Friday, November 14, 2008

Stress

When I was in high school, I was stressed about Organic Chemistry and Calculus. When I was in college, I was stressed about every single engineering test, to the point that I started having panic attacks as I sat in my desk and waited for the test to be handed to me. Now that I am a stay-at-home Mom, nobody asking my brain to perform tasks that I am afraid are out of my league, you'd think I would be over the stress. At least that was what I used to tell myself to help me get through all those exams. "One day Abby, you'll be a stay-at-home Mom and will have no more tests to get stressed about." I can remember rolling my eyes at my Mom in high school, since I was preparing for my big and mighty tests or projects, as she went into fits on the day before company came over. I can still see her vacuuming the rug in our den, so that it had perfect vacuum lines running across it, and then making us all (four children don't forget) walk on the TINY space of floor AROUND the rug so that we wouldn't mess up the lines on the carpet. Whenever she entertained, everything had to be perfectly clean and PERFECTLY planned.

Watching her, in my teenage smugness, I thought, "I will never be like that! She is a stay-at-home Mom, what in the world does she have to be stressed about?" I am here to confess that I am there. I have, as in so many other things, become much like Mother in this as well. I try to tell myself that these things don't have eternal significance. That people just want to feel welcome in my home and do not notice if I have dusted the top of my television cabinet. That this need to be "perfect" is nothing but pride and should be rooted out. There is some section of me, that thinks at least part of my motives are worthy. Those would be that I enjoy thinking about who my guests are and what would make them feel special. For some that may be fine china, for others it might be a particular CD playing in the background, or funny little theme (like airplanes on a runway Whit and Cole :)) as the centerpiece of our table. Whatever it may be, I take joy in trying to create an atmosphere that will, hopefully, make my guests feel special.

Is it bad to devote an entire day (or sometimes two if you count the grocery store trip and pre-cleaning the day before) to having company for dinner? Is it bad that I plop my children in front of movies and ignore their pleas to play with them because I am "stressed" and trying to make things perfect? Is it bad that I end up cursing this old house because no matter how hard I scrub it never actually looks or feels clean? Is it bad that I shy away from having people over (even though I know I would enjoy the fellowship immensely) because all I can think about is those days of hard labor and tight neck muscles beforehand?

While I have not had a lot of events at my house over the past few months, I have had a lot of events. To the point where I looked at Jeremiah last Thursday and said, "I think I'm about to have a nervous breakdown." It was not the most opportune time for a breakdown, considering he had a HUGE orthopaedic test the next day that he'd been preparing for for months, but you know, you just can't help when you start to have a meltdown. I must say that he deserves some major credit for walking away from his test preparation, taking me to bed (at 8:30 at night!) and listening to me cry and vent every little detail that had led to my collapse. I know they must have sounded stupid to him who stands in an OR every day with lives in his hands, but he didn't make me feel that way. What he made me feel was that no matter what, no matter what it cost, we were going to find a way for me to alleviate some of the impending stresses that were hanging over my head. Here, I have to give a standing ovation to my SIL Ashley and my sister Taylor and John David. They took my children for some long periods of time and have given me some time to feel like a human again and to think.

What I've come to is this. Some people just live life stressed. No matter what the occasion, no matter what life is dealing them, you know when you bump into them that they will have a long breathless list to rattle off to you about all that is on their plate. I am that person more than I would like to confess, and the hard thing to admit to yourself is that it's not about what's happening in your life as much as it's about a state of mind. I find that if I can broaden my lens and remember that I am exactly where I've always wanted to be, doing the job that I've always wanted to do, then the little things start to pale in comparison. If I can remember Who is in control (even though I usually feel like He is chuckling at my need for deep cleanliness--just loving watching me learn a lesson about letting things go), then I can turn life's problems over to somebody who can do something about them. Jeremiah's Aunt Jeanie gave me an illustration one time that I have gone back to a lot. She said, "Abby, when you feel like there's a whole forest in front of you that you have to chop down, and you look down to find that all you have is one little ax, then just know that God is on the other end of the forest with a bull-dozier, plowing it down. All He asks you to do is take care of one tree at a time."

