Enough, Already!

Things have been just  TEENY bit stressful in my life lately. I’m ready for this nonsense to be done and over with.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, my mom’s sister passed away. The week of Thanksgiving, we had to put our dog down. This past week, my uncle Rob (mom’s brother) was rushed to the hospital with severe abdominal and chest pain, and we still don’t have a full understanding of what’s going on. House stuff continues to be unsettled. And now, Rocket has a full urethral blockage and needs to be hospitalized for two or three days, to the tune of $800.

That’s, enough, Universe! I’m crying uncle! Lay off already!

Up in the Air

First things first, thank you all for your concern about my mom. She’s home now, and doing better, but we still don’t have a concrete plan for her mental health moving forward. We are all optimistic, but as with many things, this is not going to be straightforward. For my mom’s privacy, I probably won’t get into any more detail than that.

The events of this weekend have just been the cherry on top of the hellacious sundae of stress and anxiety that has been my life lately. The current political climate is certainly a contributing factor, but the biggest issue right now is that I feel like all of my short- and long-term goals are dependent on something that’s completely and utterly out of my control.

As many of you know, Ben is a teacher, and he’s currently on a temporary, part-time contract covering a leave of absence for another teacher. His school was able to cobble together enough hours as an Instructional Aide (IA) that combined with his half time teaching position, he is a “full-time” employee with benefits. While it was wonderful and generous of them to do this (his benefits are saweeet), his position is both tenuous and undesirable.

Because he splits his time between teaching and IA duties, he has less preparation time during school hours to do things like grading and lesson planning than other teachers do. This in turn means he has to spend more of his own time at home doing those things and less time pursuing his own interests. His salary is also a fraction of what he should be making. And there is simply no guarantee that he will have even this half-time position next year, let alone a real, honest-to-goodness full time teacher position. The school may decide to interview for the position and he might not get it. There may not be enough enrollment to keep the position at all. Ideally, this would become a full-time, permanent position, but we just have no way of knowing, and won’t know for months.

This uncertainty makes EVERYTHING we want to achieve this year harder. We can’t get approved for a mortgage if we don’t know what Ben’s salary will be, or if he will even be gainfully employed come June. And we certainly can’t have a kid if he doesn’t have a job with benefits, because the plan is for me to stay home with the kid(s) until they reach school age. Conversely, if we’re not going to be house hunting or procreating this summer, I’d love to cram in more theatre before having a kid makes that a hell of a lot harder. Stowe has got a great lineup of shows for the summer, and auditions are happening over the next few weeks. I don’t want to miss out on auditions assuming that things are going to go well with Ben’s job situation, and then be bored and disappointed in a few months. But I also don’t want to commit to doing a show and then find out that house hunting and baby making are on like Donkey Kong. The FOMO is real.

On top of all of this, I feel guilty for putting all of this pressure on Ben. It’s not really fair that all of this is hanging on his professional prospects, but it is. He’s just as stressed as I am, and honestly, just as helpless. He’s doing the best he possibly can in a really shitty situation, and just hoping that things work out. He’s checking school spring every week to see if new job opportunities come up, but the teaching market in Vermont, particularly in the desirable districts, is WAY over-saturated, and so far, no other opportunities have come up.

I just feel like everything is up in the air. I know all of this is incredibly first world problem-y because hey, I have a place to live, and a job that pays really well, and health and dental insurance and a family who loves me and blah, but still. I just feel so dang helpless.

Any other teachers or teacher spouses out there? Have you struggled to land a full-time position?

Taking a Break

I think it’s time for me to take a break from blogging.

The biggest contributing factor to this decision is how stupid busy and stressed I am at the moment. I have quite a bit on my plate, and blogging is something that should be fun, but right now, is just causing me stress. Writing my own blog posts and responding to comments, crafting social media posts, plus reading and commenting on other blogs is something that I spend a significant amount of time doing these days, and I’m starting to feel like that time could be better spent elsewhere.

The other piece is a bit harder to articulate. Basically I’ve just become overwhelmed by the expectations and obligations of having an online presence. I don’t like the behaviors required to be a “successful” blogger, or Instagram user, or Twitter user. Jockeying for likes and followers and using a billion hashtags and worrying about SEO is just not me. This was a big part of why I stepped down as a BibRave Pro. I was hoping that removing that particular obligation would help ease the pressure, but I still can’t totally escape the feeling that if I don’t post regularly, or have tons of likes on my Instagram posts, I’m not a “good” blogger. I’m also struggling with the pressure of having an audience. It sometimes feels like the things I’m doing (running, racing) and the things I’m writing here, or perhaps the way I’m writing them, are more for other people than for me, which is not why I started blogging.

