What's In Your Toolbox?
I remember my boyfriend from high school describing his emotional path like a train on a track. He used to say that sometimes the wheels slide off the rails, but then they come back on. I’m sure that doesn’t happen, but I got the message. He was the son of extremely strict immigrant Italian parents whose discipline didn’t really motivate him much academically, although he did finally succeed fairly well as an architect. He played the piano, but his performing in a rock band was much different than my classical training. I was his groupie, would you believe? He was there with a bouquet of flowers, however, when I stood on stage at age 17 enjoying the applause of over 150 people at my senior recital.
He died a couple of years ago way sooner than he should have. I don’t know the circumstances, but it did sadden me. He was a fun guy, and we had many laughs and heart-to-heart talks even at that young age. He suffered a couple of emotional break-downs during our high school years, and I remember visiting him in the hospital. How can you be jamming with your band friends and living it up one minute and find yourself in the abyss the next? I don’t know, but it can happen to anyone. Yesterday, it happened to me.
In the middle of the night, I awakened all anxious. I must have been dreaming something, as I couldn’t figure out why I felt that way. I got up at 3:00 a.m. as I couldn’t get back to sleep. That doesn’t happen often anymore, so I kept digging in my memory to determine why the anxiety wasn’t dissipating. Sure, we all have things that can plague us if we dwell on them, and, apparently, some of those things had risen to the surface while I was scouring the sink yesterday. As the morning wore on, it got worse to the point that I knew it was time to pull out all stops and do something. After 15 minutes of weight-lifting, I felt considerably better and went on with my day. The few hours I fretted, however, had already taken its toll on me, and on the way to lunch with a friend, I could barely talk. I got to the restaurant, met my friend, and we engaged in our meeting sharing information and amusing moments. By the end of lunch, I was back to “normal.”
What’s my point? My point is that we all have times of high stress, anxiety or sadness, and we each must find our own resilience tools to deal with the fallout. I have a list of at least a dozen things I can do when my fall-back plans fail. I whip them out one by one and go to it as fast as I can to pull my bootstraps up. (That’s what my mother would say when I got sad, “Oh, pull up your bootstraps!”) For me, physical exercise and distracting the mind (usually out of the house), almost always work. Sometimes, however, we need a good scream, a wholesome cry or a long walk in the woods. Whatever works. In this crazy, unpredictable, narcissistic world, we all need our own toolbox. What’s in yours?