Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hello, Old Friend: When Stress Comes Knocking


I'm constantly juggling my roles as mother, grandmother, business owner, full-time student and wife. Even though my children are grown, they still (thankfully) need/want my input on various issues in their own lives. My grandson is THE absolute most adorable creature on the face of the planet and I can't stand to let any more than 48 hours - max - go by without seeing him. While there are lots of things I know I could/should be doing to promote my business and develop strategies/plans, the more immediate deadlines of assignments and semester schedules seem to take precedence over my own boss's desires and business goals (especially since I am my own boss). Thanks to an ever-patient husband, I don't feel the spousal-guilt that could accompany this juggling routine.

Earlier this week there was the potential for it all to come unraveled.
In my speech class, we are spending the next week and a half delivering the speeches that are our current assignment. According to my assignment book, I had scheduled mine on the same day that my university had invited me to do a presentation on stress. These were to fall less than 3 hours apart. In order to alleviate my own potential stress, I asked my professor if it might be possible for me to deliver my speech earlier, if time slots were available. In checking the class schedule, we both discovered that my time slot was actually a week earlier than I'd recorded in my assignment book - it was, in fact, just two days away ... 48-hours from that very moment... and of course, I was in no way prepared. All I could do was laugh, and then I went nuts.

The next 40 hours was a blur of writing, rewriting, Power-pointing, agonizing, and trying to maintain the rest of my responsibilities...

The day of my presentation, I knew how much time I'd have to practice between classes. I figured I could review my notecards at least a few more times while on campus that day. I managed to bathe before leaving for my first class - late, of course ...

and it hit me in the car, during my distracted dash (at a legal speed) to campus ...

There's no firing squad. No one is going to lose life or limb over my success/failure on this speech (yes, sometimes I allow things to escalate maybe just a tad in my head...), and, as a matter of fact, I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing right now (by going to school). My passion is helping people become equipped for improving their choices regarding their own health - that's why I'm in school, honing my communication skills - and my speech was (of course) about that very thing. "Isn't it cool that I get to do this awesome thing that I've wanted to do for quite some time?" I thought to myself. Why is it that we sometimes start to view our blessings as burdens? I acknowledged that yes, it was pretty cool. I took a deep breath and my grip on the steering wheel relaxed. I turned on the radio. I actually enjoyed seeing the sunlight shining and the birds flying by. I was reminded of the importance of being present - in the moment - which I'd forgotten about for the previous 40+ hours.

In her book, Women, Food and God, author Geneen Roth talks about the importance of being present. The present, after all, is the only thing we really have. Our past (even the not so distant past) is a memory. Sure, it shapes us, but we decide how much we want to be bound by that, and sometimes our recollections can be extremely faulty. Our future is based on imaginings, but not on reality. The only REAL thing is right now. Allowing myself to be right now reduces TONS of stress about all the "what-if's" that may or may not occur.

The rest of my day was spent being present. I ran into someone I know during some free time, so instead of stressing about the number of times I could be going over my speech, I spoke with her - more importantly, I listened. Arriving a little early to my classroom, I encountered a fellow student who was in need of some conversation, so I complied. I was there, with her instead of worrying about what could go wrong with my assignment.

I felt so light and at ease by the time I presented my speech that I couldn't believe I'd been worried.

Lesson learned? Probably not. I'll have to return to this over and over again. That's my nature, but thank goodness it's not where I'm going to be stuck.




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