Are You Stressed?

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I am a little upset with my father at the moment. I sat in two hours of traffic to travel across town to his house to pick up my two little girls after school—and I was fine with that. Tons of driving in traffic, never having money and scrambling for time is a part of my daily routine and who I am as a single mother. I was standing in his kitchen, thinking nothing of this when my Dad wanders into the room and asks, “…Are you stressed?” My immediate response was to laugh. Seriously, what a stupid question. Isn’t everyone stressed?

 

I didn’t really get the chance to adequately respond before my two girls interjected and proceeded to tell him about why they were stressed in school. At the time, their chatter was enough to take my mind off the subject at hand, but lately it has been coming back to haunt me. I lay awake at 3am last night pondering the question and what my answer means for how I live my life. Life and living is stressful—EVERYONE is stressed! Aren’t they…? I mean, are there people in this world who are at peace and living stress free lives? I had no idea.

 

Something about yesterday just hit me the wrong way. I hadn’t slept well the night before, a colleague of mine is switching departments so I am mentally preparing to take on a larger workload, all while managing to promote, post and scramble to find daycare for upcoming spoken word gigs. At any given moment I am at my wit’s end—and this is how I live my life every day. Stress is life! There is no loophole, there is no end; it’s just the way it IS. For me, stress can sometimes lead to depression. I try to allow myself to indulge a bit but to snap out of it before I am sucked into a vortex of listlessness and despair. I have goals that I want to accomplish and it is my understanding that stress is a part of the program.

 

I suppose in all of my ambitious life-mapping, I never mapped out a destination. I see my roads full of the same old obstacles of working too hard to impress others to book gigs, financial struggle, rushing home from work to make dinner, braid hair, check homework, micromanage bathtime, etc. It has not occurred to me before this that I don’t have to live my life this way. But what does a stress-free life look like? It still sounds like a fable, I just don’t know. Is the desire to live worry free asking too much out of life, or is this just the price of living? Am I stressed? ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY! I am ready to pull my hair out! I am tired and always worried about money. I am sick of driving and sitting in traffic—of having to cram every hour of the day with SOMEthing in order to accomplish all of my goals, of contemplating whether I actually should give up on my writing aspirations so I’ll have more time to be with my girls, my man, to workout, to BREATHE! This endless grind is wearing on my health and self-esteem.

 

I need to add a destination to my life map, that doesn’t have me on the pathway to a nervous breakdown. A stress-free life… I still don’t know why that possibility has never once occurred to me…

Anxiety: A Love Story

 I see it in him immediately. I am quiet as I each my nachos slowly and watchfully. His knee is bobbing up and down and he’s giving off a nervous energy. He keeps looking around at the people coming and going and he’s chatting about nothing then lapsing into awkward silence. He can’t control my rambunctious two-year old sitting next to me, just as he can’t control anyone’s reaction to her. He can’t control the appearance of things—the fact that I am so much older than him; that I have children and that no matter where we go together we look like a family. It’s plaguing him and I wonder to myself if it will eat away at him slowly as anxiety often does.

He works the late shift, and as a dutiful “significant other” I awaken at 3:00a.m. to drive into the city to pick him up. With my recent traffic issues I am scared and on edge. He gets in the car and I make a wrong turn. My anxiety level goes through the roof. I can’t breathe. My heart is beating out of my chest and he’s frustrated with me because he sees me panicking. He doesn’t raise his voice but it’s rough in tone and I am sensitive. It takes everything within me not to cry, I just have to get us out this city! A cop car appears out of nowhere and I am almost in full meltdown mode. I sloppily pull over to the curb, blind with fear and we watch gratefully as the cop passes us. He tells me to calm down and I can hear the effort of patience in his voice. I’m calm on the outside but I feel like I’m having a heart attack and I just might spontaneously combust. He’s staring at me from the passenger seat.

He doesn’t recognize that we aren’t that different from each other. Most people aren’t….they just want to be.