I encounter a lot of exhausted people these days. Once upon a time, I prided myself on not being among them but, as we all know, pride is what we exhibit before a fall. That fall did inevitably happen to me, and since then I’ve learned to admit my Energy Bunny is sometimes a lop-eared, droop-tailed mess.
“What’s the matter with me?” I used to ask, while my stamina trickled away. “You’re not as young as you used to be,” my husband would often respond. This, of course, is hardly the smart thing for a man to say to his wife. If you run into him, feel free to mention that. The fact is, I didn’t feel old. I felt tired, but I didn’t know why.
When well-meaning folks suggested my condition was stress-related, my eyes would roll. “Stress schmess,” I’d say to my pompous-ass self. Until the scales were ripped from my bloodshot eyes and I was forced to recognize stress as a buzz killer on several levels, pressing a dead weight on the psyche and the rest of our faculties too.
This revelation occurred during my maximum (to date) stress experience, the struggle with my now long-gone (I hope) cancer. Let me tell you a small story about that period and one of its many disturbing manifestations of stress. Bouts of spontaneous weeping which, for some reason, often occurred in parking lots.
We were living on Vashon Island in Washington State, a generally peaceful place. I suffered tearful breakdowns in just about every parking area of that tranquil town. In front of the Thriftway supermarket. Next to the library. Outside church. In the gravel space south of the arts center after dropping my granddaughter off for ballet class.
Without warning, I’d begin to sob, though inaudibly. My shoulders might tremble, but other than that and my wet cheeks, you could have walked straight past me and not noticed a thing. “Get a grip,” I’d whisper. “You’re weeping in the Thriftway parking lot.” Meanwhile, my fingers did my bidding and gripped the steering wheel in a stranglehold.
Thus attached to my automobile, I would drive slowly home, reminded of a phrase in the Washington State Drivers’ Manual that cautions against operating a vehicle when emotionally upset. Unfortunately, I wasn’t comfortable with calling someone up to say, “I just fell to pieces in the parking lot. Could you please rescue me?”
I’ve held myself back from writing here about this phase of my history. “Why should anybody be subjected to my whining?” I asked. Until I recalled Vanessa Redgrave, a personal icon of mine, speaking of a realization she had while acting in “The Year of Magical Thinking,” a play adapted from Joan Didion’s marvelous memoir.
“We’re all more traumatized than we think,” Vanessa said. By that measure, my parking lot story is appropriate to share because it could be someone else’s story, too. The specifics may vary. A shadowy corner rather than a parking lot. Dulled-out staring into space instead of weeping. The essence of the episode is the same.
Which means I need to come up with an insight, as posts like this one are supposed to do. Whining will not suffice. I must suggest an approach to the problem, an antidote to the syndrome. I suggest Post-It notes. Here’s what I did with them, or what they did for me, during the most stressed-out and exhausted days of my cancer challenge.
Each morning, on a single two-by-two-inch sticky note, I’d write down something specific I could do that day to feel less undone by my situation. A larger surface would have been unrealistic. In my opinion, four square inches of healing at a time is enough to expect of oneself when traumatized.
Some days I did what I had written down, some days not. Still, I persisted, and my psyche was the better for it. If you suspect that we, yourself included, may all be more shaken up by life than we care to admit, you might want to acquire some sticky notes of your own. They come in cheerful colors these days, even day-glow. Cheerful is good.
A Villain for Vanessa – Riverton Romantic Suspense Book 4 and Alice Orr’s other books are available from Amazon HERE. A Wrong Way Home – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 1 is a FREE EBOOK there.
Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com/