for her. Dog stands in bushes and is generally uncooperative. Well, I get points for trying. Slightly stressed because she’s not happy to be at the park. She liked the warm breezy bike ride more.
14:15 Back home. Dog asleep in basket. Lie on floor, do some Alexander Technique relaxation moves. How stressed am I at that moment? Not very, next up coaching lesson.
15:00 Great hour working with coach. Met my own ineptitude but excited about correcting things. Stressed? Slightly. Why am I learning two opera roles? Did I really think about this carefully?
16:30 Sign divorce papers at lawyer’s office. Stress level: near zero. Happiness factor definitely present.
17:30 Back home for dinner. Two pieces of toast, the last of the salami, a tomato and some yoghurt. Stressed? A little hyper actually.
19:00 Head to the train station. Need to charge fare card. Still money in account. Stressed? No.
20:00 Haarlem, teaching. Was I happy to be there teaching? Yes. Was I stressed? No.
23:00 Back home. Stressed? Hmm…..a bit…am I prepared enough for tomorrow? Stress level? Slight.
Bloated belly? Better than the previous day. Conclusion: not a bad idea this stress monitoring habit.