Yesterday I visited a new chiropractor. It was both an embarrassing and enlightening visit. I was pretty out of whack, and the painful deep tissue stuff he was doing sent me into a sweating jag not seen since Albert Brooks in Broadcast News. This is how I used to sweat whenever anyone asked for my autograph in the Mad TV days, moving the uncomfortable teen who had just asked for my signature to THEN ask if I was alright or needed some water, or a chair. Or CPR. Dr. Greg laughed when I apologized for the drips of salty liquid pouring from my forehead, chest, back, and anywhere else sweat can come from. He turned the air on full-blast when he had to apply heat to my lower back. When I told him I was mortified he replied, “Well, I’ve seen you at your worst now, so it can only go up from here!”
But this is not the point. Sometime after he removed the heat and started kneading my muscles again, he asked what my stress level was. Any time any doctor has ever asked me this question, my immediate response is, “It’s HIGH!” But this time was different. I wasn’t sure how to answer because I WAS sure the answer wasn’t “It’s HIGH!” I searched my brain for the correct thing to say. And then, “It’s not so bad, really.” “Huh”, he said, “Because usually people with this kind of knotting have very high stress levels.” I thought again, really considering everything in my life. “Yeah, no. I really don’t have a lot of stress right now.”
Let me stop here and say that my life is basically the same as it’s always been. I don’t, however, have a father who is dying, a mother who is in deep mourning, or a small baby who needs me for every little thing. So, I need to make it clear that things now are certainly easier than they were a two and three years ago.
Now, for the other things that have changed.
A year ago I cut out gluten. I did it in the hopes to have more energy and less bloating. Six months into it, I discovered I was slightly allergic to it which made me even more resolved to cut it out. I believe with all my heart that, even though it did very little to help my bloating, it cut my anxiety levels by more than half.
Six months ago, I cut out dairy. I think this helped, too.
But here’s where the actual work comes in:
I went to a therapist I had been seeing off and on for years. She gave me ways to change my behavior instead of me waiting for everything around me to change. Little things that I do now have saved me from tons of stressful moments which would have turned into stressful days and weeks. I won’t spell it all out for you here, because I believe it’s all different for everyone and what I had to change is not necessarily what you might need to change. But what I will say is that, if every day feels like a weight on your shoulders and you find yourself slamming your desk or your steering wheel, or screaming because someone angered you, or crying because it’s all just too much… Think about the common denominator and what you could possibly do to change it.
Last but most certainly not least: Garrett is the wisest boy in the world.
When I was at my height of stress and anxiety, he was as well. He would see me exhibit all of the above behaviors and I would just want to die when I saw the look on his face. But I couldn’t stop what I was doing. He asked me too many times if I was okay or if I was mad, and he began finishing my sentence when I would say, “I’m not mad I’m just… FRUSTRATED.” He began showing signs of stress, too. I was desperately trying to fix it.
Then one morning as we were having our typical mental breakdowns trying to get out of the house, I told him we had to rush because we only had two minutes. He looked into my eyes and calmly said, “Mom, we can rush. But we don’t have to worry.” The difference that made for me is immeasurable. I actually HEARD him. We can rush. But we don’t have to worry. I hugged him so hard and I told him that could be our motto from now on. That was about two months ago and we have not had one bad morning since. We still rush around a bit but if either of us feels distressed, the other will say, “Rush but don’t worry!” and it all goes away.
It’s so simple. It’s painfully simple. And you can apply it to every single thing in your life.
Rush but don’t worry.
Have a party but don’t worry.
Get the laundry done but don’t worry.
Cook. Or don’t. But don’t worry.
Go to that meeting. But don’t worry.
Yes, it’s easier said than done sometimes. But, far more often than not, it’s easily done.
The cat pukes on our blanket for the second time this week. I want to scream but I did that the last time. So this time, I put all the shit in the washing machine and I move on with my day.
I have a few of G’s friends over for a play date. The house isn’t as clean as I’d like, and when they leave there will be an even bigger mess. So? Live in that moment. Don’t worry. It all gets done.
If I have an audition and no time to prepare, I figure it out. Worrying only makes it impossible for me to learn my lines or find the character’s voice.
I breathe a lot more now. In and out slowly. It’s much more nourishing than my heart beating out of my chest while my fists clench and unclench. I also work out five times a week. I know, without a doubt in my mind, that this is beyond helpful. And I know so many of us don’t have the time. I thought I didn’t have the time, but I go right after drop-off every day, or I’ll go at 4:00 when kids club is open, and take G with me. I work out with friends, and it makes all the difference.
I don’t have a full-time job. But I do have auditions. A lot of them. And I have the unsettling feeling of not knowing if I will ever work again, or if I’ll make enough to get health insurance or if Russ were to stop working, will I ever be viable enough in this business to pick up the slack? My schedule is never the same, and this is hard too. I also know that things come up to throw a wrench into the system now and then. There are emergencies and disasters and surprises we never see coming. And I hope those things are few and far between, but I also hope I am able to deal with them well.
Rush but don’t worry.
I promise if you can adopt this principle, your life will change. Or it won’t. But don’t worry.motto, stress, worry