When the Stress Piles Up

5 Aug

It’s August. School looms ahead. College looms ahead. I thought I was prepared and had it all under control this year. I suppose I gave the Divine a good chuckle. This week was supposed to be about me. This was the week that my youngest is at band camp, my middle is not quite ready to start packing for college, my oldest is moved into his new apartment and finishing up his summer internship and my husband is traveling for business. This was supposed to be the week to get the house and my life in order to be ready for the last bits of family time we’ll have this weekend and be ready to dive into the school year calm, cool and collected. Instead, the chaos is taking over.

On Monday, the marching band director asked me if I was still doing prizes for our band camp awards program. I didn’t think we were doing the awards this year so I’ve done nothing. I also recycled the paperwork because I thought the program was ending. This was something that took six weeks last year and now I have two. I’ve asked for help, but I’m not getting much response, and as much as I would like to be able to be the one to say that I just can’t do it, I know how much the kids enjoyed it, so I’ll do what I can, especially since I may have recycled the paperwork, but I didn’t purge the files, so at least I have a list to go by. Stress is not solved, but it is coming to a manageable level.

I have a wedding video to finish. The wedding was at the end of March. This isn’t something I volunteered for initially, but when the videographer backed out on my husband’s nephew, we were asked to video the wedding. We’ve done it for other weddings and said yes. Several things have slowed this down. I had volunteered to do the senior video for my middle son’s class, which took hours upon hours of time to create. Most people loved it, but one person didn’t and made their feelings known on social media. The amount of support from other parents was overwhelmingly beautiful and took the sting out of the negative, but it made it difficult to get enthusiastic about diving back in. Also, the program we use was upgraded and although they tell me that it’s better, I find it frustrating trying to do things that were easier to do before the upgrade. Have you ever heard of the expression “complicating a one car funeral”? It’s the expression that comes to mind when working on this video. It doesn’t help that my tech guru aka my husband had been out of town most of the summer for work and can’t help most of the time.

Then there is the school situation for my youngest. He’s bright and funny and kind. His teachers love him, initially. They are impressed with how engaging he can be and how well he expresses himself when they speak to him. Unfortunately, they are not so impressed by his output. There is not a name for it, but what my son thinks and what he can get to the page are vastly different. I have always said if my son could go through school orally, he would get straight A’s. That is not how school works, however, and by the end of the third quarter, most of the teachers throw up their hands in frustration because they think he is just being stubborn and noncompliant when he’s being the same way he’s been since he started school. My favorite time is when they tell me how he is as if I don’t already know. That’s when I know we just have to ride it out, yet again. This year, we have the option of requesting that he be put in a class where he learns at his own pace rather than having to sit in classroom lectures. He will have more individual attention and will not have to adapt to the organizational systems of several teachers, an attempted task that proved disastrous last year since he has a 504 with executive skills listed as his disability. Originally, we were told we would know whether he was in the program by the beginning of June. That got pushed back because of changes in the district and can you guess when it’s all happening instead? Yep, it’s this week. I would move Heaven and Earth to help my children find their path to success, so stress or not, we deal with it.

This is all in addition to just keeping up with life as a mostly single parent right now, and for those that single parent 365 days per year, I salute you. I want to whine and complain. I want to talk about how crappy my circumstances so I can be a victim and have everyone feel sorry for me, but I know that’s a waste of my time and everyone else’s. I tried that at our family’s 4th of July picnic. I was feeling the same way and was sharing with some family members about how our air conditioning went out, our dog needed surgery and all four of our cars needed repair within a month. We spent over $6,000 to fix it all, and I was feeling very unsure about being able to pay our portion of our sons’ college expenses. I was looking for compassion. I was looking for sympathy. It’s not what I got. Instead, I got stories about how bad other people had it, and it made me think of something I heard years ago about sharing your problems. The premise is that half the people you know don’t care about your problems and the other half are glad you have them. I realized that on a deep level that day, and I will be sure to remember it.