I just need to hit reset and figure out a) if I want to continue blogging, and b) what that will look like for me in the future. I need to take some time to reconnect with running and exercise as an outlet for myself rather than a performance for my online audience. I need to do it because I want to do it, not because I want to see the likes stack up. I need to find the internal motivation rather than the external motivation. I need to escape from the world of hashtags and optimization and creating my “brand” and just focus on real life for a while.

I’m not sure how long this break will be, but I’m not planning to come back until I really feel the desire to blog again. I deeply appreciate everyone who’s ever stopped by, read, commented, or otherwise reached out. I’ve made some amazing connections through this little blog of mine, but I’ve just got to step back and figure out my own stuff for a bit.

Life Update: STRESS!

It’s been a while since I talked about life. In a word, it’s stressful. I alluded to this in Monday’s post, but I feel like I sort of let my schedule get away from me this month, on top of a bunch of other stressful goings-on. Here’s what’s up:

First things first: I’m booked solid every single weekend in September. This weekend is the final weekend of Chess, next weekend is our pig roast (which I feel like how the hell did we get here I haven’t done anything holy crap), the following weekend is the Spartan Sprint (see further stress about that below), and the Color Run (for which I’m an ambassador and leading two teams) is the weekend after that. Hooooooly over-scheduled, Batman!

Next, the Spartan Sprint is in just a few weeks, and I feel completely and totally unprepared. I’m really disappointed because I signed up months ago with the intention of taking training very seriously and doing at least SOME strength training on a regular basis. As you all know, that hasn’t really happened because I’ve been so busy with rehearsals. At this point, I feel like I’ll probably survive, but I don’t think it’s going to be very much fun. I foresee myself doing a lot of burpee penalties because I won’t be able to complete many of the obstacles.

Chess the Musical, while incredibly rewarding, is causing me to be overtired as all hell. Performing the show also requires me to oscillate wildly between emotional highs and lows–I go from happy and in love, to bewildered, to happy and in love, to pissed, to devastated, and back to pissed, which is exhausting and confusing. And then of course, I’m faced with the final weekend of shows this weekend. Despite all the exhaustion and hard work, I’m not quite ready to let it go. This has been such a rewarding process and incredible opportunity… I’m just trying not to think about it too much.

Then of course, there’s work stress. I can’t go into too much detail because I’m still waiting for the dust to settle, but things at work are kind of up in the air right now (not due to me, but other issues). I have no idea how things are going to look when all is said and done. I may end up with a ton of extra work and responsibility that I absolutely DO NOT WANT, but don’t really have a graceful way to refuse. Or nothing at all could happen. But the waiting and the uncertainty is excruciating.

And then everyone’s favorite, financial stress. Between race registration, flights, hotel rooms and park passes, I’ve already spent 95% of the amount I budgeted for my Disney trip; that doesn’t even include food, so I’m having a bit of a heart attack about that. I’ve also wracked up a small amount of credit card debt this year, which I HATE. Ben and I are trying to very seriously figure out the timing of things like starting a family and buying a house, which is complicated by my stupid student loan debt and terrible money management skills. There are lots of spreadsheets and calculations going on, and it blows.

Lastly, my training is off due to the show. I missed an entire week of running, and then only ran twice the following week which, while totally necessary for my sanity and health, makes me nervous about my goal of completing two half marathons on back-to-back weekends. This is something that I really wanted to accomplish, but now I’m less confident that I’ll be able to manage it. And related to financial stress, I probably shouldn’t pay for another race registration right now…

Obviously, none of these situations is dire or life-threatening, and many of them are my own choice/fault. It’s just that a lot of things are all happening at the same time and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Once the show is over, I think I’ll be able to handle each of the other issues in nice, bite-sized chunks as they come up. I have a plan for my financial stuff that I have already set the wheels in motion for, and I have plenty of help for the pig roast, so I have faith that the other stuff will com together. Sometimes ya just need to bitch about it, am I right?

What’s stressing you out right now?

How do you cope when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

To-Do Lists: Perception vs. Reality

The other night after we had turned out the lights and said our good nights, Ben whispered in the dark, “Do you ever feel like your to-do list is done?”  I reflected for a moment, and answered, “Yeah, sure, sometimes.”  And he said, “I don’t.  I feel like I’m always behind and never on top of my shit, and it’s stressing me the f^&* out.”  And this got me to thinking.

There’s this idea that a to-do list is a thing that can be completed.  You write down the things that need to be done, and cross them off as you finish them.  Eventually, you finish all the things and the list is done, right?  Wrong!  Because as soon as you finish all the things on that list, more things pop up that need to be done.  That’s life–there’s always something you need to complete.

There’s a fundamental disconnect in the perception of the to-do list versus the reality.  The perception of the to-do list is that you can finish it and feel accomplished and just be done.  But the reality is that you are never done.  For every item you cross off the list, you put two more on.  But it’s your attitude toward your seemingly never-ending list that is what determines your personal concept of success versus failure.