I am going to try to focus on those things, and let the little things go. I am going to pray that Jesus will change my heart, and teach me to live a life of freedom and beauty instead of stress and darkness.

15 comments:

Kellie Patton said...

I think we have VERY similar personalities - I feel the EXACT same way about myself when I am entertaining - I, too have tried to tell myself if all doesn't REALLY matter, that being hospitable and oopening my home is what matters, but I still can't get past the need for everything to be perfect - that's why my house is already almost completely decorated for Christmas - b/c I know there is NO other time in the next 3 weeks. I have no suggestions or encouragment, except to say, I am right there with you. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone!

becky said...

i think it is just part of all of us wanting to be super mama! super wife! i think it is our nature to nurture and having everything just so is how we know how to do it. and with your engineering brain, everything needs to be just so. (my nurse brain is no different!!) that is what brings a sense of peace. it is control. our kids don't always act how we want them, our house isn't just exactly like we like them. i really stress about having people over. even if we are gonna be outside. i don't think it's bad to plan for it b/c in essence, in your own way, you are trying to make them feel welcome. but you are right in keeping perspective. it can be hard in the throws of things. and you are definitely not alone!

sbo said...

Abby- You have no clue what perfect timing this post is. Although we are stressed about different things, I can definitely relate and really needed this today! I will be thinking about you and hope we can both relax a little!

Darby said...

Abby, There is a very scientific name for the syndrome you are struggling with. It's called CHAOS {Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome}. I think it's knit in any woman's being. I'm glad you recognize it and that you are fighting it!!! Listen, Justin and I are coming for the weekend, we're bringing the 3 kids and dog... we can't wait to spend the weekend with you. Don't worry abut your house! Ha ha! Shireen is coming to visit me a weekend in December and she told me not to worry about my house and not do anything special for her. I wrote her back and told her that was a good try but that I will plan meals, clean my house and prepare for her visit... if I didn't I'd be a man. :) But I did promise her I wouldn't stress out... so we'll see if I can hold up to my end of the bargain!! Love you!

Kendall Boggs said...

Okay girls! (Abbs) momma Kendall's gonna have to have a little talk with you perfectionist! (now this is speaking from the QUEEN of having to have everything perfect). (in my younger years)...I mean down to folding the toilet paper perfectly in a triangle and embossing a B in the point with my embosser. ugh...now that's freaking neurotic. I'm not nearly as bad now thoughl. You know, Abby, neither your mom nor I were like that at all growing up! I mean we weren't messy (I don't recall) - or stressed for that matter. I honestly don't know what made us both that way as we got older because I don't recall your grandmother or my mom getting so stressed! I have found though that both Callen and Jordan (and really even Gregory) have become the same way..they have to have it perfect for company...Personally I love that you worry that your guests are well taken care of. It's the Martha Stewart in some of us. Listen, I've been to many homes and they could care less! Makes me feel real special! Now though, my goal when I have someone come in my home is just to have everything comfortable and in place. (actually I still get a little crazy) If that requires a lot of hard work, well I do it. Take my advice though, please don't do it to the point where your just sick (I would literally get sick at Christmas cause everything had to be so perfect and I would work my fingers to the bone) I have to admit, when I go to someone's house and it just looks so, so, so perfect, I think, man this girl's gotta problem...I'm hoping mine's not THAT perfect! I promise people don't notice the hard work as much as you put into it! But if the ultimate outcome brings you peace! Then you keep just keep entertaining! Oh, by the way, I've found it's a little bit of a competitive thing. Atleast that's always been the case with me.

Kendall Boggs said...

