Earlier this month, I paid a visit to my doctor because I was a ball of stress – though I didn’t know it at the time.
I had been experiencing tightness in my chest and some occasional labored breathing for a few weeks – symptoms I had experienced off and on in the past but always chalked up to some “logical” excuse:
“Oh my bra is just too tight because I’m pregnant.”
“It’s bad posture – I just need to do those ‘chest wall’ stretches my doctor recommended.”
“Breastfeeding is just taking a toll on my body – it must be what’s literally ‘weighing me down.’”
Several sleepless nights, a few mini panic attacks, some crying in a hospital gown, one chest x-ray and one EKG later, all signs pointed to a classic case of STRESS. It’s like that feeling when you have a lump in your throat and are trying not to cry, but that “lump” was in my chest. Both my primary physician and my therapist seemed not at all surprised by this diagnosis –a textbook manifestation of mental and emotional stress through physical symptoms.
Huh. This was not what I was expecting. I mean, I’m thrilled I’m not on the brink of a heart attack and all, but a diagnosis of STRESS?? How on Earth do I treat that?? And how did I get it? After all, I’ve GOT this motherhood thing down, right?? Not perfect by any means, but sooo much better than my worst fears of chronic sleep deprivation, utter isolation or post-partum depression. I really, truly thought I had been doing pretty darn swell!
But as many have now gently reminded me – no matter how good or how hard things may seem – a new baby is a new baby. A HUGE life change, period. Even good stress is STRESS. And even good change, is CHANGE. And many things have taken a backseat to prioritize being a good mom – my personal relationships, exercise, sleeping and eating as much and as well as I should. It’s all worth it, right??
Well, it is until it’s not. It’s not worth it to skimp on sleep and exercise and processing my emotions in a productive way, because more than anything, my child needs a HEALTHY MOM. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually HEALTHY. So for him and for me I am following my doctor’s orders: running until I break a sweat, continuing to talk through life with my therapist, eating better, sleeping better, and most of all – NOT SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF! Or trying not to, anyway….
I’m even trying to not sweat the BIG stuff. Not as much as I usually do, at least. Compounding the change and the stress of my current “new mom” life, we just almost bought a house, then didn’t buy a house, then found out we need to find another house to buy. Soon. Like probably right-around -Christmas soon. And there’s no inventory! And it’s a cruel seller’s market! And we love our neighborhood and don’t want to leave! The schools are so great here and we can walk to everything! And! And! And!
Even if it’s positive and life is exciting, stress creeps into the need to constantly fight for the BEST for my life and my family – the BEST house, the BEST school, the BEST homemade cakes for his future birthday parties.
Going along with the cake example, this recently struck me as the perfect analogy. Maybe you can’t always have your cake and make it, too. Maybe I can’t have an immaculate, organized home all the time AND be rested. Maybe I can’t spend hours on a from-scratch home-cooked dinner every night AND have the energy left to actually ENJOY a conversation with my husband. Maybe I can’t stay up until midnight watching TV AND have the energy to run the next morning.
Maybe I CAN have all these things, but more likely, I just can’t.
As anyone who follows my writing knows, this little health scare came on the heels of my 30th birthday resolutions, which included goals to “Learn to sew and make my kids’ Halloween costumes,” “Make my kids’ birthday cakes” and “Grow a vegetable garden.”
Life is all about choices. Priorities. Making the most of the time we have. For me, right now, I need to train myself to let go of perfectionism and embrace the GOOD. I want a GOOD home for my family. I want my son to go to a GOOD school. I want my family to have GOOD meals. GOOD seems doable. I can do GOOD, and still find time to run, smile, and chill the heck out.
So listen to your inner sanity. It’s telling you, in its little lumpy, pesky voice, “If you want to live the sweet life, and really have the presence of mind to ENJOY the moments that matter – sometimes – just sometimes – you have to put away the apron and Just. Buy. The. Cake.”
By the grace of God, I have managed to remain blissfully clueless about Pinterest to this day.
And for the record, I totally bought Anderson’s Halloween costume this year.