Saturday, March 17, 2012

All Stressed out and Nowhere to Go

That should be my mantra.

Never content to deal only with present circumstances, I have a nasty habit of catastrophizing. For the past several days, for example, I have been dealing with a bout of vertigo. A rational, intelligent person would deal with the vertigo with a reasonable amount of concern about how it will affect her day-to-day, moment-by-moment plans. And on the surface, that's what I do.
Because I do, after all, want others to perceive me as rational and intelligent.

But look a little deeper, and you'll find the catastrophizing lurking. What if this goes on for weeks (because it has before)? What if it hits when I'm on vacation? Or when I have a professional obligation that is some distance away? What if everyone just thinks I'm a hypochondriac - the helpless, lazy mess that I feel like I am?

And that's where it begins. Never mind that I've survived the annoyance of weeks of this before (maybe that's why I worry it will happen again). Or that my husband has picked up the slack, doing the transporting I can't, and that my friends have pitched in as well, making sure my daughter had someplace to stay when schedules changed. Or that, in the scheme of things, as annoying as this is, and as helpless as it makes me feel, it is soooo minor.

Borrowing trouble. That's what my dad used to call it. And no matter how I try, it's what I seem to do. It's something I've always done to a certain extent, but as I get older and gain life experience - both good and bad - I seem to be borrowing trouble in more creative and enterprising ways.

There's a reason you have to look deep to find the catastrophizing, for example. My rational mind tells me to just chill out and take one day - one moment if necessary - at a time. And so the worries run, burying themselves in my subconscious where they send out little Morse Code messages of worry - shapeless, formless, amorphous...and insidious. My rational mind, developed over years of experience and honed by habit, has chased them into hiding where they lurk, the darkness giving them the power to create something out of nothing.

The good thing is that is sometimes takes only a glimmer of hope - a piece of good news, a task that's easier than expected, a reminder that one bad day is not the harbinger of years of the same - to disarm the worries. And when I let these rational thoughts triumph, I do have somewhere to go - somewhere positive and desirable. Worries acknowledged lose some of their edge, and applying reason to them is like pouring salt on an icy sidewalk - like the ice, the worries melt and drain away. Sure, the right circumstances can cause them to refreeze and become hazardous, so I just have to be careful not to let that happen.

And although that is more easily said than done, I think I'm up for the task. Because allowing myself to get all stressed out truly does leave me nowhere to go.

Nowhere good anyway.

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