Z: I’m worried that I might not have enough stress in my life.
She: I can fix that for you. Very quickly.
Z: Don’t get me wrong, I have stress. Paying the bills, doing taxes, keeping my kid safe, making sure he gets a good education so he can get a good job and buy me things — all the usual background stresses that everyone has.
She: But you want more?
Z: I wouldn’t think so, but I’ve started to have arguments in my head for events that won’t happen for a couple of years.
She: Do these voices you’re arguing with argue back?
Z: They’re those writer conversations that you have in your head, only now I’m one of the characters.
She: For instance?
Z: I’m nervous about our car lease. I’ve never leased a car before, so I’m not really sure what happens at the end of the lease. I can’t tell you how mad I am at the guy who’s going to inspect our car.
She: You know him?
Z: He’s this weasely guy who will tell me I owe Honda thousands of dollars for excessive wear and tear. I argue that it’s all normal, but what can I do? He makes me so angry.
She: You do know that our car lease isn’t up for another two-and-a-half years. I could total the car way before then.
Z: Doh! You’re killing me. Now I have to have that fight with you in my head.
She: More stress? You’re welcome.
Z: Don’t you have this stress?
She: Please. You’re an amateur. Is this the best you’ve got?
Z: Well, I was also having a fight in my head with the Bicycle Bob’s guy all week. I took my bike in for one of those free tune-ups you get for the first year of the bike, and the guy gave me a $75 estimate that I didn’t even look at until later. I was ready to rip into him, expecting he would tell me I should have shown him my new owner card before I got the service.
Z: And he looked at the card when I picked up the bike and said, “Oh, OK. Here’s your bike. Make sure you get more free tune-ups before they expire.”
She: I’ll give you points for stressing about something pointless, but I’m still not impressed.
Z: Tell me, master. What should I be stressing about?
She: Everything. Can you keep your job? Is your child going to grow up to rob banks? Are you strict enough as a parent? Are you too strict as a parent? Are you wealthy enough? Are you healthy enough? Should you have been nicer to that lady at Starbucks? Is the only thing stopping you from writing a novel the fact that you spend too much time worrying about being nice enough to the lady at Starbucks?
Z: Well, that’s …
She: Are you going to have to take care of your parents as they get older? Will they kill each other first? Are you going to be a burden on your child when you get older? Should you have gotten the ham sandwich instead of the turkey sandwich? Is global warming going to kill us all and, if so, is the time spent separating trash from recycling better spent working on that novel?
Z: Isn’t that …
She: Do these shoes make me look fat? Are the BPAs in plastic going to kill me, or will it be the radiation leaking from the microwave? Why did I spill coffee on my white shirt again? Was it that Starbucks lady’s fault?
Z: I get it, I get it. You win.
She: And I’m not nearly as good at this as I used to be. There aren’t enough hours in the day for all the things I would like to be stressed about. A girl with limited bandwidth has to make some choices. Which is very stressful.
Z: I’m headed in the other direction. A long time ago, I was relatively stress-free. I once had an argument with a college girlfriend, where I claimed, “I don’t do stress.” She made it her mission to remedy that.
She: Good girl. Someone had to break you in.
Z: Yes, dear.