Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Stress....and resolution

It’s fair to say I woke up yesterday morning about as stressed as I can remember being in a long time. And yet I knew I had nothing serious to worry about. Nothing life-or-death, or geopolitical.

Still, the stress dogged me throughout the day. Even my two-mile run was arduous because I couldn’t relax into it; I could only worry about what I needed to do when I got back.

The problem was really just that this week represents the conflation of so many end-of-school-year responsibilities for my various roles as a school volunteer, along with my usual robust work load as a freelance writer. And everything always seems more rushed after a three-day weekend. Yesterday was the annual Teachers’ Appreciation Luncheon at our school, for which I was co-chair this year; tomorrow is Walk to School Day, for which I am also co-chair. Unrelated to either of those, Holly’s teacher had sent home a batch of handwritten stories from the second graders that I had earlier agreed to type up, and I had a slew of work deadlines beginning yesterday and extending through the week.

So I worried and stressed and felt ridiculously anxious about it all.

For one thing, I’d hustled out of town for the holiday weekend leaving a trail of loose ends, or so it seemed yesterday morning. Several of the parents who were contributing food or drinks to the Teachers’ Appreciation Luncheon had asked to drop items off at my house Tuesday morning, and I couldn’t remember if I’d responded to all of them. I hadn’t even looked at the list my co-chair had sent me last week of items I should bring with me when I headed up to the school to start setting up. I had a monthly newspaper column due for one publication and my weekly community briefs due to another publication; I was a day late submitting some edits to a client; I hadn’t even started a writing project that’s due today. I still didn’t have nearly enough adult volunteers for Walk to School Day: I’d already promised we could cover four major walking routes and five crosswalks, and I had about half the manpower I needed for that, with less than 48 hours left to recruit.

Equally problematic, yesterday’s afterschool plans for my 7-year-old – at the same time I was supposed to be hosting the luncheon – had fallen through, so she was going to have to come with me, an idea to which she’d already stated her adamant opposition. I was pretty sure I’d have a full-scale mutiny from her when I told her again she had to do it.

So I worried.

But I couldn’t sit still and worry; things needed to be done. And as I launched head first into the many tasks of the day, it all began working itself out. Things were falling into place. Inexplicably, when I stopped fretting about it and just moved along, it turned out I had less to worry about than I thought.

People began arriving at my house to drop off luncheon items, just as we’d planned via email on Friday; I thought I’d left questions about it unanswered, but everyone seemed to be finding their way to my door. With ninety minutes at my desk before I needed to start setting up for the luncheon at school, I managed to submit both the column and the community briefs. I finally looked at the list of kitchen items I’d been asked to bring with me, and it was just what I thought – index cards, plastic wrap, cake servers -- nothing extra, nothing hard to find. My husband’s afternoon meeting was canceled and he decided to come home for the day at noon, so Holly wouldn’t have to come with me after all; she could be at home with him. My friend Leigh called to ask me a question about the luncheon, and when I let slip that the luncheon was working out okay but it was Walk to School Day for which I was desperate for help, she said she could easily help out that morning.

The luncheon was a success: a stunning array of delicious foods. The teachers were delighted by our efforts, representing the culinary talents and generosity of dozens of parents; and the dessert my mother made was the most popular dish there, which made me proud. My mom and I have a long history with the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon; when I was in grade school myself, I used to help her cook for this same event, so she said it was only fair that she help me this time around.

It’s true that I had to catch up on a lot of work once I got back from the school, having spent three hours cleaning up from the lunch. And I was back at my desk again after the kids went to bed, struggling a little more to meet one last deadline. I’ll have a ton of work to do today. But that’s okay, because today there’s nothing else on my calendar for the day except work.

I’ll catch up. I’ll stop worrying. And maybe next time the duties pile up like this I’ll worry a little less, remembering how as soon as I stopped tormenting myself with anxieties, the tasks seemed almost magically to take care of themselves.

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