stress

A Funny Thing Happened When I …E X P A N D E D

I’ve had a few hard weeks of narrating pretty much around the clock. This is due to the publishing push for Christmas books and a few books that had late manuscripts. This has meant I’ve been waking up at 3 or 4 AM, recording in my little booth, taking the kids to school, driving an hour to a studio and recording there, picking the kids up, doing mom stuff like cooking and homework and bedtimes, recording an hour when the kids are tucked in, and then waking up at 3 or 4 AM to start all over again. Plus, the same schedule on the weekends, because…weekends don’t exist when you freelance. But in all this craziness, I’m also trying to carve some time to take care of myself. You know, walk, and breathe, poop, get a pedicure, say hi to my husband. Important stuff. (Especially the pooping.)

The schedule is lightening and today, I met with a yoga instructor to go over postures and everything I’ve forgotten. As she gave me instructions to warm up “Move you right elbow under your left”, it took me a moment to get my body to respond. I have spent so much time being perfectly still and NOT moving, that there was an actual delay in every move she asked me to make. My brain knew what it wanted to do, but my body just couldn’t respond right away.

I felt sort like the Tin Man before his, uhm, lube job. Is that the right term? That can’t be the right term.

 

6819213_std

 

Take two: I felt like the Tin Man before Dorothy greased him all up and got him ready to perform.

Ahem.

I felt rusty.

I folded over, I swayed like a rag doll, I slowly remembered what side of my body was LEFT and what side was RIGHT. I tried to make myself breathe audibly instead of silently. (It’s hard to unlearn breathing quietly, and something I try to do when narrating.)

Then…well…she asked me to expand. Not in those words. She told me to stand and spread my legs out as far as they would go, then reach my arms out as far as they would go…and really R E A C H. Then I was to look up and breathe. Audibly. I did all of this. I stretched, I reached, I looked up, I breathed a breath of a goat…and then…I started to cry. Little tears. Maybe she didn’t notice, but inside I was shivering.

 

Enjoying the sun

 

I have spent so much time trying to take up as little space as possible. In my booth, I try not to move, I sit quietly, I give myself over to the words in front of me (words that don’t belong to me).

But it’s not just in the booth. It’s…my LIFE. How, in life, I try not to take up too much space. I obsess over my increasing weight (hello, 41!), I try to be pleasant and quiet and meek. I try to smile and agree and not-rock-the-boat too much. I kvetch to my husband but in general, I try to be small.

What a revelation it was to open my body wide, to take up as much space as possible, to breathe annoyingly loud, to suck in all the oxygen I wanted to and expel all the crap from my lungs.

What happened today when I expanded?

I started to feel again.

And it was such a relief.

One Word Week: Overwhelmed

This week(ish) I'm blogging based on single word suggestions people have made to my Facebook or Twitter. I asked for a single word, and then I'll see where the blog takes me. Today, it's

OVERWHELMED

knot

Last September, I knew that I was feeling pretty overwhelmed when I started burping a lot. I was burping because I felt like there was a knot in my throat, like a big old shipping-knot made out frayed rope stuck right in my throat. And I was pretty sure that knot was cancer. I didn’t have time to slow down and check it out, though. My husband was still looking for a job so supporting the family (and our mortgages and our car payment and student loans and groceries) rested squarely on me. I felt like I was carrying a Sumo Wrestler on my shoulders, like he was playing chicken with God or something, and it all pissed me off.

I’d teach my writing classes at the college, drive an hour or so to the studio, narrate, drive home, cook, take care of the kiddos, obsess, grade papers, lesson plan, prep the next book, all the while carrying a Sumo Wrestler and burping burping burping. I couldn’t sleep at night and when I did sleep, my legs twitched.

sumo

Then I found a lump on my clavicle. I’ve always liked my clavicles. I think that slender bone at the base of the neck is sexy, and I’ve always liked my neck. I also like my ankles and sometimes wish I was born in another century. My ankles would’ve been a Centerfold.

So I took some time out of my schedule to go to the doctor (even though it cost $195) and tell him about the cancer growing in my throat and the bump on my clavicle, all while carrying the weight of my family’s future with me. I couldn’t be sick! We didn’t have insurance! How would I handle chemo? We would lose the house. The kids would have to live with their dad full time. I’d be in a wheelchair and bald and puffy and my husband would have to take care of me and I’d tell him to please have an affair because I couldn’t love him anymore and the whole thing just broke me. Into a bunch of little shards. I tried so hard not to cry that I was choking. Myself.

