Nov 4, 2009

Frame of mind.

I've been thinking a lot lately about stress vs. anxiety, unhappiness vs. depression, goals vs. dreams, abundance vs. wealth and, of course, Tylenol vs. Motrin. I've also been shuffling around the house in my underwear quite a bit, so I don't claim to be thinking clearly, but I can't help but wonder what determines my state of mind — whether it has to do with how I'm hardwired or with what's actually going on in my life.

When a friend gave me a pep talk the other day about my attitude, I took it to heart and tried to look past my chronic anxiety and assess what's going on around me and in my head. Being analytical, I decided the best way to illustrate how I spend my time and emotional energy (lately) was with a pie chart. My conclusion is that it's not pretty, but it could be worse. I do have real stressors in my life demanding attention and draining my body and mind. I've tried to be proactive rather than reactive, but it's not really my nature to take things in stride and keep emotions in check. For example, I could label one slice "finances" and allow that to include my eleven-month stretch of unemployment and the seven-month delay in the house sale, realizing that when one or both of the aforementioned are resolved, the financial strain will lighten a bit. But my brain doesn't work that way. I compartmentalize, possibly so that I can direct my frustration towards specifics: the idiot neighbor, the person who didn't hire me , even the H1N1 virus that has made daily life so difficult for two weeks now.

Fortunately, this allows me to see that, while I may have been down lately, it's because I'm overwhelmed by life's complications, not because I'm depressed or weak. And while I'm wound tightly on my best days, there are valid reasons that stress has been taking its toll on me, physically and emotionally. On the other hand, I look at that tiny little slice of things that bring me joy, and I realize that I have been waiting for the problems to disappear before I get back to living my life. That's not a great recipe for happiness, particularly if I want to make progress toward realistic goals and strive to enjoy a sense of abundance rather than deprivation.

The joblessness sucks; it's been almost a year. I've never before had to stand in the grocery store and decide whether or not I can afford healthy food instead of cheap crap. This is one sacrifice I'm not willing to make, at least when it comes to Grace, so I make concessions elsewhere. I've learned to live with less, and I'm grateful for that. Slowly, it's becoming easier to focus on what we have rather than what we don't; to realize it's possible to have more fun doing things that don't cost money; to enjoy visiting friends in their homes or ours instead of going out to dinner. Why is it so complicated to learn to live simply?

Sometime soon, I hope to have a pie chart that looks more like this. This seems like a nice, normal life. I should probably leave a little "misc." slice for the unexpected, since I suspect raising a daughter will provide plenty of of unforeseen challenges opportunities. Also, I could get ambitious and include travel, volunteer work, book tours and that Pulitzer Prize, of course. But for now, four slices of pie is more than enough, as long as I have the right people with whom to share it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please share with us/me.