Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The .357 Calibre Stress Management System

So for those of you who don't know, the reason I came to the US was to court Christine. I first came over in November 2004, fell totally in love, and we were engaged "real quick" as they say. In February 2005, she was diagnosed with cancer following a trip to the UK. You can read the full story here, but the short of it is that she's been cancer-free for just three years.

Or so we thought. She recently had a PET scan, which showed enlarged and over-active lymph nodes. This in turn triggered a return of the kind of uncertain stress that's associated with being in the anxious darkness of not knowing. At this moment, we're not sure whether it's new cancer (which would be bad) or some other infection (which would be not so bad). In short, we're all a little variable in our moods. I'm unafraid to admit that I've been running the emotional spectrum from anger through anxiety to tears of pain. None of us are immune to this, and it's a tough one to cope with.

So what to do while we wait for the medical machine to give this fear a name? We continue to work, though my boss, bless her heart, has kindly given me Saturdays off for a while. Tess continues her schooling (Grade 5, she's doing so well, too!) We're trying to live normally, but the worry is apparent. Sleepless nights, poor appetite and all the trappings of the tension.

I have many hobbies. I read, I write. Christine knits, makes jewelry and both she and Tess do ballet. I lacked something physical, something that wo
uld burn off some adrenalin. If I were up at our summer cabin in Ontario, I could dig out the old foundations of the deck and porch and make them sturdier, I could build the workbench I promised myself, fix up the dock. Chop down trees. That's how I get rid of stress.

But the problem is that I am basically lazy. I do a little Tai Chi now and then, but not regularly, and I am loth to run because I feel ridiculous. And as for anything else physical, I don't dance and the pools are closed, pretty much. So a couple of weeks ago, I went down to Vacaville to do what many red-blooded American males seem to do. I joined a shooting range and went and shot a rifle.

Now at this point, I will remind you that I am an Englishman. In England, we don't shoot things. You can own a shotgun and shoot clay pigeons or (if you're rich enough) go hunting. But rifles and handguns? No way. Not for many a year has it been legal to own or use a firearm. So for me this was a big deal. I have never fired a gun before, never wanted to. But here in the US, I have t
he opportunity to do just that, and I decided to give it a shot. So to speak.

The news that I had done this attracted a few raised eyebrows among my mostly-liberal Davis friends, none of whom I can imagine owning or using a weapon. Many have never used one, nor would they consider it necessary. But I went and rented a .22 rifle (a Ruger 10/22, in case that means something to you) and bought 100 cartridges, got a brief demo as to how to load and use the thing, and off I went into the indoor range. It was okay, after I got over the initial nervous shakes caused by "this thing could kill someone" thoughts. But I did it, and even learned how to hit the target close to the bull. Pulled to the left a little, but hey, I'm new at this.

Trouble was, it was interesting, but not really that much fun. The rifle made a crack rather than the BANG that my neighbour got w
hen he was firing his much bigger handgun. So this week, I plucked up even more courage and went back, and this time, rented a handgun. A Smith and Wesson 686P, .357 Magnum. Now that is a gun that goes BANG.

It kicked a little, too. I knew I was firing something, because I could feel it in my shoulder. The .22 didn't ha
ve that, there was no immediacy, no impact, no...oomph. This felt like it was doing something, and as another plus, I could see the holes in the target, clear and round and large and black. It was satisfying and, dare I say it, fun. Next time, I shall write CANCER in big letters on the target before I shoot.

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