Relaxed despite past high strain
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Last updated 12:15 15/05/2011
There's nothing quite like being told you are stressed to make you feel stressed.
A Southern Cross Healthcare survey published this week said Christchurch people were the most stressed in the whole country. However, not by that much.
Living in seismically placid Auckland is nearly as stressful as living in earthquake-stricken Christchurch after two earthquakes, according to the survey, which says Christchurch people eat, drink and smoke more than their counterparts in the rest of the country.
Surveys have almost completely lost their value to me as they usually fail to survey enough people, lack independence, tell us what we already know and are often just plain silly. Still, I can't help but think the survey might in these unusual times be right.
Since everyone else is clearly stressed out I can view my new life through the prism of stress, even if this week things seem to be improving.
It might be my imagination but traffic flow in the city seems to have improved and it's not even the school holidays. This week our porta- cabin newsroom also got a couple of pot plants - a maiden hair and a cyclamen - which have raised the tone considerably. The only added stress is that someone has to remember to water them, a job for which we paid someone in those halcyon pre-earthquake days.
I would say that despite the strains of the past eight months and the fact Hone Harawira is insisting on wasting my money with an unnecessary by-election in Te Tai Tokerau, I remain reasonably laid-back and relaxed in my daily endeavours.
One thing, however, suggests all is not well. I forget things. It is a condition fellow sufferers tell me is called earthquake brain. I have always been a little forgetful and absent- minded. I was the kid of whom it was said he would have forgotten his head if it wasn't screwed on.
I have misplaced and lost countless items over the years, including a suit, left in an airport trolley just before my father's funeral. This affliction means I am a terrible traveller. I am the guy reading a book while his name is called repeatedly over the airport public address system. I once missed a connection from Bangkok to London and I have left home to go overseas without my passport.
Before the earthquakes, I was already a regular visitor to the Red Bus lost and found department. I have left umbrellas, books, files, and even a football on my No 28 bus and thankfully most have been recovered. In an attempt to remember appointments, I used to put sticky labels on my computer terminal but then forget they were there.
The condition, and I put this down entirely to stress, has been exacerbated by the earthquake. I am continually losing my diary, car keys, cellphone and wallet.
Every morning now I pat myself all over to ensure I am property equipped for the day. A few weeks ago I left my new glasses on the top of the car and drove off. They were never found. I have left my diary in the pub and my cellphone at the house of someone I was interviewing. I put a jumper down in a building in which we were working recently and can't remember where I put it. When my son asks for an apple I bring him a banana. I walk into the shed to get something and forget what it is.
Forgetting can be expensive, drives me mad and is another stress factor. Thank goodness I am not alone. My wife is also a shocker. It is a wonder that we manage to function at all.
Another person apparently similarly afflicted was the burglar who came into our house this week. He or she walked in through a door which we had forgotten to lock and, from our initial survey, appears to have taken only one thing. Our cordless telephone. I am not kidding.
It may be that the burglar entered the house and after realising we had nothing of portable value decided to pinch the telephone out of spite. However, I prefer to think that the burglar forgot what he or she had hoped to steal and took the phone thinking we wouldn't be able to call the police.
Forgetting, of course, that we weren't actually in the house at the time. Perhaps they had also forgotten about cellphones.
I also had a nice letter about forgetting, well actually about remembering, this week.
Marie Craddock, 94, wrote to me from her rest home in Westport in response to my column about watching the royal wedding as an atheist and republican.
"Remember," she wrote, "the whispers of God in your own heart, as a republican and atheist." That's not a line I'm likely to forget.
- The Press