Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Doctor's Orders

I sit very still on the examination table. The sound of the crinkly paper under my thighs is distracting. I want to listen, very carefully, to the doctor's advice.
"Anxiety is the body's natural response to danger," he says. "Many years ago, if a person was being chased by a bear, for instance, the person would experience anxiety. It's called the fight or flight instinct. The person's blood pressure would rise; and the person would be ready to run from the bear. Now, not too many people find themselves up against a bear; but the human body is still hard-wired for fight or flight. You seem to be experiencing fight or flight in situations that don't require fight or flight. Something stressful happens. Your blood pressure rises; and then something else stressful happens, and it goes up again."
"What should I do?" I ask. "I do feel stressed."
"Do you like to do anything that relaxes you?" he asks.
I think about it. I really don't like massages or running or napping or manicures.
"I like to soak in the tub and read books," I say. I would shrug; but I remember the crinkly paper. I raise my eyebrows like question marks instead.
"Do that," he tells me. "Soak for hours if that's what it takes. Read lots of books."
Doctor's orders.
And so, when I feel like fighting or fleeing, I turn on the faucet in my little tub. I don't have a fancy soaking tub. I pour bubble bath that smells like pomegranate or lemon or lavender vanilla. I pour the bubble bath directly under the hot water that streams from the faucet. I swirl my hand under the surface and lean back in the bubbles. I wear a claw clip to keep my hair dry.
I dry my hands on a towel so I don't get the pages of the book wet.
I soak until my skin is as wrinkled as the skin of a prune.
I soak until a little jagged piece of my toenail polish peels off and floats like a miniature pink island.
I soak until I read to page 100; then I read at least two more chapters.
* * *
"The good news," the doctor says, on the day he gives me a prescription for bubble bath, "is that your ancestors were probably very good at running from bears. The calm people were eaten."


  1. It is always best to follow the doctor's orders. Keep those books and bubble bath handy.

  2. It is always best to follow the doctor's orders. Keep those books and bubble bath handy.

  3. I can relate as I drew a bath at 4:00 this afternoon, drying my hands before picking up my new book to read. I love your doctor, and especially his last sage observation.