The Wages of Stress

Didn’t I just take a vacation? How come I’m so stressed out?

I’ve had what feels like an unusually stressful week. Couple of weeks. Work has been at what often feels like a frantic pace. I’ve bowed to necessity and done what I have to do, but it’s been a juggling act on more than one day. I think, after giving a presentation requiring much more research than I had originally anticipated it would, I am over the hump but I am not out of the woods yet.

Buying a house is a stress. Soffit House, because it is in California, commands a much higher price and a much greater financial commitment than the home that The Wife and I bought in Knoxville and I worry that we will not be able to afford it. We will also be able to add less value to the house easily because so much improvement has already been done to it. This is but one of the many ways I find to fret over money. The missing income that University of Phoenix used to provide — no more can I taste of that, but the money itself would certainly be welcome.

When I get home at night, I’ve felt so deflated that all I can do is sit. Things that normally would only be minor problems feel like major annoyances and I don’t know why I’m taking life’s little travails so hard recently. Patience during the day is a greater effort to find than it normally is. My animals, who want attention and love, annoy me more than is fair to them.

The Wife, who has joined Weight Watchers, seems to constantly obsess over food, constantly counting the points of everything she eats. I am inspired to lose weight, too, but I lack the discipline to track all my food intake. I have tried to moderate my portions and help make healthier choices while eating with The Wife. Although I’ve tried to make portion sizes right for her and use ingredients that will fit with her dietary plans, we still have had a lengthy negotiations about things like sauce for pasta. A lack of food will affect anyone’s mood negatively, and we’re both eating less than we’re ordinarily used to. The result is that we’re a little bit more on edge around each other than we normally are. I wonder if losing weight is worth that.

My feet hurt. All the time.

I try reading or watching television. I cannot concentrate. My mind meanders and can only be focused for short periods of time. Crime shows, like CSI or The Closer, feel too real and disturbing; it is sometimes too easy for me to visualize someone I love as the victim. Such thoughts are particularly unwelcome on this of all days, when the nation indulges itself in a day-long remembrance of a very dark day not so long ago, a day that altered our own national perception of, and reaction to, the world and of ourselves.

Sleep? A fleeting zephyr that either smacks me full in the face at a ridiculously early hour, or else flees from me, always just out of my grasp and mocking my feeble efforts to quiet my mind. Tonight, sleep is far, far away from me, though I am very, very tired and as you can read, my prose has become purple as a result. Perhaps tomorrow night I will follow up on dinner with a round of meditation under the guidance of our friend the Monk. It has been far too many weeks without that periodic moment of mental quiet — perhaps I can achieve it on my own but it seems easier with the trappings of the zendo. As it is, when I lay in bed, unsleeping, and force myself to think of matters other than the stressors that haunt me during the day, dark, dark thoughts of terrible things enter my mind. I’ve had plenty of intense and disturbing dreams whose content vanishes with the light of the morning, but which nevertheless leave behind an aftertaste of fear, unease, or foreboding. Dreamless sleep is pleasant, but so hard to achieve!

Perhaps all this will pass as I move out of a phase of intense work activity; perhaps when the purchase of Soffit House is complete; perhaps when we adapt to a modified diet; perhaps when some other challenge, as-yet unknown to me, is overcome. But, as you likely know yourself, Loyal Reader, one stressor magnifies another and when many pile atop one another, the effect compounds geometrically.

For now, the wages of stress are insomnia, an inability to stop grinding the teeth at the back of my jaw, an occasional loss of impulse control when given the option of eating deliciously fatty food, horrifically powerful sneezes, and what feels like a constant effort to remain pleasant around the good people surrounding me who have, in reality, done nothing to earn my annoyance and discomfitude. I hope that it does all pass soon, though.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.