What stresses me out

I’m sitting here eating chocolate and fretting without knowing why. I feel stressed this afternoon and there’s no good reason, unless it’s that it’s nearly 100° here on the first of October. And I’ve just eaten the last bit of chocolate, damnit.

There’s no good reason, but there’s a number of less-than-good reasons for this tenseness in my shoulders and inability to breathe deeply. There’s the heat wave and my lack of chocolate, of course, and if we’re opening the list of stressors to things like that, then we must also include: the recent reemergence to prominence of my double chin in my morning reflection, Sarah Palin times infinity [original video link broken, replaced with similar], the bag-half-unpacked/fridge-poorly-stocked/apartment-not-quite-clean situation following last weekend’s (pleasant) trip to Denver and this weekend’s trip to San Jose, the fact that tonight’s comics class will suck up yet another four hours of this week’s precious time, Erik’s rapidly increasing stress, the dirty dishes currently residing in the sink, the dinner that doesn’t presently exist in either the fridge or in my imagination, my tutors who haven’t turned in their monthly reports, emails left too long unanswered, phone calls not returned, overdue library books I haven’t had time to read, the stupid banner ad flirting at me from above my Hotmail page (there, I’ve closed that window, if only all problems were so easily killed), the piles of comics script pages and notes and mail and election information all over my desk, and… just to reiterate, since it’s particularly annoying at a time like this, I feel fat.

I was talking with someone recently about how badly we feel like we have to do everything well, to the point that we can’t keep perspective and tiny things are capable of overwhelming us. I, for instance, have avoided going to the grocery store just because it seemed like so much decision-making: what should I buy at the store? what’s healthy? what would save money? what’s eco-friendly? what will I want to eat this week? what do I have time to cook? what shoes should I wear? which purse should I bring? where are my reusable grocery bags? do I need to put on sunblock before I go? On a bad day, I just don’t feel capable of dealing with all these choices even before I get to the stupid store, much less coping once I’m there and back. As my friend put it, somewhat more bleakly, “Some days I wake up and I just feel like a failure, because there are so many things I’ve already done wrong.” I don’t know where this pressure comes from — we could make guesses, but they don’t explain how this affects some people so much more than others — but it can be really debilitating. At worst, I remain naked in bed beating myself up over how I can’t do a simple thing like go to the store. At best, I get the job done, but the immense breadth of potential of all these “wrong” decisions remains with me, buzzing critically in my ear, revving itself up for a fresh attack on a more vulnerable day. I know yoga teaches me to just be, but it’s so hard sometimes. I don’t seem to know how to do it.

I am not sure whether this potential for wrongness is what’s getting to me today; it doesn’t seem like it should be the problem, since my worries (as catalogued above) tend toward the mistake-already-made, like the half-unpacked bag, rather than the mistake-waiting-to-be-made. But I think the two states of mind are related, as they both pertain to a ruthless internal censor who judges my every action on some impossible set of criteria. The apartment is messy, therefore I’m a poor housekeeper. I haven’t written anything today, therefore I’m bad at time management and I’ll never be a successful artist. I’m fat, and I’m eating chocolate, therefore I have no self-control. The mistakes already made are no less stressful than those I haven’t yet committed, and may even be more stressful, since they give me so much fodder for self-loathing.

Clearly, the real issue here is that I am unable to just accept things as they are. I insist on seeing everything as a personal judgment rather than an objective state of affairs that I may or may not have been able to control. I’m always wondering what I could have done or what I should do, but I’m so afraid of messing up, I do nothing, and then it makes me feel even worse because all I can see is the big story called What I’m Doing Wrong. I just can’t seem to let things go and move on to the next moment. Well, this has happened to me often enough now that I know how to fix it, if I can just get myself together enough to get started. The key is to do one thing at a time, to address just one tiny stressor and not worry about any of the other things until I’ve dealt with that first one. And that’s what I’ll do for now. One moment at a time… that’s the ticket. I’ll just clear my desk for now and not think about my overweight or how much free time I’ll get tomorrow. Deep breaths. One thing at a time.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]