The e-mail invitation was simple enough.

It was from Rebecca, my friend of nearly four decades. Did I want to go with her to a talk at the hospital on how acupressure can help reduce stress? Well, since these days stress seems to be my middle name, and I always welcome time with my dear friend, I said, “Sure, I’d love to go.”

We made arrangements that she and her husband would pick me up on the day of the talk.

So far, so good.

The talk wasn’t exactly at the hospital. It was in one of the doctor’s offices close to the hospital. We signed in, paid our ten-dollar registration fee and were asked to sign a waiver. I thought that was a bit odd, but signed the form. Then we were handed an alcohol swab and told to clean the ear that correlated to our dominant hand.

Say what??

I told myself the speaker was probably going to do a demo and was simply being careful. After all, you never know where that ear has been or what it has touched!

As we walked into the room, I dug around in my purse for a small notebook. And Rebecca commented that she hoped there weren’t Power Point slides because she’d forgotten her glasses.

Can you tell we’re education/information nerds?

The softly lit room was set up with tables instead of an audience/speaker format. I began to wonder what I’d gotten myself into. And I noticed that the speaker was wearing a white lab coat.

Little warning bells started to chime in my brain.

We sat at one end of the table and made small talk while we waited for things to get started.

I think we all had the same chiming bells in our heads.

After a few nervous minutes, the woman in the lab coat, the one who I thought was going to talk about acupressure, explained how ACCUPUNCTURE was a proven method of stress management. She said she was going to come to each of us and insert 5 NEEDLES in our ear.

I started to hyperventilate.

Needles?

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know my thing with needles.

Rebecca’s husband and I stared at her.

“Needles?” we said, nearly in unison.

Rebecca did her best impression of Stan Laurel, raising her hands, shrugging her shoulders and giving us a goofy smile.

It was clear she didn’t know what was going on.

So our speaker put on soft, meditative music, warned us to stay seated once the needles were in place, and began going from person to person with her pink needles. Yes, I said pink.

As if that would ease my anxiety.

We were laughing and talking rather loudly, unlike the rest of the group who sat quietly. It was pure nervous energy.

I told Rebecca’s husband that he looked like Uhura from Star Trek with that “thing” on his ear. We laughed again.

I felt like I was going to spontaneously combust.

Then it was my turn for the pink needles.

Ohmygawd!

Okay, it wasn’t so bad, though not my favorite thing either.

It felt strange.

I tried to calm my breathing and my racing heart.

Listen to the music.

Breathe in, breathe out.

I found I couldn’t make eye contact with Rebecca or I’d burst into laughter.

That nervous laughter.

Finally, after thirty minutes, the lab-coated woman (who never did give a talk or use Power Point slides) came to each of us and removed the needles.

Everyone in the room silently got up and exited the building.

There was no talking. It was like leaving a funeral service. As soon as we were outside, we began laughing hysterically. Raucous, deep belly laughs. We didn’t care who heard us.

Rebecca pulled out the paper she’d brought and studied it.

The one that explained the “talk.”

Sure enough, it said acupuncture.

But she saw acupressure. Interesting how we do that – see what we want to see.

We drove straight to a coffee shop and sat for over an hour, talking, drinking our coffee and laughing our butts off. We laughed until tears rolled down our cheeks. And every so often, Rebecca would shrug her shoulders and smile, which would start us laughing all over again.

When they dropped me off at home, I noticed that I felt lighter and much more relaxed.

That’s when I realized the true stress management that had happened.

Perhaps it was the acupuncture, but more likely, it was spending time with friends, talking and laughing until our sides ached.

I could tell you a hundred stories like this about my wonderful friend Rebecca. She is one of a kind and has blessed my life beyond measure. And today is her birthday. It’s a special one. Even the Beatles wrote a song about it. Well not about Rebecca exactly, but the number of this birthday.

Her birthday is six months ahead of mine. She’s been first to dip her toe into the waters of whatever milestone date was on our birthday agenda. She’s led the way for me, showing me just how wonderful it was to be thirty, thirty-five, forty and onward. I don’t need to name every significant birthday. You get the idea.

So girlfriend, Happy, Happy Birthday!

And in answer to the question posed by John, Paul, George and Ringo. You better believe I still love you.

To everyone reading this post today-pick up the phone and call one of your friends. Let them know how important they are to you. Laugh and reminisce a little. It will do your soul good.

Do it as a birthday gift for my friend Rebecca.

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