Those who know me well (or probably at all) know that I’m a bit of a stress eater. In my mind nothing goes better with a stressful situation than chocolate, potatoes or something fried. When my brother died two food items were most popular gifts: potatoes and fried chicken. I didn’t want people to think I am rude so of course I ate. A lot. This is of course a horrible way to deal with stress but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Gaining 15lbs after his death wasn’t quite as comforting.
I remember my sophomore year in college sitting in my residence hall room trying to study for a sociology exam. I hated the class. My professor was horrible and the subject matter frustrated me. Studying for the exam seemed impossible. The exam would be a combination of multiple choice, short answer and an essay or two covering five chapters in our text and all the class lectures. We got no study guide or even a hint about which topic would be covered by the essay(s). We had to know enough about everything to write an essay about it and enough detail to answer nit-picky-multiple choice. It doesn’t matter the subject- that was an impossible task.
I knew I wasn’t going to do well. I hadn’t on the previous one and didn’t feel any better about these chapters. I had a heard time focusing that night. So I laced up my sneakers and went for a run.
It was 11 o’clock at night and I was overwhelmed with a daunting task and a long night. My choice was to go running. It was what I needed. I returned to my room with a clearer mind ready to focus. (Don’t worry, I still bombed the test. I think I ended up with the C in the class. Pretty sure most of my struggles were because I didn’t think Michael Moore was a genius and my professor did.)
I operated this way throughout much of college until I had to have knee surgery and 9 months of physical therapy. Then I got back on my usual bad habits of stress relief.
Relieving stress might be more important to me than you, who knows. I’m an introvert and am really guarded about anything that is personal. I can’t handle the idea that I let someone down. I hate conflict. I internalize most of it until I burst. Bursting means I say something I regret and eat my weight in sweets. Also there are tears. These are pathways and coping mechanisms that are engraved in who I am. (Writing this I realize that I am so much like my mother!)
I’m realizing that stress is really not about a season of life, but more about life in general. Every job I’ve had has been stressful. Every relationship I’ve had is stressful. Conflict is a necessary part of life and essential to our growth as humans. Conflict in any good book or story is what makes the ending so beautifully worth the journey. Donald Miller (my favorite author) wrote in Through Painted Desserts (my favorite book)
Everyone has to change, or they expire…. I want to keep my would fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to do, I want to keep walking away from the person I was moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.
So in the spirit of things dying that need to die and staying “fertile for the changes” I’m trying to carve some new pathways of stress relief in my mind, heart and soul. I would also like to avoid being on the cast of The Biggest Loser at 30. This week has included some big stress. So when I got home from work rather than making a pan of brownies- I went running.
That run didn’t work out so well- turns out my usual path has a lot more traffic at night. Dying is not exactly the new pathway I was looking for, so I packed up and came to Starbucks. Rather than sitting at home watching NCIS re-runs and thinking about stress, I got a Calm Tazo Tea and am writing.
It feels good. I forgot how much I loved sitting in a coffee shop with my music and my mac.
I want this season to be about learning new pathways. Giving life to new and old loves within me. I want it to be less about stress and frustration. I am actively seeking to train my mind in new ways. I’m taking suggestions, not chocolate!