Stop. Breathe. Think.

I’m a pragmatist. I know I’ve mentioned this. I’m one of those left-brainers who approaches a problem as methodically as possible. I’m not so much a creator as an implementer. And with the exception of my brilliant (in my mind) idea to become Jewish Mother for the Foo Fighters, I don’t think of myself as particularly creative, artistic or imaginative. I’m a fixer. A problem-solver.

I don’t come up with the big, remarkable, extraordinary ideas.  That’s someone else’s job. But when those ideas are implemented and something goes awry; when the wheels come off, and the train derails, as it often will, I’m the person who gets called in to fix things. And when I get there, I’ve also brought brownies. People assume I do this to curry favor, but it’s really so everyone will sit quietly, mouths full, and let me think. And breathe. Breathing is really important.

While I’m breathing, my approach to problems is three-pronged: ONE: What was supposed to happen? TWO: Why did it NOT happen? And THREE: How do we course-correct and make it happen? In the event that the answer to #3 is a shoulder-shrug, finger-pointing, screaming or some combination thereof, there is a caveat: How do we salvage what we have and create the best outcome?

Most of the time, I’m very good at working my way through the issues and getting the train back on the track. And if that’s not possible, I’ll call a bus, get everyone loaded into it, and get all passengers and their luggage to the station. Usually on time.

It’s all part and parcel of the Jewish Mother role. Take care of everyone else. I’ve done it all my life. Lately, though? I just don’t know. I can’t seem to do it for myself.

These days, I can hardly string a coherent sentence together. What the fuck is up with that?

I’m pretty sure the problem is focus. Or a lack thereof. My head feels like it is so full of thoughts and ideas and concerns that it could explode at any time. And with so much racing around in there, I can’t grab any single thought and hold on to it for more than a minute before it just slithers through my fingers. This lack of focus, it’s screwing with my mind. It’s distracting me from joy and fun and contentment. It’s keeping me from sleeping.

It’s stressing me out!

It started about a week ago. I was getting ready for work and going over a mental check list of things I needed to do that day, a mish-mosh of work stuff and home stuff. And everything was fine…for a minute. And suddenly a few hundred other things snuck up and collectively bitch-slapped me, and I felt the room spin.  I had to put down my hair dryer and go sit in a chair. I could feel my heart racing and I was covered in flop sweat.

I’m not being dramatic. I’ll admit it’s not uncommon for me to break out in a sweat. I’m 52 and fully ensconced in the arms of menopause (sorry for the overshare, but if you’re gonna read me, eventually you’re gonna know me,) so my internal thermostat has been on the fritz for what seems like decades.

But this was different. The racing heart, the dizziness – they were new. And unpleasant. And more than a little scary. I was freaking out over a derailment of my own creation.

And here’s the really unsettling thing. There was no derailment. I was panicking in anticipation of things that hadn’t even happened! Because that’s what I do. I pre-worry.

To be fair to myself, I have a shit-ton of things looming on the horizon. My job is not exactly seasonal, but I work for a college, and September is the start of a semester and all the things that go with that, including a major project that I manage. It also marks the start of my personal academic commitment, which, in this case, is my next semester of grad school.

I now have a commitment to my blog and my readers. As much as I love telling my story and having you follow me on my meandering journey, sometimes the words come easily and other times they don’t come at all. And I need to have some time to practice my craft, so I have to block out some kitchen time and maintain my ninja-like cooking and baking skills.

Oh, and my husband is running for a Congressional seat. For the second time. Indeed, this is not our first Congressional rodeo…

We did this once before in 2000, and when it was over (he didn’t win), I told him, unequivocally, never again. And if he ever got a hankering to make another run, he was going to have to do it with a different wife. I’ve been a political candidate’s wife. I’ve also had a kidney stone. Both were excruciating. But the kidney stone was over in a week. The campaign season went on forever.

I guess the lesson here is “never say never.” This time, we discussed it at length, and he said he wouldn’t do it if I was absolutely opposed to the idea. And when I thought about it, I realized I wasn’t.

It’s not that I’m a different person than I was 13 years ago, just that now I’m more my own person. I told him I would support him, just not to the same smile-and-shake-hands-and-look-demure way that I did the last go-round.

Serving in the U.S. Congress is his dream job. I have my own. And I made a commitment to finish school. I can’t give up on my dreams just to allow him to pursue his. So we have agreed to walk our paths together, even if sometimes those paths might diverge for a time. We can stay on them and keep walking, and even if we may not stay in sight of one another for every step, we can always holler to each other. Always.

So, there you have it. All the things that were running through my mind that early morning last week, boiled down to a nutshell. I took everything that I knew would be coming up in the next 16 months and let it swallow me in an instant. And if that wasn’t enough, I tossed in the uncertainty of what might be added into that mix. I walked myself right into a doozy of a panic attack.

And I forgot to breathe.

So I have made myself a promise. I will take each day as it comes, and not worry how to get the train back on the track unless there’s an actual derailment.

I will follow the wisdom from that great cartoon dog Blue, and his pal Steve. Yeah, I know it was a kids’ show. But the wisdom is still sound.

I will stop, breathe, and think.  And listen to music. Lots of Foo Fighters.

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4 thoughts on “Stop. Breathe. Think.

  1. Yeah, I call that early-morning busy brain. It hits me about 3:00 am and once I start obsessing about stuff (some important, some not) there will be no more sleeping. Well, not until about 5 minutes before I need to get up–that’s when I fall dead asleep. I think that part of being a fixer is being a worrier. Also, check your thyroid. $

  2. Kelly you are not alone, I also tend to start thinking about what needs to be done and get WAY ahead of myself. It was really bad when I was a caterer during the holidays. You are on the right track remembering to stop and breath, I cannot think of any better advice. It took becoming disabled for me to truely understand that there was only so much I could do and if I did my best then what didn’t get done really could wait. Personally I think you have a good handle on it. Just remember to breathe and when that’s not enough feel free to call me to vent!

  3. Somehow I missed this one the first time! I love how you tie everything together…and I wish I had some of your problem-solving/implementation genius!

    (And I second the suggestion to have your thyroid levels checked, if you haven’t already. A lot of the symptoms are just what you described.)

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