The doctor listened to my symptoms. Then he told me to feel his clavicles. “What?” I asked. He loosened his tie and unbuttoned his top two buttons and said: “Here. Feel.” Well, I thought that was a little weird and intimate but I reached out with my cold fingers and felt his clavicles. (It wasn’t sexy.) Sure enough, he had a bump just like mine. He smiled, kindly, albeit with a little fatigue, and said: “Is there any chance you might be stressed?”

I said, “Hello! See the Sumo Wrestler. The dude is straddling me and wearing a diaper. YES! I’m STRESSED!!!”

I got a prescription for anti-anxiety meds and then something else I could take when I felt like I couldn’t breathe or couldn’t swallow.

It was enough to get me through the short term.

When things settled, I had the conversation with my husband when I told him I couldn’t handle the pressure anymore and I needed him to find a job. My health needed him to. My sanity. Our relationship. There were lots of reasons why he couldn’t get work and hadn’t found anything, and I understood that, but I needed something to change.

And then it did.

I gave up teaching. I focused just on narrating. Hubby found a job. We sold his house and reduced our expenses to one mortgage. We paid off his car. And that stinky Sumo Wrestler finally left my shoulders.

And I stopped burping.

Overwhelmed? Yes. But eventually, I got out from under all of that stress. I don’t take the meds anymore. I don’t need them. I have time to exercise and do yoga classes now.

I’m reading this book called “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed and she says in there “How do you get out of a hole? You climb.” Simple advice, but it resonates with me.

You can always change your life. It sucks sometimes and it’s really hard, and it takes being honest and vulnerable to other people, but you can climb out of that hole. And you can bitch slap that Sumo Wrestler. I know because I did.

Ah, Summer. No work. No income. Gah!

Around noon today, I’ll finish narrating the last novel I’m booked for. That means at 12:01 today, I officially begin my summer vacation. Well, sort of unofficially. I still have one day left of teaching, but that’s just exams and grading. I don’t have to plan anything. So. Summer vacation. Two months of not teaching…and no narration booked. Part of me is having a panic attack, I have to admit. Usually with narration I have something lined up, but nothing yet. It’s entirely possible I could go two months without work or income. I’m a little bit terrified. Both of not working (how DOES one relax?) and not getting paid.

At the same time, I’m really excited. I have two months to focus on reading, writing, and just recharging. It’s time to get my writing house back in order, and slip into some good novels. I’ve already started “Sarum” (a novel about England). When it came to me in the mail via Amazon, I opened the box and was shocked to find out that that muther is almost 1,000 pages of very small print. 1000 pages! And it begins with like the Ice Age or something. I guess there’s a reason it’s called the Novel of England. If I make it through that, I think I’m going to read some Carson McCullers and some other classics.

I should be excited. I really should. And I think I am it’s just…well…trying to find a home for the cats is depressing. There are no takers yet. My daughter is heartbroken, so is my son and Kealoha. Where are the Crazy Cat Ladies when you need them?  And then the concept of two months without an income is terrifying to me. What if I’m never hired to narrate again? What if teaching falls through? What if I can’t write a single word in my new literary novel?

I’m trying to tell myself to shut up. I talk too much. I worry too much. But then I just start talking again.

I’m trying to use that whole ‘affirmation’ thing and remind myself that this is just a vacation. I can take a vacation. And someone, someone will want to give my cats a home. And my kids will start getting better. And Kealoha and I are going to have a great wedding. And I’ll lose the five pounds I’ve been trying to since I broke my foot. And my mom will find an apartment that works for her and she’ll stop stressing me out. And I do believe in fairies, I do, I believe in fairies so much that I’m just going to clap my hands right now! clapclapclap

Yep. I’ll just repeat these things endlessly until I get so tired of listening to myself obsessing that I just plain shut it.

I’m thinking that’s going to be at 12:01 today. At 12:01 today, I’m going to sit outside and just breathe for a while and enjoy the start of my vacation.

And I’m going to turn the next page in my book.