Oh Darby, that's funny! You really would be a man!!! I cannot in a zillion years imagine my husband getting stressed. I do though have a theory. If you ever need anything done in the house? (like fixed) Plan a party where all of HIS friends are invited...Great trick - but ya'll don't tell anyone I said that hehe!

Melissa said...

Wow! What a perfect post for me today! My FBLA chapter has just finished hosting a district-wide rally for 250 people, and I'm trying to coordinate my son's first birthday party AND my husband's deacon ordination...both next weekend! Thank you ALL (Abby and commenters...is that a word?) for helping bring me back down to earth! And Abby, where did you get that cute little birthday hat? Email me at melissabaxley@centurytel.net. Thanks!

Brandi Bartee said...

Abby, You are not alone in your thoughts or feelings. Thanks for your blog today and for letting us all know that we are not alone. I will be praying for you.

andi said...

Well, like me, we like things we do to be well-done. Yes, you are where you have wanted to be, that doesn't make it a cake walk. Jesus is still using it as a way to refine you. I often think I clean to serve my family. They don't care, I do it because I like my home clean. So, I have to remember not to inflict guilt on those particular members that may not mind as much as I do. I have found your home to be very welcoming and charming. We are at a period in our lives where company and preparation is a bit overwhelming...so, plan simply for those occasions and leave it to a restaurant and a babysitter for fellowship.

Caroline said...

Ab, What a perfect description of exactly where I am right now and what I am telling myself as I sit anxiously awaiting that test to come. I tell myself that its all going to get better when I get married and have children..Thank you for being so honest and open. I look up to you in so many ways and hope to one day look back on where I am right now and laugh thinking that it was all going to get less stressful. At least I can have someone who understands :) Love you!

Gail said...

My Dear, I think...You are already living a wise, kind, and sweet life. Don't judge yourself so harshly. You sure share a lot of your spirit with others in so many ways. I can't help but think...your home is warm, loving and fun to be in! I adored Jeanie's illustration. Great food for thought! Take it easy and just stop long enough to smell the roses. Life is good, and people like you make it even better! Enjoy the ride!!! You are doing a GREAT job!

Gail said...

P.S. Forgot to mention...Read what Jesus told Martha and Mary!! Good to review! Love...G

Hillary Dunham said...

Beautifully written and SO true! My mom and I have the exact same story and now she says, "you didn't have to do all that" after I have a big shindig. Well, yes, I did. And why? Because that's the only thing I ever saw or knew. I squarely blame (and thank, sometimes) our mothers.
I think you hit the nail on the head about God's view- and laughter at us. Love the analogy, too!

ashr7406 said...

What a great husband Jeremiah was to drop everything, listen AND make you feel better! (I have gotta find me one like that :)) I totally understand where you are coming from! I have always thought that if I could just make it through college and get married and have lots of babies of my own that everything would be just perfect, but I do ealize that things cant be that way! We all just have to find time to enjoy ourselves and relieve our stresses in a way that makes us feel better! PERFECT timing for this post!

Nai Nai said...

Amen Aunt Jeanie!
I think if your sweet mom was here she would tell you that at the end of the day all that matters is your sweet little girls and that sweet, sweet husband of yours.I for years have loved to have guest over and I love to host, but yes I like your mom would work for days cleaning and fussing over the house, while my babies would fight for time with their mommy. I have learned many lessons over the years about our time here on earth and that it is very short. I have six children three of them grown with babies and how I wish I could turn back time and not be soooo stressed about the little things and bottled up every little minute with them and yes this comes with age. I have learned over the years to get a jump start on things and holidays, I have always decorated for Christmas Halloween night and people think I'm crazy, but with Three children living out of state you never know when they will get to come home , so the house was ready anytime they could come and I dion't have to stress about getting it done and focus on them. This year because of taping the Ann Varnum show I had to have in done in September and we are loving our nights at home befors the big rush. Yes, we all have our melt downs as moms but we get back up with axe in hand and start chopping one tree at a time. hang in there you are a great mom and wife.