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A few generations back, what we call stress now may have been called plain, ol’ hard work. There’s no doubt though, that hard work, stress, or life itself is just… hard. Recently I spoke with someone who reminded me that it doesn’t matter how hard something may be to deal with – what matters is figuring out whether it’s even worth getting upset over.
I’m finding that either at home or in the outside world, my ability to deal with stupid is in short supply. My need to roll my eyes at ignorance is lightening quick and my love of all things sarcastic knows no bounds. My kids say that depending on the day, I have road rage, ‘fridge rage, vacuum rage, and on one occasion, loud-obnoxious-neighbors-throwing-a-party-late-at-night rage. So, basically, I tend to let everything get to me.
I say that to tell you this: I recently sat in my office and watched as a woman who, though in her 40’s, moved like she was much, much older. Though still quick, it took just a bit longer for answers to work their way from her once, razor-sharp mind. You see, she’d had an aneurysm and it had happened when she was running late to a plane.
Granted it’s not my story to tell, (so I’m not going to share too many details), but it was my lesson to learn, and one I think about every day since hearing it. She’d been on vacation, had a great time, but was stressing trying to make her flight back home. Her ire with the traffic, security, and time constraints, raised her frustration level, which raised her blood pressure, and… brain aneurysm.
(It’s important to note the causes of brain aneurysm, which, along with hypertension, include family history, gender, race and whether you smoke).
The details make for a fascinating story, what she felt, how she reacted, where she was found – but none more so than the serene look she had when she told “Wendy, it was right then that I knew some things just aren’t worth stressing over. If I’d have known then what I know now, I would have just waited and taken a later flight.”
The short term stress over something as arbitrary as being on time has now caused her entire life, and the lives of those around her, to change. Her mother has relocated to help her recover; she can’t drive, and won’t be able to live her life on her own terms, at least for awhile.
I have spent a great deal of my parenting time explaining to my children that in life, there is a difference between want and need. I find myself now thinking, “Is this something I want to get angry and upset over, or do I need to?” Sadly, more often than not (and I have NO idea what this means about me as a person) I’m finding that there is no real need to be that upset over the things I get upset over… especially if the cost is so extreme.
It’s taking longer than I’d like to retrain myself, and I’m human. I slip and yell at the jack-hole on the freeway who doesn’t understand that there really is such a thing as a fast lane, or frown at the checkout guy who thinks you are supposed to put only one item in each bag. Both of those things are vastly different than the stresses (hard work) of being the office manager of a family law firm, raising two boys, returning to school, and everything else I have on my plate. But, it’s a life lesson all the same that I hope will help me live just a little longer, and with a lot less frustration.
What about you? Are parts of you like my friend whose life was forever changed? Are you like me, trying to change so that doesn’t happen? How do you handle stressful things in your life?
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Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 12 and 16. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and this year returned to college for her B.A. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler.