Bringing down the pressure

Michael Johansen
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A recent visit to the local health clinic - which involved two tries with an inflatable rubber armband - left me with some unpleasant news to digest: I have high blood pressure.
My first response was denial. How could I? It was fine last time a doctor checked and that was only four or five years ago. I've taken pride in my perfectly normal blood pressure ever since I started caring about such things. It can't be high now.
My second response was also denial. OK, I have it, but I feel fine. It can't be all that bad. Unfortunately I have too many friends on hand to let me believe that for long. Several felt compelled to warn me about the dangers of heart attack - some with what appeared to be a hint of a smile. When my friends are amused at the thought of me going through excruciating pain, I know things are getting serious.
My third response, therefore, was acceptance. If I've got high blood pressure, I told myself, I'd better deal with it. That'll wipe the smirks off their faces.
Of course, I could take the easy way out. I could go to high blood pressure classes and join high blood pressure support groups. I could cut back on salt, fatty foods and everything else that makes the ol' blood speed unhealthily faster through the ol' veins. I could exercise more - take more vigorous walks, go out more on the skis. Anything to help the ol' heart.
I could do all those healthy things, but I'd rather challenge myself. I want to use this health condition as an opportunity for personal growth. I'll learn to control my emotions. I have to prevent annoying things from bothering me - things like the nonsensical words that come out of the mouths of politicians. To keep my blood pressure down, I won't let myself get astounded, angered or outraged by the strange plans that come out of their heads and by the odd things they want to do to the province and the country.
Take, for example, Jerome Kennedy's transmission line to nowhere. (But first take three deep, calming breaths.) The provincial finance minister (following the long-standing bipartisan government policy to use any rationale whatsoever, true or not, to justify building more dams in Labrador - the premier even claims hydroelectric stations are "green") is exploiting the worldwide economic crisis to hit Ottawa up for some serious stimulus cash. Kennedy has told his federal counterpart that he wants to cut a corridor across Labrador's boreal forest and string up electrical wires, even though there's no guarantee the long-proposed and always failed Lower Churchill Project will ever go ahead.
"It's something we wouldn't have to wait for the environmental assessments because essentially we'd simply be building a transmission line," he has said, revealing a profound ignorance (hopefully not willful) about both the natural world and environmental law.
Plus, he seems to have a weak grasp on common sense. At least $247 million has already been squandered on the Lower Churchill boondoggle - more than 10 times the amount wasted on the famous Sprung greenhouse venture (which at least resulted in a few cucumbers) - but now the provincial finance minister wants to pour millions more into destroying valuable forest and constructing hundreds of towers that may never be used - except perhaps as a future make-work project when the neglected, rusting metal needs to be dismantled again.
I won't let it bother me. I won't think about how all that money could be spent on developing the cheaper, more efficient and truly clean technologies that use the wind, the sun and the ocean waves to produce electricity, rather than on dams that wreck habitat, poison rivers and release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere (not just the tonnes of carbon produced during the massive construction phases, but also the deep-water methane that will forever spew out through the tailrace).
Deep breaths now: Inhale … exhale … inhale … exhale …

Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.

Geographic location: Labrador, Ottawa

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