I hear a lot from those I love to try and remember that what is stressing me out today won’t matter in a few years. This advice does not help me.
I hear people say that everything will be ok. This advice does not help me.
I hear people say that stressed spelled backwards is desserts. I don’t even understand how that is supposed to make me feel better much less help me.
Here is the truth about my stress. I live in it. I breathe in it. It surrounds me each and every day and through my dreams until I can’t tell you what exactly in my life is not stressful. There are days that I actually thrive on the stress and can produce amazing work that should make my life easier. I literally don’t remember a day I haven’t been stressed out.
Whether it is money – and it is money a lot – my children, my marriage, my family, my inability to find a job; you name it and I am stressed about it. Even my car causes me stress and I worry every time I listen to the engine; is that noise bad? Is my car shaking too much? Taking my children to birthday parties stresses me out. Trying on clothes, despite my small frame, stresses me out.
The good news is that my heart is really, really healthy. Between my pulse and my blood pressure which is as near to perfect as you can get, stress doesn’t seem to be doing long term damage to my vital organs. There is no indication physically that the near insanity I feel each and every day about every aspect of my life is actually causing harm. And the doctors like to look.
No, the stress is all mental. I am not able to understand people who seemingly go through life without stress. I don’t get that. If I am not stressing about something, and my stomach isn’t tight with some worry that I can’t fix, then I am not breathing. Sure I don’t talk about it at those birthday parties that my children attend, but trust me it is there.
There are many, many sayings about stress. And there are many, many pieces of advice on how to counteract the stress. Working out. (Which stresses me out because I have to be around strangers). Listening to music (Okay, but I am really, really picky about what I want to listen to). Or even laughing (stressed, not laughing, stressed).
Sometimes I can delve deeply into my writing. Sometimes I can escape my natural inclination to be stressed by writing about other people’s worlds. This is all well and good except for one small matter – the only place to write currently is on my kitchen table. Right beside where my children are playing. And my family is watching TV. And where the snacks happen to be. Understand the problem?
Sometimes I can go for a long drive and listen to my music. Of course, this costs gas money which I don’t have. And it means that I have to secure some sort of babysitting for my precious children which is another stress.
I truly, truly believe that most days it simpler to be stressed than to try and do exercises to reduce the stress. It is almost as if this world is built to handle and thrive in the stress and fall apart when one tries to do anything about it. Sort of like someone high above doesn’t want us to be without stress so they through curve balls each and every time you try and put it in perspective.
Maybe I am destined to always be stressed. Maybe my true problem is that I can’t put it in perspective. Maybe by not getting away, either through my writing or by disappearing for an hour or two, I am not allowing myself to put my stress in the target importance. Maybe I am drowning in stress because no one allows me enough time to realize that all I have to do is stand in the shallow end of the pool.
If I can’t pay a bill, is someone going to come and take my children away? If I can’t move out of my mom’s house in the next couple of months is she going to throw me on the streets? If I can’t give my children all the things they deserve, are they doomed to living a life so much less than they could? If I am sick for one day and the house doesn’t get picked up, am I really going to be systematically punished?
I know the answer to these questions as well as you do. But there is a drive to be perfect, to have all our bills paid and our children healthy and happy in every moment. I almost want to believe that when nature gave us the ability to stand on two feet it also gave us this drive to be perfect. And the falling short of that perfect is what continually makes us stressed.
And until I can get over the need to be perfect, there isn’t a page to write or an exercise to do that is going to make things better. Until I can understand that the reality is I can’t pay all my bills right now, but I am not truly doing anything bad, there is nothing that is going to make my stress go away.
That is the heart of it. Stress is the product of lack of perfection. And no one is perfect. So we simply are stressed each and every day.
And since there probably is no way to get away from this truth, this desire to be perfect, we may as well eat dessert.