Do you ever have moments in which you feel completely incapable of dealing with the situation at hand? It’s like you’re playing the board game Life (my favorite game, FYI) and spin a 10. All of a sudden you have to buy a house, have twins and pay for a skiing accident and flat screen TV all in one turn. But you have the $20,000 income card and there is no way you can pay for it all. It’s too much.
Well right now I feel a little like I’m the one of those pink person pegs in the white car I always play the game with. Somewhere in the last three months I spun a 10. And now I’m careening toward change at breakneck speed.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like this. When I was in preschool, there was this little boy who liked to untie shoelaces. That might not sound very mean, but when no one in your class can tie their own laces, it’s pretty devious. You would have to get the teacher to do it for you, and she would get really annoyed. I remember staring down at the little shoe-wrecker’s damage, thinking “I know I have to fix this, but I’m just not ready.” I was helpless.
Another time I felt completely unprepared was when my sister Virginia was born. I was so excited for months, then I freaked. I was only four, and I was too small to hold her like I wanted to. And when she started to cry, there was little I could do. I was helpless.
I guess it’s not that we feel stupid or like we don’t know what we are supposed to do. We just don’t feel as ready as we thought we would.
In ten days, I’m going to be the maid of honor in my sister’s wedding. In my head, I thought I would be some sophisticated utterly grown-up woman on this day. In December, I will graduate college. In my head, I thought I would know exactly what was next and transition seemlessly into career mode, and from there, it would be a hop skip and a jump into dating—->marriage—->children.
Instead…I’m just me.
Over the years, I’ve picked up some coping mechanisms to deal with those moments that I seem to spin a 10. I know what you’re thinking…coping advice from the girl who recently published a blog recommending running around and screaming to deal with stress? Well…I never said it was good advice.
1. Doing Yoga
Yes, I took up yoga. Specifically, I took up hot yoga. Just to be clear, there is nothing hott about hot yoga. You go into a room kept between 102-105 degrees and contort your body for 1.5 hours. You leave looking like you have narrowly survived drowning in your own sweat. Probably because you have. They say yoga is good for coping because you get in touch with your inner self or something like that. I think it’s good for coping because it’s so miserably hot/painful that I can’t think about anything other than how uncomfortable I am. Sarah and I started as a pre-wedding bonding ritual. The problem with doing yoga with her is that we get tickled and start laughing. I can tell if she’s holding back laughter without looking at her. I can just sort of sense it. And there are very few times laughing in a yoga class is socially acceptable.
A good book is a close substitute for travel. If you’ll let it, it will transport you–maybe even away from your worries. I’m going a little crazy right now from not traveling, so I’m currently working on three books. I can never read one at a time. I’m especially enjoying “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Growing up, it was one of my favorite stories, but I’ve never actually read the book. It was mom’s favorite book, and it was a big coming of age event to watch the movie for the first time with her. Now revisiting that childhood memory is helping me navigate adult changes. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s just so good.
It takes me a long time to mentally work through change. But sometimes that time just isn’t given to you. In those cases, you have to promise yourself that you’ll process it at leisure at some point. Maybe once you spin a 2 or a 3 and can take things more gradually.
4. Being with kids
My summer job as a swim coach has started up again. You don’t really have time to worry when you are around kids. While they are asking about whether or not they will drown from doing four lengths of butterfly or fretting over whether or not they will be allowed to push me in the pool, weddings, graduate school decisions and homework assignments seem suddenly far away. The things that worry them are reassuring. You see how silly they seem…then realize that you’re troubles are really pretty silly too.
5. Running my brains out.
This is the winner. I make myself so tired that I can’t strive to fix everything anymore. I imagine each drop of sweat is me getting rid of something that haunts me.
I sweat out the smell of Mom’s chemo medication on Monday mornings. I sweat out the dull thud of cardboard boxes in my car as I pack up my sister’s room. I sweat out the voices of toddlers holding out their little hands to me in India and screaming “food!” I sweat out a list of graduate schools to apply to. I sweat out the sticky, eager clinging of a starving child in my arms in Ghana. I sweat out the salty taste of my tears saying goodbye to friends I may never see again. I sweat out the dizzying mental cyclone mixing my nighttime thoughts into nightmares. I sweat out the words of professors telling me I’m a fool to believe in what I hold most dear.
More than anything, I run out the overwhelming feeling that I am powerless to do anything about it all. Just as powerless as the little girl unable to make sense of the mess of string at her toes. It takes a lot of running. If it’s any indication, I’ve lost well over ten pounds since January.
It’s in moments like those, however–contorting my body in a nasty pool of sweat, staying up far too late with a book, going hoarse from yelling directions to noisy swimmers, lying in my bed with thoughts spinning in my head or running an extra mile– that I cope. As exhaustion comes over me, I hear a quiet familiar voice that says something along the lines of, “Perhaps, dear, you should let me take it from here. You are ready. Just not without my help.” He shows me how to tie up the loose ends of my life to keep me from tripping at the next step.
Maybe in life we never really feel ready for where we are at. Ready to graduate…to say goodbye…to say “I do”…to have a baby…to start a job…to buy a house…to die. But life goes no slower or faster than it is meant to. It moves at a constant pace. We just feel it more at certain moments than at others.
Maybe that’s why when we are kids we say READY OR NOT…
here I come.