Tag Archives: anxiety

Choosing My Memories

rainbow

I’ve never ever thought of myself as someone who crumbles under pressure.  Rising to the occasion and coming through in a hard spot are attributes of my self-identity; vain though it may be, I think of myself as someone who is generally good to have around in a bad situation.

For the past several months, though, waiting to hear if we’d be going to England or if the whole thing would fall through took over every square inch of my brain that wasn’t dedicated to necessities like breathing and parenting.  To be honest, even the parenting slid a bit in the last weeks when it seemed like after waiting for months on end, everything was going to fall apart and we wouldn’t be moving at all. 

Finally getting the confirmation that we are going has lifted a huge weight off of me and I feel like I’m taking deep breaths for the first time in ages.  In the end, this experience will be a good one for our family, but it took it’s toll; I didn’t even realize how crippled by anxiety I had become or how burdened I was by months and months of living in limbo until suddenly I felt hopeful again. 

Getting over-excited about potential is kind of my thing.  But this process — this whole nine long months of waiting and second-guessing — beat me down and made me skittish.  I was afraid to get excited, afraid to embrace it, afraid to let myself hope. 

It’s strange to look back over a period of your life and realize that your personality quite literally changed.  Optimism took a beating this year, and instead of looking ahead with excited anticipation to what will most certainly be a defining experience, I spent months waiting with bated breath for it all to go wrong.  I hate that.

I don’t want to look back on this time and have my memories be tinged with difficulty and negativity.  We’ve waited too long and wanted to do this for too many months and years to have it be anything less than happy and rewarding. 

So I’m re-writing my memory now.  I’m reverting to my inherent tendency for delirious excitement and overly hopeful certainty that everything is going to be perfect.  I’m calling this whole long waiting period the prelude to the grand adventure, and I know it will make the fun times to come that much sweeter for having had to wait so long to get to them.

It’s my choice how I look back and remember this time in our lives, and I’m choosing to remember it with joy.  Adventure is waiting for us and I can’t wait to meet it.

Intentionally Calm

B and Me

ice cream almost always helps relieve stress

While I’m certainly not the first person who has had to do it, packing up your whole house and moving to a different country in six weeks is a daunting task.

It’s more complicated than just moving, which we’ve done a few times.  We have more layers of planning this time — instead of just packing everything and putting it on a truck, we have to first determine what we’re even taking with us and what we’re storing.  But since we’re still using all our stuff — even the stuff we’re not going to take with us — we can’t just start sticking things in a storage unit. 

I’m more than a little overwhelmed when I think of the whole task.  I’m trying to manage my anxiety and take this project one day, one room, one closet-full-of-crap at a time.  I thought I was hiding my stress reasonably well.

I’ve been going through each room one at a time, starting with the kids’ rooms last week, just purging and sorting.  As I sat on the floor in B’s room one night, sorting through a pile of books and deciding what to take and what to store, she suddenly she burst out with “We can’t do it.  We’ll never get it all done!”

She went on, pointing to a small jar of paper clips, all the pictures on the walls, a bag of paperwork we still had to sort out.  She had realized, suddenly, the magnitude of the task in front of us: we would have to touch every, single, solitary item in this house — every scrap of paper, every thumb tack and random screw in the junk drawer, every toy in the play room — and decide what to do with each and every one.  We’d have to pack things, throw things out, store things, ship things, give things away.  And she freaked out — crying and really panicking.

I don’t know if she fed off my stress and that made her stressed.  I don’t know if she’s just mature enough and smart enough to comprehend the extent of what needs to get done.  I don’t know what made her suddenly see the whole task in front of us.  But I do know that the point of taking on this adventure — the core of what I want this experience of moving abroad to be for her — is NOT based on anxiety or fear.

I’m also pretty sure she’s the only other person in this family who actually understands the enormity of what we have to do (ahem).  But I don’t want a ten year old carrying that stress or allowing it to bother her. 

Not her burden to bear.

I agreed that it was a huge task; there’s no point in down playing it — we’ve got a crap ton of work to do in the next few weeks.  But I pointed out that her room was almost done.  And the boys’ room was done already.  And I’d finished several closets and cabinets and taken things to good will and storage…little by little, we were making progress.

We talked about breaking the giant task into smaller tasks.  We talked about not freaking out because it doesn’t help us get things done.  We talked about maybe not accumulating quite so much crap going on from here. 

She calmed down.  She agreed that she could already see we’d gotten a lot done. We moved on and packed up some books and got rid of some clothes she’d outgrown.

It’s my job to set the tone for this move.  And I have to be positive about it — because this is the beginning of our grand adventure.  The packing and storing and cleaning out this house is the first step. 

No matter how I feel inside (There’s SO, SO MUCH left to do.  Oh my God, so much.) I have to intentionally remain calm. 

And maybe I’ll be so outwardly calm, my insides will be forced to match.  (Probably not.  But at least I can fake it for the sake of the children.)

The Illusion of Control

bowl of ornaments

Some things in my life right now are so far out of my control, it’s laughable.

For a Type-A control freak like myself, this is discomfiting.

I don’t know when we’re moving.

We had carpet installed yesterday, and in doing so emptied the dressers, bookshelves, and closets for six people and piled all that crap in the room dead smack in the middle of my house.

We already had a large and anxiety-inducing pile of boxes in that room—stuff we intend to put in storage once we get a moving date.

So now ALL that stuff is just sitting there.  And that one room (dead smack in the center of my house) looks like…well, a dump, to be honest.

pano of blue room

Plus, it’s Christmas, which means my house is already more full of stuff than normal—garlands and wreaths and stockings and a tree that we had to move furniture to properly position.  In case you hadn’t noticed the pattern, stuff-out-of-place causes me to feel anxious.

I don’t want to put all the items from the bedrooms back upstairs until I purge the crap we don’t really need.  The only stuff going back up is stuff we’ll be taking to Europe with us, dammit.  So I have to sort through all those boxes of miscellany this week.

I can’t even move the boxes for storage until we rent a storage unit, which we can’t do until we have a move date, so they’re just there for the holidays.  Maybe I should just decorate that stack of boxes and make it look more festive and less depressing.

In instances like this, when I can’t make everything exactly the way I want it to be, I react in one of two ways:

Sometimes, when there are things going on that I can’t control, I latch onto the other things in my life that I can control and then I control the crap out of them.  (Den is a literal dump, so full of boxes and stacks of crap that you can’t walk in there?  Guess what?  The kitchen is freaking SPOTLESS.  I will clean that kitchen to within an inch of it’s life.)

Other times, when I’m feeling unable to control things, I just sort of surrender to the chaos and let everything go.  I basically give up, allow chaos to reign, and then when I am back in the driver’s seat, I attack everything at once.  (Den is a literal dump, so full of boxes and stacks of crap that you can’t walk in there?  Guess what?  Kitchen looks like crap too.  So does the family room.  Whatever–I’ll clean it all at once when I regain control of everything else in my life.)

Today, I’m leaning toward the former method, probably because the den has only been full of piles for just over 24 hours now.  Eventually the effort of maintaining sanity in the face of such disarray will wear me down and I’ll give in and let everything go to pot for a few days.  My house will be so cluttered and messy that I’ll be short-tempered and snippy and yell at everyone for everything.  Then I’ll attack the pile with a vengeance, clean the whole room out, and be fine.  And have three carloads of stuff for Good Will.

Embrace the chaos.  That should be my new motto.

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