November 20, 2015 by Julia
Are you stressed out? I am. I got a snail tattoo on my ankle over the summer, partly in an effort to remind myself to slow down. And let me tell you: the tattoo is not working.
You get it. Normal stress stuff. Rushing to the point that you feel like rushing is your entire life. The feeling that you could reach up and pluck a task out of the ether, because your to-do list is following you, ever-expanding, not just two-dimensional and vertically listed anymore, but a kind of gas, a cloud. You’ve lost track of the order or importance of each task, so just pick one and do it in the one minute while you’re waiting for the red light to turn green, or standing in the checkout line. Those minutes add up. If I don’t waste a single minute one day my car will be clean and I will be on top of email and texts and projects. But, oh yeah – I’ve got to get my son to preschool and then rush home before the frozen stuff in the trunk melts.
Part of it is my own fault; I know that. I often participate in, enjoy, and even organize these kinds of events. I like me a clever, well-executed theme, and I like traditional holidays and birthdays, I like volunteer work with children, and of course I like an excuse to see loved ones. But occasionally, sometime between the fourth and fifth go-round with our dirty, ripped-up, polyester Halloween costumes in the last week of October, I wanted to scream that it’s TOO MUCH! Who has time for all this? Since when do we have to celebrate holidays sixteen thousand times rather than just the day of? What about our laundry, and family dinners, and getting the homework done? What about taking a breather, having a normal, routine day?
I don’t believe it’s entirely my fault. I’m influenced by my surrounding culture, just like most everyone else, and I’m not sure how any of us within this social world are supposed to resist the “Life is Good: Let’s Celebrate Everything to the Umpteenth Degree!!!” factor and also exercise and volunteer and text and email your friends back plus work and housework AND save some quality time for family members and pets. We are well-meaning, really – we want to make good lives for our families. We don’t want our children to be left out, or to fall behind, or to lose our friends if we say “no” to one too many parties or playdates.
And so I work, work, work. I fit together the minutes of each day like puzzle pieces, evaluating what gets the highest priority. I was up until midnight last night, watching the Housewives bicker and have breakthroughs while working out plans for six different crafts, doing laundry upstairs on commercial breaks that I could have fast-forwarded…but I had to use those commercials to get stuff done.
I’m into entrenching good habits, lately. That helps with the stress level. Habits can be a lifeline for people who get anxious or depressed. I’m all for breaking the rules on special occasions, but a too-busy, stressful weekday is not one of those special occasions. Exercise, sleep, eating well, civility toward living beings, and keeping up with daily work gets me through the tougher days.
When I wake up in a funk, I do much better if I can go on autopilot with the regular life stuff without worrying that things will fall apart. If I feel like eating badly in a tired or anxious moment, I think to myself: stick with your habits even in this moment, and the daily practice of eating well becomes more entrenched. Good habits are what keep us healthy and engaged with life – they are not always a cure for whatever really ails us, but they bring our loftiest (or deepest) goals ever closer. I mean, I still need to vent or commiserate with an actual human being over whatever has put me into a funk; folded laundry is not going to reveal the meaning of life. I still need to tend to my dreams. But the beauty of good habits is that they support the things that really matter to us. Also, they keep us sane. No small feat in some cases, like my own.
I am also trying to remember that a blank space on our family calendar is okay. And more than that: it’s a relief. Still working on that one. It’s really hard to guard those blank spaces.
And last but not least, I am remembering not to wish any of my current life away. You can’t cut out the bad parts. And if we could, I think we’d quickly realize that we missed them, and can’t do without them. The uncomfortable feelings serve a purpose.
I truly love my life. It may be dotted with obligation, nervousness, boredom, frantic work, ambiguity, frustrations – these are a few of the unpleasant feelings that I try to outrun or outwit. But without my rough patches, I’d be alone, really. We’re not supposed to float above our loved ones on some plane of perfection. We’re supposed to snag on each other like velcro…as annoying as it may be in our moments of weakness, like when we really don’t want to cry at that parent-teacher conference for no sensible reason…ahem. (The kids are great, by the way – no worries.)
So that’s it. I’m stressed, but I’m doing life the best way I know how. Always trying to learn how to do it better. This post is all over place, but so am I. I’m afraid my soul will shrivel up and die if I don’t do something writer-ish, in between all of these other things that mean a lot to me, too. So here is my life in blog form, for the moment. Now on to the next thing.