Wednesday, February 10, 2016

breaking news: control freak lets go

Life is good. Compared to Costco-sized can of Whoop Ass we were being served a few months back, pretty much anything seems chill. But it occurred to me that this era of chill is due in part to the unclenching of my rear-end and the release of the stick that's been stuck up there for the past 30-odd years.

I will refer this recent phenomenon as The Great Letting Go of 2016, but it has been a long time in coming. This letting-go has actually been a gradual process over the past, oh, I don't know, five years, six months and three days or so :)

And I had a revelation of sorts the other day. Maybe everyone else already knew this. But just in case.

Say you have something that needs to be done three days from now. It will take X hours of actual work. It could be anything, a legal brief, a birthday party, a bake sale. The old me would spend the last three months plus today, tomorrow, the next day, and the final X hours before it is due finalizing and perfecting the thing.

Here's an example. Whenever we used to go on trips, I would pack, say, a week ahead of time. And then two or three days prior I would unpack, assess, and then re-pack. I honestly can't even remember why, or how, or what, or WHY. But anyway. That was my process.

Now (well, as of January 16th, 2016), my process is to just pack, once, at the last possible moment I can do so without increasing the overall stress of the situation.

After my Patented Program. Guaranteed to drastically lower your standards and your stress in five short years.
I traveled for work last week. I knew I didn't have any suits that fit. I've known this for a year, actually. Yet I was at the store the day before buying a suit that I could actually zip. The sales lady was like, Oh, you're one of those. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the New and Improved me kind of sucks at life. But the thing is, if I'm going to end up stressing out about it at the end anyway, why spend any more time and energy than that?

Of course, turning off the preceding three hours or three days or three months of preparatory stress isn't as easy as it sounds. That was just the way that my brain worked. Still works. But I guess I've just started to train myself to fight back against that all-encompassing stress. I think of that stress like a stream that's always been traveling down the same well-worn path, and recently I've begun to build a dam, one rock, one pebble, one stick at a time. And slowly but surely, I'm turning the tide on that stress, forcing the energy to flow in a different direction.

The Super Bowl was on Sunday. On Saturday I was recounting to DM the litany of things that needed to be done before the 2pm Super Bowl Party the next day: Get strawberries (because of course the store I went to Saturday night was sold out). Make chocolate-dipped strawberries shaped like footballs (obvi). Buy a bottle of booze for the host (because of course I forgot my ID the night before and they wouldn't sell to me, crows feet and super-sized eye-bags notwithstanding). Make jalapeno poppers. Make custom, non-candy Valentines for The Boy's class. Do a weeks' worth of laundry.

Side note: I will say, another little thing that has helped in my handling of stress has been DM's reaction to it. I read this article by an online "friend" a good while back about how your partner needs to validate your stress-ball tendencies, rather than trivialize them. It makes a difference. I swear. See Seven Reasons Why Your Wife Acts So Stressed Out All The Time by Samantha Rodman aka Dr Psych Mom. See also, The Invisible Burden That Leaves Moms Drained about "Kin-Keeping" by Katie McLaughlin on Pick Any Two. I felt so validated by this. I love that there's a name for what so many of us do! It got me thinking though. Most of this stuff falls squarely in the "Should" department per my BFF Claire, and as we all know, "Shoulds" are toxic to your health. The author writes "Just think about how different your own childhood would have looked without birthday cakes and family beach trips and homemade gifts for Grandma, and you’ll see how valuable these kinds of tasks really are." But who's to say the product of all the "should-work" wouldn't be replaced with equally meaningful memories, even if the birthday cakes were from a box and the gifts were from the dollar bins at Target? I can personally say that while the end-result of all the kin-keeping may benefit my children, it ain't too pretty seeing the sausage get made, or the kin gettin' kept, so to speak. My kids might actually choose cheapy perforated supermarket valentines and store-bought cupcakes if it meant a mom who would sit still and really be with them more often as opposed to a mom running around like a stressed out banshee trying to make Pinterest-worthy creations and picture perfect moments. (Side note to the side note: When Jack first started at the preschool years ago and they said they didn't celebrate Valentine's Day, I may or may not have called them Nazis. But this has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. God Bless the Fruit Snack Fascists!)

Anyway, DM made all the right murmurings Saturday night: "OMG, that's horrible, we'll never get it all done! But we'll give it our best shot!" (What a man what a man what a mighty good man :))

So, Sunday was his day to sleep in. He comes down around 10 in the morning. The kids are watching TV and I'm sitting at the kids' drawing table in my robe, coloring one of those grown-up coloring books that're all the rage.

DM: Ummmmm..... What's... going on?
Me: What?
DM: What are you doing?
Me: Coloring.
DM: ...
Me: What? I like coloring.
DM: Okayyyyy... I have never seen you color in a coloring book in the 14 years we've been together, but... whatever you say.
Me: What? The farmer's market doesn't even open until 10.
DM: It's 10.
Me: Dude! What do you want from me?! Am I supposed to be at the market the second it opens?

The thing is, the "old me" would have been. Poor guy was just so completely floored that I hadn't already been running around like a chicken with its head cut off for four hours, he didn't even know what to do with himself. He said "I feel like I woke up in an alternate universe."

Long story short, the strawberries and the jalapeno poppers and the valentines got made. The laundry lived to fight another day. But really, is laundry ever done? Not in my house.

I can't really feel my fingers these days, so them're some wobbly footballs. But guess what? NOBODY CARES! ;) 

Printables by Kudzu Monster on Etsy (natch')
Later that night DM told me he was really content and that life was really good and that he was especially happy because I seemed like I was in a good place with respect to my psycho stress ball ways. He said he was so glad that I had finally "lowered the bar" to a reasonable and achievable level.

This actually had me a little worried. If he thinks the bar is low, I may have gone too far.

But then I woke up this morning and found this - the reformed scrounge troll organized the junk drawer in his non-existent free time! So, basically, we've switched personalities. This is some Freaky Friday shit but I'll take it. Apparently, if you lag hard enough, your partner will pick up the slack. Who knew?!

If you had any idea how crazy this was... Next thing you know, he's going to go KonMari on my ass.
As I was getting ready this morning, DM asked me if we had hotel reservations for our trip to New York that was happening in less than a week. Me: Um, not yet. Him: *Speechless.* Then I picked up a shirt off the dirty laundry pile, put it on, and said "No one saw me wear this yesterday and it doesn't even smell that bad." DM: "I don't know who this woman is, but I like her. I like her a lot."

Anyway, it's not like I've completely rid my life of stress or anything. That's what bedtime is for! Baby steps.


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