Option number one is that you can let your list overwhelm you.  You focus on all the things you have yet to do instead of the fact that you are crossing things off the list.  You, like Ben, are stressed out, cranky, and feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day.  You put off doing fun things because you “should” be productive and cross more items off the list.  This option, in my opinion, is not good.

I prefer option number two, in which you simply accept that life continues on.  There will always be things to do.  But instead of worrying about everything left to do, you rejoice in the fact that you crossed three things off today’s list.  OK, yeah sure, you added three things, but at least you’re making progress, you’re moving forward.  As long as you are making progress, you should consider yourself to be successful.  You can’t be all business all the time, and you can’t get bogged down in lists and “shoulds” and obligation.  Life carries on whether you check off 3 items or 30, and you can’t be stressed out all the time.

At this time of year, it’s really easy to get caught up in the mania.  I know my to-do list is currently 20 items long and growing by the minute.  And yeah, I’m a little stressed out, but I know it will get done.  I’m not going to let it get to me.  I refuse to let my list get the better of me.

And now, I’m going to share a few of my tips with you so that you can be less stressed too.

1.  Keep your list with you, or in an obvious, easy-to-see place.  This may seem like common sense, but surprisingly often, I make a list and then leave it at home, and when I want to get stuff done on my lunch break, I’m struggling to remember what I need to do.  Make it easy on yourself.  If you keep your phone on you all day, write it in your Notes app.  If you have a planner, stick it in there.  Put it on your fridge.  Whatever will help keep it visible and keep you on track.

2.  Make your to-do list as detailed as possible.  For example, instead of “Do laundry,” write “Wash laundry,” “Dry laundry, and “Fold/Hang/Put away laundry.”  I say this for two reasons.  First, this ensures that you won’t forget anything, and will keep you on task.  I usually get through the washing and the drying, but laundry doesn’t get put away for at least a week.  Second, you will get increased satisfaction from crossing off multiple items on your list.

3.  Tackle smaller/easier items first.  I know a lot of people like to go the other way, tackling a big project because they think it will make them feel more productive.  I like to do it this way, though, because, like with number one, I get increased satisfaction and feel more productive with every item I cross off the list.  If I can eliminate 3 or 4 items in the time it would take to do just one large task, I feel great, and my list looks that much less daunting.

4.  Break your list up by day.  I do this all the time.  I make one large, master to-do list for the week, with places I need to go and the things I need to do there, shopping lists, whatever.  Then I take a look at my calendar, and break the list out according to where I can go and what I can do each day.  Breaking it up into manageable, scheduled chunks makes the list seem less huge and impossible.

5.  Don’t be a control freak, like me.  I am just a little bit Type A, and I’m often stuck in the “If you want it done right, do it yourself” mindset.  Don’t do this!  Ask your spouse/significant other/kids/parents for help.  I bet if you looked at your list right now, there’s at LEAST one thing that someone else can help you with.  Yeah, maybe your hubs will grab a different color of wrapping paper than you would have chosen, but in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?  Now you can just wrap the damn gifts and move on!

And just remember what I said before–it’s your choice how to handle this never-ending to-do list called life.  Take it on one task at a time, and never lose sight of the fact that whether you cross everything off or not, as long as you’re moving forward, you are succeeding.

Friday Free-For-All (Fifteen)

Welcome to Friday Free-For-All, where I talk about anything and everything on my mind.  This is usually just a great big brain dump, so brace yourselves!

FULL DISCLOSURE:  This is a sad post.  I’m wallowing.  I’ll be ok.  We will return to regularly scheduled happy-go-lucky programming as soon as possible.

I am le tired.  There are many, many reasons for this, but none I really want to talk about anymore.  Suffice to say, I’m done with this week.  Physically, emotionally, and in all other ways, D-O-N-E.  I wish I were a black bear and could hibernate for the next 4-6 months and wake up and already be married and not have had to go through any more of the attendant drama.  I’m done.

lilo

I get to see my mama and go wedding dress shopping tomorrow.  That’s pretty much what’s getting me through today.  I need some mom hugs and fancy dresses and people telling me I’m pretty.

I skipped my 4 mile run last night.  Long story short, I just didn’t feel like it.  I’m going to make it up tonight, which should make my long run of 8 miles tomorrow interesting.  Maybe I’ll move it to Sunday?

I had to wear my winter coat this morning.  There was a hard, killing frost last night in Underhill, VT, and it was 32 degrees when I left the house.  It’s September 20.  Whhhhyyy?  Don’t get me wrong, I love fall, I love winter, I love all the seasons, which is one of the reasons I love living in New England so much.  But freezing temps in September is just plain wrong.

46916-doctor-who-shaking-head-gif-ZfKP

What is your favorite stress management technique?  I could use a few right now.

What style was your wedding dress, or what do you want for a wedding dress?

Did you get freezing cold temps last night too?