Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Keeping busy, staying happy

Initially, it seemed like such a good idea. Since Holly was off to spend the weekend with her cousins, it was the perfect time for Rick and me to bring Tim and three of his friends up to Maine for Tim’s belated birthday celebration.  Both kids would have something special to do; neither one would feel left out of the fun.

But as the weekend approached, I began to suspect I’d taken on a little bit too much at one time. My mind was a jumble of details. Had I submitted the paperwork to the airlines for Holly to fly as an Unaccompanied Minor? Had I researched the ferry schedule in case Tim and his friends wanted to go biking on one of the Casco Bay islands? What time would we need to leave for the airport to get Holly checked in for her Friday morning flight? How many quarts of milk and orange juice would four 16-year-old boys consume in 48 hours? Did I have the two forms of ID I’d need for expedited airport security? Did Rick have the access card to the Portland garage?

By Friday morning, I thought my head would burst open and all the details would come rolling out. Just get through this weekend, I coached myself. Just get Holly safely off to DC; just keep the boys well-fed and reasonably supervised; and then you can de-stress.

And whether because of, or in spite of, my stressing over all the details, everything went beautifully. Holly had a wonderful time visiting her cousins. Tim and his friends were boisterous and cheerful, and much to my surprise, there was still food left in the pantry when their weekend in Maine ended.

Okay, I told myself when I woke on Monday morning. Now you can stop worrying about the weekend. It’s behind you and it was a success.

And then I remembered that Thanksgiving is in ten days and I still haven’t ordered our turkey (or the chicken or duck that we’ll need to make Tim’s beloved Turducken). Also the annual gathering Rick and I host every year for my high school crowd is next Monday and I should start planning for that. Also we need to choose a date for the annual holiday cookie exchange, which usually falls the first week in December. Also I should start working on our Christmas card.

It’s the nature of life as we currently live it that there aren’t really days when nothing needs to be planned or assessed or overseen. And sometimes it’s stressful. Especially at this time of year. I try to remind myself it’s all supposed to be fun, and if the stress of any individual undertaking outweighs the fun, I shouldn’t do it.  After all, we don’t have to host the annual high school gathering. We don’t even have to host Thanksgiving. And we certainly don’t have to send out Christmas cards.

But we will do all of those things, because ultimately, the fun does outweigh the stress, or the traditions wouldn’t exist.

In this morning’s paper, I read an article about homeless women in Boston who are now sleeping in parks and under bridges because the shelter in which they were living abruptly closed due to infrastructural problems.

That’s what stress looks like,” I reminded myself. “Carrying around your belongings in a cardboard box because you have no place else to put them. Trips to visit cousins….belated birthday celebrations….holiday parties….holiday poems….those are not stress. Those are recreation.”

Of course they are, and of course any one of the women in the article would happily (and probably quite capably) take on any one of my sources of anxiety.

Have fun, I reminded myself. The holiday season is beginning.

And I will. I’ll remember that the stress and anxiety are trivial compared to the joy of getting together with family and friends. And it will all be wonderful, just as it is every year. 

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