Tag Archives: Stress

The Most Important Item

“If you don’t have time to meditate for 20 minutes, you should meditate for an hour.”

I ran across this saying a few days ago. At first read, it made sense, but then I did a U-turn. Say what?

I had to reread it several times to finally get it. Of course! If your life is so hectic, if you are so busy, if your to-do list merely gets longer and longer with each passing day, then you won’t be able to find the time or space for 20 minutes of downtime.

And if that is the case, then it’s condition critical. You have become a prime candidate to self-combust. It happens to many of us. It’s happened to me. The first time I noticed it was a long time ago.

I was a young wife to a husband who traveled constantly, a young mother of three children, and a young nurse manager of three departments. By the age of 33, I had acquired 24-hour responsibility in all three aspects of my life.

Looking back, I don’t know how I did it, but I can still see myself in my hospital office taking a few moments at the end of each full day to think about what had been accomplished and what needed doing the next day. My last act for the day was to write down what I had to attend to the following day, by priority, the most important item taking number one on the list.

But before I did that, I would soberly assess each listing from the previous day and cross it out if it had been taken care of. If not, it carried over to the next day and was re-prioritized, triaged, as to what position it should take on the new list.

I would then leave the notepad open with the list in full view right smack in the middle of my computerless desk so that it would be the first thing I’d see upon entering my small office the next morning.

Those few minutes, with my office door closed, were the only moments of solitude, of reflection, that I had each day. Once I grabbed my things, threw open my door and flew down the stairs to my car, I was already in transition, planning for the needs of my family.

Needless to say, this didn’t end well. For me. At the end of two years, my departments were running seamlessly and the answer my successor gave to my staff’s question, “What are you going to change?” was: Nothing, Irma changed what needed changing.

And now Irma was going to change herself. I felt proud of having worked hard to improve things for all, but in the process, I had ignored myself. I became ill and ended up needing major surgery. When my husband’s company wanted to transfer him, and he told me there’d be less travel involved, I said yes, and gave my notice.

We moved cross-country and I cut back on work hours. I also cut back on responsibility, preferring to work as staff, and saying no politely for several years when approached about management positions. I concentrated on my family and our newest blessing, a baby girl.

I tried my best to manage the stress of everyday life and then one day, RA came calling. And that underscored the fact that I definitely had to stop at the end of my day. I had to make time to review what had been accomplished, and what had not, in the quest for regaining my health. I had to reflect on what had worked, and what hadn’t, in order to make plans for the next goal.

I had to learn a new form of triage:

Relax.

Stop.

Breathe.

Think about what truly matters.

The most important item on the list is you.

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How Do You Spell Pain?

shingles

Pain spelled with angry red bumps.

So, life caused stress, which I believe triggered RA, which caused me to have to take a drug called Methotrexate, which then caused me to be immunosuppressed, which then left me vulnerable to come down with shingles.

I think I have that right. I might have missed a few steps. All I know is that yesterday, I reached the mountain peak of stress. The pain was out of this world. I spent it drugged up with Percocet. Kept to the every six hours dosage. When I was awake I could not think due to the pain. And to relieve the pain, I knocked myself out.

Which was good in a way. It relieved the stress of knowing my daughter is in Boston. Arrived right before this horrific event happened. Walked those streets right before. God help me.

I was sitting in my doctor’s exam room while all this was happening. Upon leaving, the young nurse engaged me in conversation, wanted some advice about pursuing her career. Talking to her made me forget the pain, but upon exiting the doctor’s office I heard my husband on the phone talking about Boston. I freaked, inside.

Rarely does my stoicism fail me, but my heart was pounding as it took two attempts to reach my daughter. I envisioned myself on a plane to Boston already.

Today, I have a new stressor. She is driving back to NYC with the rest of her things and no other company than her GPS. I tell myself that when I was 22, I was married with a baby. But, no matter what I tell myself, she is still my baby.

Thankfully, I think I have crested the mountain called Agony and am on the way down the other side. What started out as a dainty little row of pink dots has morphed into an angry, red, diffused eruption. It hurts and it hurts to look at it.

But, I know it doesn’t hurt as much as the people of Boston are hurting. My daughter spent four years there and I feel an attachment to that historic town. My heart goes out to all involved.

Bon Voyage

Taj Mahal, Agra, India.

Image via Wikipedia

It’s five o’clock in the morning and I’ve been awake for hours. Thinking, thinking, thinking. And there is a lot to think about. There is always a lot to think about, isn’t there? And the more you think, the more stressed you feel.

Stress is an aggravator, especially to someone with a chronic condition like RA. Over the years, I have noticed that stress exacerbates my symptoms. Of course, I blame stress for triggering my disease in the first place. Maybe I was predisposed to develop this, but I tend to feel the stress I lived under brought it on so early in my life.

I have come to terms with the fact that I have this cross to bear. It has become lighter in the past few years and for that I am grateful. Realizing that others have it so much worse, makes me feel like giving thanks every hour on the hour. And I do give thanks, for my wellness.

This morning it is not my RA that has me in knots, but my child. My child is going away. She is going around the world. And it scares the living daylights out of me. She chose as her study abroad to actually go abroad, a round the world cruise.

I tell myself it is the opportunity of a lifetime. I would have jumped at this chance myself. But, I would have been the one enjoying it, not the one left behind to worry. Big difference!

I will try not to worry, easier said than done. For now my days will be filled with getting her ready to go. There are supplies to be bought, packing to do, flight to book, and excursions to plan. She is excited and I am terrified.

I know that every day my stress will increase a notch, till it reaches its peak on the day she flies away to another country to board the ship. Part of me hoped her financial aid would not come through, though she would have been devastated and in truth, I would have been as well, for her.

But, the fates have aligned. She wants to be a travel writer and this trip will fill her bucket list, as far as fodder for writing material for years to come. I am happy for her, I am.

She will keep a journal of her adventures and I will keep a journal of my days waiting for her return. While she is seeing the Great Wall and the Taj Mahal, I will be envisioning her joy. But, while she is riding camels in the desert and shark cage diving in the deep, I will be home biting my nails.

My various writing projects will keep me busy; Tai Chi and exercise will help me ablate the stress, but there’s no getting around it. It’s gonna be a long four months.