I looked at her and took a deep breath, not because I needed it, but because she did. I felt like I should volunteer to teach the class to relieve her of the workload she obviously couldn't handle.
As you might imagine, she never did quite get her act together. She skittered through a few talking points about stress, then asked if we had questions. I think we were all afraid to ask, fearing that it might send her into convulsions if she had to take on one more task.
It wasn't long after that when a group of people I work with invited me to another stress management seminar. Did I look that overworked? Pale? Tired? I didn't ask, just signed up, thinking that since the first one was worthless, maybe the next one would be better.
I arrived to a room with more than 100 people jammed shoulder-to-shoulder behind tables. I wondered how the presenter could work any kind of stress-free magic on such a crowd.
There she stood in the front on a small stage with one of those head-gear microphones that allowed her to walk and flail her hands about as she taught. She raced through a mini story of her life, from childhood abuse to major health problems to the losses that nothing would be able to fill. People asked questions that prompted her to expand, pulling us away from the curriculum and into a tour of her hospitals, loneliness and depression.
I felt like I should be soothing her, telling her it was going to be all right. Again. I felt like I needed to rescue the stress management teacher.
After lunch, we didn't return for the rest of the seminar. We went bowling. Bowling in the middle of the afternoon on one of those lanes with black lights that make your shoes and the bowling alley dcor glow in the dark.
Bowling so badly that we, the only bowlers in the place, laughed at gutter balls and shouted when we actually knocked down some of the pins. Bowling without thinking because the scoring was automatic and we only had to look at the screen and our self-chosen bowling names, like Blondie and Speedy, to see where we stood.
And when we finished, we were all smiling, all stress-free.
Bowling with a bunch of women who can laugh at themselves or sitting in a seminar? You can guess which stress management technique works best for me.
Beth Dotson Brown is a free-lance writer living in Lancaster.