I’ve been blogging for a long time.
This isn’t relevant, really, except that when I started blogging my audience was limited to my family. I’m pretty sure there were entries read by nobody but my mom. Most of those entries are offline now, but it’s still hard for me to write here, sometimes, and remember very clearly that I’ve got a bigger audience now.
Which is my long-winded way of saying that there’s stuff going on, and I can’t go into detail, so I’m going to write about stress.
I’ve never been particularly good at handling stress. This isn’t unusual, but we all seem to have this idea that everybody else deals with the world so much better than we do. The truth is we’ve all got our game faces, and some are easier to see through than others, but often we don’t even know how competent we’re looking to the rest of the world. I drove my kid back and forth across half the state this week and wasn’t late for anything; I probably looked like Cheerful Relaxed Hyper-Competent Mom.
But it was exhausting. Keeping and changing schedules, making calls to set up appointments, getting out of bed in the morning: exhausting.
We all have times like this in our lives. Someone reminded me yesterday that it’s not going to stay like this, and that’s an important thing to remember. When it feels horrid and unbearable, you need to be able to recognize that you’re not facing endless endurance. This will pass, one way or another, and that means you can survive it for this one moment more.
Or maybe you can’t. Maybe you need to collapse. Maybe you need to fall down and weep for a while.
And if you do? That’s all right. That boulder can wait two damn minutes before you push it back up the hill again.
When I was in college, I thought I was a composed, controlled person. It took me some time to realize I wasn’t composed—I was simply stretched so taut I couldn’t feel anything anymore. Added stress was barely a change. I didn’t register anything until I snapped, which wasn’t a thing I did much. And afterward I’d just become that rubber band again; after all, it worked for me. Most of the time. 80/20 rule, right?
Pro tip: This is probably not the best way to handle stress in your life.
I’ve always felt strongly about contingency plans. I hate surprises; I want to anticipate everything. I think of worst-case scenarios not because I’m a natural pessimist, but because no matter what I want to know what to do. I don’t want something to happen that I’m not ready to handle. Which would be fine, if everything in my life were entirely under my control.
I think that’s why I write, actually. Because I get to be a dictator. Elena may blow up every relationship in her life, but if she does, it’s because I made her do it. (Sorry, Elena dear.) I can be prepared for everything.
In real life, though, we need a support system. Family, friends, even medical professionals. A good writing group. I’m blessed, I have to say, in all of these areas. Whatever I write next is owed to so many people I’m almost guaranteed to forget a name.
(Can we talk about acknowledgements for a moment? I was so excited the first time I wrote the acknowledgements for a book. Now…I’d write them differently. I know few readers read them anyway. I don’t know that the list of people I thanked would be different—well, it would for Book 3 😉—but I’d be a hell of a lot more honest about what I was thankful for. I’m kind of looking forward to writing the acknowledgements for the next book.)
I’m a solitary person by nature. I like people; I enjoy talking to them. But left to my own devices I tend to isolate to the point that I’m pretty much indistinguishable from the last survivor in an apocalyptic novel. I’ve been fortunate, I think, in that the phases of my life generally forced me out of that. Having a child, for example: I was a disorganized, frantic mess for the first 7-8 years of her life, but she needed me to go out and do things and sometimes extrovert a little, so I did. I found it helpful to have the optional part of it taken out of my hands: this is what the Small Human needs, so you have to do it. I found abilities—and bravery—that I didn’t know I had.
And perhaps this latest raft of Life Stress will work out the same way. Perhaps I’ll find myself able to do things for others I could never do for myself, and perhaps that’ll actually make me better at self-care. So far, though…not so much. I spend a lot of time reminding myself of the things I cannot change. (That Serenity Prayer thing—I’m not a religious person, but it really does nail it.) I spend a lot of time figuring out what I need to do to get through this moment.
Most of that is writing.
I wrote a whole book about life and death and hope. I wrote a wee, fluffy short story about…life and death and hope. These are, I suppose, basic human questions, the things we all have to work through eventually: life, death, hope, and love.
I write about love, too. I think I’ve always written about love.