Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Joy > Stress


There's so much of it going on in my life lately that I've found myself not sleeping, and when I do, I'm clenching my jaw so tightly that my teeth, jaw and head hurt.

It sounds super fun, right?

It's so funny because when you tell people you're stressed out, they always ask, why? Or, lately, they think that when I say I'm stressed out, it's all because of my upcoming wedding. (Don't get me wrong – planning a wedding is no joke and a huge stress contributor.)

But, LIFE is what's stressing me out. My life is not hard by comparison to many other's out there, but I hate when people use that as a reason to tell me I shouldn't be stressed out.  I mean, don’t get me wrong -- there are so many things I have easy in my life. But, my life is also incredibly busy and stress seems to follow busy. While I love my job, I work 40 (sometimes more) hours a week and commute 120 miles each day I'm in the office (which is three days a week). I'm in a transition period with my position, and while it's exciting, it also means a lot more work, which means more stress (and, at the moment, no extra money to make up for it). On weekdays, most of the time I don't get home until at least 7, and by that time, I only have a few hours before I'm getting ready for bed. There are nights were I try and cram my generally too-long to-do list within that short time frame, and either I'm so exhausted from not getting enough sleep the night before that I can only manage to sit on the couch and catch up on a show that I haven't watch in three weeks, or I'm getting things done up until the minute I get into bed and my brain hasn't had a chance to shut off, which leaves me wide awake at a time I should be sleeping.

My room is generally a mess (which if you know me, you know I CAN'T STAND) and my car hasn't been washed in months and most of the time, I'm lucky if I have a chance to vacuum up the hair that's accumulated on my bathroom floor (#thickhairprobs).

Not only is my spare time eaten up with wedding planning, it seems my life is BUSY. If it's not family gatherings, it's a wedding (I've got five this year. And that doesn't include my own) or a bridal shower or a baby shower or a birthday party or a housewarming party. (This is what happens when you get old.) Or it's a Saturday hanging out with friends that I'm making it a point to stay in relationship with, because these relationships are valuable and NEEDED in my life, and what's a friendship with out time together? Oh, and I do manage to see my fiancé on the weekends. 

And, then there's my health. Getting older brings so much more stress just in the fact that your body changes and isn't as easy to maintain. I've put on way more weight in the past few years than I would like to admit, and not only am I extremely unhappy with the way I look, there's just no excuse to be X amount of pounds heavier than I should be. The reasons? I love food and I've gotten busy and way lazy because of it. Oh, and I LOVE FOOD. Food has also become a source of joy and stress-relief and fellowship with other people. I want to see a friend? Hey, let's get dinner. Let's go to a movie. And then to dinner. Let's go shopping. And eat lunch. Let's go to bottomless mimosa brunch. (I mean, what's brunch without mimosas? NOTHING.) My days are spent trying to squeeze in a workout and to meal plan and make time to cook and make sure I'm eating as clean as possible during the week and not going too crazy with food (or wine) on the weekends. I stress constantly about the fact that I don't know how to lose weight anymore and being frustrated with the scale and battling with my closet half full of clothes that don't fit or don't fit comfortably anymore. I stress about how I look and how I feel due to how I look DAILY. It is a crappy way to live when you hate your body and not only hate it because you have a misconception about the way a woman's body should look, but because I know that I look this way because of my own behavior. I would love to see a number on a scale and not care what it says because I feel good. Right now, I feel the exact opposite of good about myself.

And, what about the fun stuff?  I miss reading, scrapbooking and crafting. I miss writing, whether it be here or on the many unfinished essays I've started or that are still in my head. I want to get published in a literary magazine. I want to write a book. I want to put all the hundreds of photos in have haphazardly stored in boxes and on my hard drive into scrapbooks. I want to watch all these TV shows people are always asking me if I watch. I want to see the movies I haven't seen yet and that people are appalled I haven't seen (almost all of the Star Wars series and The Godfather trilogy are two that my fiancé is beside himself that I’ve never seen). I want to subscribe to all the literary journals I loved in graduate school that I don't have time to read. I want to be immersed in the writing world again, a world I felt so close to when I was in my MFA program and that I now feel so far away from.

It's exhausting, isn't it? Reading all of this? I want to fit all these – and so many more things – into my very short days and it's almost impossible. How does anyone have time for life outside of the daily grind that we seem to fall in line so easily to?

What I haven't mentioned is what I remembered this morning is so important. I want to be a weekly church-goer again. I want to read my daily devotionals again, read the bible again, to be part of a bible study again. I fit God into my life whenever it's convenient for me, but have I forgotten everything? I've known God my whole life. I've believed in Him my whole life. It's all I know how to know. And, as I've gotten older, it isn't just because it's all I know, but because it's what keeps me from drowning completely in this world and in myself. There was a very long period of my life where I hated myself and (almost) everything around me. And, the only way I climbed out of the very deep hole I had created was to not just believe in God, but to LIVE God. Having something greater than myself – greater than this world – to trust in is a relief and a peace that only other God-fearing and following people can understand. It's this strange relationship where I don't physically see or hear Him, but every day, I don't doubt that He's out there somewhere.

I’ve been behind (almost a whole month) in my daily devotional, and while I’ve been beating myself up about it, maybe it’s for a reason. Every night when I’m reading one or two or three devotionals, I find myself NEEDING to hear what is on the page:

“REFUSE TO WORRY! In this world there will always be something enticing you to worry.”

And as busy as I am, as stressed as I am, as sad as I am that I can’t make the things I love come first, I look at my life, at my friends, at my family, at my fiancé who I love more that I ever thought it was possible to love another person, at my job, at the things I have in my life, and suddenly, the stress I have doesn’t seem as great as the joy that I have. Am I still stressed out? Obviously. It’s 9:12pm and I still haven’t done my 25-minute workout. But, you know what’s greater than stress? Absolute, pure, unadulterated joy.  

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