Consider this...

By Mike Johnson


When you live in a two-story stilt house, you actually have a three-story house. Since the bottom floor is nothing but 21 stilts and a slab, hearing strange noises under your home at 2 a.m. can be a stressful experience. If you live in the treetops of a remote neighborhood - trust me on this -- it can be a very stressful experience. My greatest fear -- next to a runaway chainsaw -- was a midnight intruder arriving with mayhem on his mind.

Aroused from slumber on level two - with nothing between this floor and the ground ten feet below -- the sounds came from directly under my bed. It was this moment that my dual Gemini nature kicked into play. The body-half sprang bolt upright in bed. The mind-half calculated the possibilities of a bullet trajectory being altered by three-quarter-inch plywood, R-13 insulation, three-inch pile carpeting and a waterbed. Despite my best mental efforts and an overdose of adrenaline, that "D" in geometry had finally come back to haunt me. I had no answer.

I couldn't just lay there and risk being shot from below. Unfortunately, on the other hand, I couldn't answer the equation resulting from me encountering some Chuck Norris-like prowler under the house. Black night + Black belt = Black & blue.

This situation clearly called for "Plan B."

Plan B seeming to agree because, bless his soul, he was drooling and dancing all over the floor pleading to eat that intruder. Sneaking to the doorway, I cracked it just enough for the shepard to explode into the darkness and cascade down the stairs. A few barks, a high-pitched yelp, a panicked scramble - and then eerie silence. Like it or not, I was left no choice but to tangle with Chuck Norris.

Baseball bat overhead, I stalked down the stairs one at a time, straining to catch a glimpse of my adversary. Step by step, the dog came into view - first his tail, then his hind quarters, then his head and shoulders standing at full point. The dog had the perpetrator at bay. Four steps from the ground, I took a deep breath and leaped to the ground.

Spinning on the balls of my feet, coiled to crush bones, my eyes scanned the opponent. Twice.

It turns out Chuck Norris looks exactly like a ten pound possum, poised fearfully on top of a running air-conditioning unit, his rat-hair blowing straight up in the air.

Laughing at oneself in the middle of the night can be an enlightening experience.

A great lesson in stress management became apparent. Stress is nothing more than our interpretation of a situation as threatening. It's an internal dialogue with ourselves. Once I reinterpreted the situation as non-threatening, the stress disappeared immediately. Had I originally interpreted the strange noises as merely a possum, I would never have felt stress at all. The noise didn't cause the stress, my interpretation of the noise did.

Lowering the bat and thanking my lucky stars that dogs can't talk to neighbors, I sat on the steps grinning stupidly into the night. And pondered.

We have total control over how we interpret all the situations in our lives. Looking at them as learning opportunities or challenges instead of personal threats, prevents us from ever feeling stress at all! We cause our own stress by ineffectively interpreting the events within our lives.

Thank the maker that certain important moments are indelibly burned into our memory forever. At that instant, I made two vows - 1) I'd never let my interpretations play possum with me again, and 2) Come hell or high water, I was going to find a geometry tutor who knew karate.


Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at