So, what to do about all of this? First, I am making sure to take care of myself. Just typing that shows me how far I’ve come in my life. There was a time I would drop everything important to me to do everything that was important to everyone else. I would fret about deadlines and being accommodating because that’s what I thought a “good” person would do. I would skip meals or eat meals that are bad for me so that I could make everyone happy, and I could be the hero of the day. I like being the hero or heroine if you prefer, but in the past it has often come at a great cost. I get mean and angry because I’m living by someone else’s standards rather than my own. I do what is most important to them without regard for my or my family’s wellbeing. It makes for a cranky mom and lots of shouting and meltdowns, mostly on my part. Yes, my friends, I am a recovering people pleaser, and the more time I spend in recovery, the more I realize I didn’t please anyone. I was passive aggressive. I deflected my anger with myself or a situation and took it out on my family. I was not the nice person I intended and desperately wanted to be. I have been in recovery for a while now, and I’ve learned so very much. I’ve learned that when my anger and stress levels begin to ramp up, it’s time for me to slow down. I used to clean when I got angry. I could clean an entire two story house if I was provoked enough, but in the process, I was usually finding fault with every family member as I cleaned up mess after mess that wasn’t mine, and I wasn’t nice about it. My family would scatter, which would make me even angrier because I would feel abandoned and alone, but who could blame them for wanting to escape the screaming banshee I’d become? I did at the time, but I see life so differently now.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in life is that we may not be in control of what happens, but we have choices about how we respond. Yesterday, when the stress was getting to me, I went to the rec center and walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes. While I was walking, I listened to something inspirational and spiritual. When I was finished, I could focus again in peace and the day moved more smoothly. I could deal with the bumps in the day without anger. Instead, I was almost amused by them, and that feels so much better than cleaning rage. I also make sure that I meditate during times of stress. Some days it feels like I just don’t have the time, and on those days, I know it’s most important, so even if I only have ten minutes, I sit in silence and just breathe. I focus on connecting with my highest purpose and the best outcome for the day. It has changed my life. Now when problems pop up, I look for ways to incorporate that into my highest purpose. I look for ways to have a better outcome. I am focused on the solution rather than the problem. It’s amazing to me how much time we spend on the problem rather than on a solution that works for everyone. When you focus on solutions and positive outcomes, the whole world shifts, you no longer look at situations as adversarial. It isn’t about us or them. It is no longer a war on anything. It’s about helping and honoring people. It’s about serving the Divine in the most sacred way. It doesn’t always work out the way you intended, but with intentions and actions filled with hope, grace and focus on your highest calling, it almost always works out enough for you to walk away knowing you did your very best.

Finally, putting my feelings into words helps me to find my center. Nearly every day I write, usually after meditating. While meditating clears my head and lifts my spirit, writing after meditating allows me to permanently record the incredible messages and feelings I have afterward. It has been said that prayer is when you talk to God. Meditation is when God talks to you. I have done both for a very long time and have found that to be true most of the time, and writing, for me, has become an extension of that. Sometimes I keep the lessons to myself because I know they are just for me. Some days, like today, I am compelled to share them. It’s difficult sometimes to admit how I used to be and is an exercise in humility at times. For those who are angry and scared and wish they could be different, though, I hope it gives hope that change is possible. Peace is possible, even when the world seems to be falling in around your ears. Peace comes from doing the things that calm you. For me that is walking and meditating and writing and spending time with family and friends. Especially when it seems like you don’t have time for any of it, it is most important to make time for soothing things in your life. So, I will continue this week to walk, meditate and write, and luckily for me, some of my favorite women are available to have a girl’s night in this week. Additionally, I’ll have all of my family under one roof for the first time since July 4th and possibly the last time until Thanksgiving, so we will be sitting down to family dinner this weekend to connect and enjoy each other’s company. Each of these helps keep me sane. It keeps me whole, and it keeps me focused on the best outcomes. It is part of my higher calling to share the shenanigans of my life. I hope in some way, it helps you cope with life better, connect with your higher calling and move toward your best outcome. If it does, I have truly succeeded. Thanks for being you and have a great day!

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2 Responses to “When the Stress Piles Up”

  1. Tathina August 5, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

    Excellent that you are taking care of yourself! It seems so funny how challenging it is to put yourself first, to really take care of yourself and live authentically in a world that teaches us to live as beggars. Awesome to see your courage blossoming. 🙂 Just being in the moment with the peace that is always here even in a storm of tension. I’ve learned to use this tension as a dharma bell to bring my attention back to the moment, as I have no control of what is not here. Namaste’ ❤

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  1. When the Stress Piles Up | karenbemmes aka Better Living Daily - August 5, 2015

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