Stress, we are told, will kill us. Not directly, of course: instead, it takes advantage of whatever physical weaknesses we may have and exacerbates them, and when we drop dead from, for instance, a stroke, the stroke, not the stress, gets the official blame and the entry on the certificate.

Unfortunately, sources of stress are all over the place, and short of checking into a monastery, I can't think of any way to squash every last one of them. I have, however, been keeping track of them, and so far, this is what's happening:

Stress related to living conditions:  In decline. I still don't sleep particularly well, but one of the major causes of insomnia — the obnoxious and/or noisy neighbor — has ceased to be an issue as of the fall of 2003, when I moved out of a horrid apartment complex which was obviously designed for maximum involuntary contact between tenants, that being the cheapest construction technique not actually involving Lincoln Logs and Elmer's. Whatever noise goes on around here, I scarcely notice. There's still the threat of Major Repairs, which lurks in the background with intent to loom, most recently manifesting itself in the form of a backyard gas leak, for which the gas company, quite unexpectedly (since I hadn't read the pertinent legislation), assumed full responsibility, although I still had to pay for whatever disappeared into the atmosphere during the leakage period. (I'm guessing maybe $100.) On the other hand, this house, just shy of sixty years old, is in really good condition: I've passed three annual termite inspections with ease, the only appliance that is likely to need attention is the water heater, and while a coat of paint would be nice, the place won't fall down without it.

Stress related to transportation:  I am normally not subject to road rage, although there are entirely too many motorized miscreants out there and there have been times when I wished I'd had a phaser rifle set a couple ticks higher than "Stun." There is a hierarchy of heinousness, of course: mere members of the Anti-Destination League are merely annoying, while morons who slalom back and forth between lanes twenty percent faster than the rest of the traffic are downright dangerous. I figure, let the gendarmes give chase, should they notice.

Stress related to health issues:  I am not happy with having to spend a significant portion of my income on pharmaceuticals — I now take five drugs daily — but the conditions they are intended to alleviate would likely be much worse, especially since hypertension is among them. Blood pressure, I am pleased to report, is pretty much under control. Blood sugar is still an issue, but it's been declining in recent tests. And while I could be imagining it, I think my vision has improved slightly of late: there's a tad less squint and a bit