Tag Archives: stress

Convenience Comes at a Cost

I am in the shower.  The water is lovely blazing hot and I’ve been freezing all day and I’ve just soaped up my whole body when my cell phone, sitting across the bathroom on the window sill, rings. 

I ignore it.  I am taking 10 minutes to get clean and warm, dammit, and I’m not hopping across the cold tile floors naked and wet and soapy to see who it is.  They can wait.

Ten seconds later, my phone pings.  I’ve gotten a message. 

Five seconds later, another ping.

Suddenly I am anxious.  I am still covered in soap – shampoo now actually – but three notifications seem like someone is really trying to get in touch with me.

The phone pings again.

My brain, given to drama and hyperbole under the best of conditions, is now racing along, conjuring horrible scenario after horrible scenario.  Something terrible may have happened to one of the children and the school is trying to reach me.  Owen’s hockey team was taking a bus to Cambridge for a match.  What if the bus got in an accident?  Or Matt, driving to Cambridge to see Owen’s hockey game, may have gotten in a car accident.  MAYBE MATT GOT IN A CAR ACCIDENT WITH THE BUS.

For the next 45 seconds of mad rinsing of conditioner and complete foregoing of shaving my half-shaven left leg, I am certain something bad awaits me.  Something very bad probably.

I get out of the shower, wrap a towel around me but don’t really dry off, grab my phone.

I have missed a call from SkyTV.  They’ve called three times in two days to see if we want to switch whatever cable service we currently have to a different service, blah blah I was not really listening the first time when I said they’d have to call back and talk to my husband who handles the TV stuff.

I have gotten two messages from a friend on the east coast of the United States, who I had messaged when I woke up this morning in England, hours before anyone on the east coast would be awake, and she is now responding, having gotten her kids off to school and checked her phone.

I have gotten one message on a group chat with a bunch of friends about buying tickets to a show coming up in London.

My children are fine, presumably.  My husband is still driving to Cambridge, I assume unharmed.

My hair is greyer than it was a few minutes earlier.  My worry lines deeper.

Cell phones have made so many things about life simpler, it’s true.  But at what cost?  We’re never off, man.  Never.

I remember being in the car once with the kids, going to meet Matt somewhere for something, and his phone was dead.  We’d planned where to meet and at what time, but that had been hours earlier and we hadn’t spoken in the time between.  The kids and I sat waiting, assuming Matt would be along as planned any minute.

One of them asked what we’d do if daddy didn’t arrive.  How would we know where to meet him?  What if he was going to be late?  What if he got a flat tire?  What if when he said meet him in the parking lot of the train station he meant the OTHER train station?  What if he was sitting there right now wondering if we were running late?

“This is how it used to be before cell phones,” I told them.  They didn’t understand.  They’ve never lived in a world where you couldn’t instantly contact anyone and everyone you knew via multiple digital platforms at any given second.

I told them how when I was a kid, if I needed to get picked up after school by nana we had to plan it in advance, know what time, where we would meet.  That if something came up during the day and plans changed, we had to either ask to use the school phone in the office or make a call from a pay phone (and I never had money on me).  We couldn’t wing it. 

If we went to a crowded place to meet someone, we had to specify precisely, exactly where we were going to meet.  We couldn’t just wander around on our phones, talking to each other and relaying what we saw and describing where we were in relation to some large stationary object until eventually we walked up to each other, still talking over the phone while waving hello.

Even as I described all this, it seemed like a hazy, distant memory.  Like I was pulling all of it from recesses of my brain I could barely access.  I’ve become so accustomed to the convenience of instant communication that even though I lived through it for the first twenty-plus years of my life, even I could barely fathom how we got along back then.  Really, what did we do if we got to the grocery store and forgot what we needed?  My dad couldn’t call my mom to say, “right — milk, bread, and what else?”  He had to know in advance, he had to call her before he left work and say do you need anything from the store and then write down anything she requested so he didn’t forget.

It seems so complicated.  So much harder.

But then again, my mom probably never had a heart attack in the shower with one leg half-shaved because she’d gotten three consecutive text messages and missed a call and spent the next several minutes imagining the demise of half her family members. 

It’s a trade-off, I guess.

Moving Abroad: The Part Where I Try Not To Lose My Mind

Oh man.  There are so many moving pieces involved in this upcoming move, and I’m only in control of maybe half of them.  For a Type-A Control Freak like myself, that’s disconcerting.

We’re waiting on about a million things to fall into place, but I have a feeling it will be a waterfall effect: once the first thing happens, they’ll all just happen in a row.  I mean, I hope that’s how it goes.  Otherwise I may lose my mind.

I’m trying really, really hard not to stress TOO much about the things I can’t control.  (I swear, I’m trying.)  I’m focusing on the things I can do. 

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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.)

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