Life in the Stress Lane
I recently aired a show which, without my planning it that way, had a theme: stress. Among the participants in that show was Feminist.com's own Marianne Schnall. She had some excellent advice for handling those times when the world moves too fast and your feet (and brain) just cannot keep up. I nodded understandingly as I wrote the show, comfortably handling what has become a certain level of chaos. I had it under control.
Then all hell broke loose.
Imagine, if you will, selling a house, planning a move, then, with less than two weeks to go, discovering that all plans were changing and a new home must be found. Oh yes, that's what happened. At that same moment of discovery, my much loved college aged son arrived in a van, ready to move in for the summer. And his adventurous sister took off for her orientation for a summer job that will have her camping in state parks for upwards of three months. Possibly alone.
In addition, I was fretting about my very first experience reading one of the stories from my very first published short story collection. While trying to hurry back from a business trip to New York City in time to make it to the bookshop. I did not actually see the top of my head blow off, but I'm convinced it did.
I am a champion worrier. I've spent many years perfecting the art and despite having had a mostly fortunate life, I am always convinced that it's merely the calm before the storm. It could be genetic. My father's family is from the former Yugoslavia and I often heard them clucking over some neurotic relative, explaining, "We're Slavs and Slavs love to suffer." I don't know if it's true, but I've borrowed trouble so many times I'll never be able to repay the debt. This little episode was one of the biggest challenges to my inner Pollyanna that I've ever faced. I have never, ever been homeless, but it was a distinct possibility this time. And there is no box big enough to house me, my guy, my son and four contentious cats. Plus two studios.
To say that it was a potentially explosive situation is to understate the facts.
Here's what happened:
First, I discovered how kind people are. At least three different people offered places to live on a temporary basis. They ranged from "I've got an extra room,” to "We've got a house you can rent as long as you need it." Second, I learned that my guy, a hyper-sensitive fellow who doesn't handle chaos well, has reserves of calm that I never suspected. There were some tough hours, of course, but all in all he had as good an attitude as you can possibly have when facing the possibility of moving vans with no destination in mind.
Third, my son proved to be a great guy (I always suspected, but have never had to put it to the test). His positive attitude, willingness to help and reassurance has been more welcome than he can possibly imagine.
Fourth, my daughter's good sense is now confirmed. What sounded like a scary summer that I worried she would clutch tightly no matter how dangerous it might be has instead turned into what sounds like an adventure I can't wait to share when I have a free weekend, and she's looking out for herself very nicely.
Fifth, the universe likes us. It really likes us. Not only did we find a place in time, we found a place that's perfect for us and we should be settled for many years to come.
And finally, I learned that I can control my stress level. I can refuse to dwell on the terrifying what-if's and focus on the next necessary step.
So when I next write, I hope to have boxes unpacked, studio rewired, and calm restored. But if not, I'll handle it.
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Barnett is the producer and host of 51%
The Women’s Perspective,
a weekly women’s issues radio show carried nationally on NPR,
ABC and Armed Forces Radio stations. 51% The Women’s Perspective
is part of WAMC
- Northeast Public Radio's national productions. "The View From Outside," Susan Barnett's new collection of short fiction, is available in eBook format at Amazon and Barnes and Noble through Hen House Press. You can connect with her on Facebook.
Photo by DB Leonard.