4 out of 10

stress-4Stress is ubiquitous. These days, perhaps, more than ever. My online friends’ posts have virtual worry lines; my in-the-flesh friends’ uniforms consist of pinched faces and slumped shoulders. Reasons for stress are major and minor, and some wear us down like a river makes a canyon with their constancy. Others are mere annoyances, gnats buzzing in our ears, but these are the stresses that often shoot us over the edge.

There are many ‘top stressor’ lists (when I googled ‘top life stressors’ I got 8.62 million hits), but one decent summary revealed these:

  • death of a loved one
  • separation or divorce
  • getting married
  • starting a new job
  • work place stressors
  • financial problems
  • moving to a new house
  • chronic illness or injury
  • retirement
  • transitioning to adulthood

Since May 1, I’ve been the lucky recipient of 4 of these challenges. Not to mention lots of lesser stressors (e.g., crazy landlord) and those wholly out of my control (e.g., #45 and his mayhem-making minions). No wonder my heart feels like it is pounding out of my chest, sleep is an elusive friend, and I cannot focus on things that typically bring me joy. Like writing.

So here are my bad boys—separation/divorce, work place problems, moving to a new house, and chronic illness. I’ll be writing about each major stressor, how it affects me, and what I’m trying to do to help myself cope, in subsequent posts. But meanwhile… how the heck are you? Which of the above (or add your own) stressful situations are you currently experiencing?





Pink coatEvery now and then an angel visits me and reminds me to be kinder. Monday morning arrives. Not any Monday morning but the Monday morning after the end of daylight savings, which means the congratulatory, almost giddy relief of an extra hour of sleep has worn off. I wake cranky and brain-fogged yet fully aware I have a too-full day yawning before me. The metro arrives, I find a seat by myself, and we pull away from the station. After two weeks of ‘single-tracking’, which means hour-plus commutes and crowded trains, this fact equates to a small miracle. The car is quiet, everyone on their phones or in their books, and the sky is lighter than before.

We go underground. After we pause at the first station, a loud slapping noise. A woman holding open the train door. This action: 1) makes a lot of noise; 2) delays the train; and 3) sometimes disables the car, which means everyone disembarks and waits forever until the train is manually pulled away and a new train arrives. We all yell at this woman keeping the door open. The conductor yells at her. And then another woman slowly makes her way down the escalator and into the car.

“I’m sorry,” she says to everyone in the car, and settles somewhere behind me. I’m irritable now, and can’t concentrate on the paper I’m reading so I play an idiotic game on my phone. Two stops later, someone settles beside me.

“Thank you,” she says.

I look up. It’s the woman who came late into the car.

“For what?” I ask.

“For making room for me.”

I wonder if she means room on the seat, or room in the car, or something larger, more metaphorical.

“It’s a two-seater,” I say, and we both kind of laugh.

We talk. She has a cane. She’s afraid of falling because she’s nauseous all the time. “It’s the medicines,” she says.

I take in her short-to-the-skull hair, the fact her stop is Hopkins, and I nod. “Cancer’s a bitch,” I say. She nods. Cancer is a bitch—and a bastard—and I tell her about my dad, and she tells me about her next and final round of chemo.

I tell her I like her coat. “It’s so pink, it brightens the day,” I say.

“That’s why I wore it,” she says.

My stop comes before hers. Trudging up the stairs at Lexington Market, I feel lighter. In these days of never-ending shootings and natural disasters and idiocies perpetrated by those in power, sometimes I forget that what might appear as a selfish gesture (one woman delaying a train by holding a door) may actually be an act of goodness. That my quick move to judgement may be wrong, and such inaccuracy contributes to the weariness and despair so much of us feel. The rest of the day I felt a tenderness toward everyone, a feeling that, in turn, made me more tender and open to the moment, and accepting it for what it is and not what it might be.

Welcome to my new digs. Come in, have a seat, share what’s happening in your writing, work, and personal lives. I’ll be hanging here for a while, and welcome any suggestions on how to better decorate. Peace…