default stress, and the fleeting nature of gratitude

I'm going to reveal some not-so-flattering aspects of my personality in this post, so there is a little trepidation here . . . but maybe it will resonate with some of you.  I have a really difficult time with managing my stress.  Granted, I have a lot going on . . . I have several jobs and four kids, and finding the balance between those things can be difficult. It would be easy to blame my stress level on these things, but the truth I know about myself is that stress seems to be a default for me regardless of what I have going on in my life.  I feel stressed when I have to much going on, and I feel stressed when I have a break. 

This week my stress was at a DEFCON level 5.  Our family was invited to attend a conference at Disney World for women in social media.  It involves some conference time for me, but it also includes a week of tickets to the Disney World parks and some really fun VIP experiences for the kids. I've been so excited for this event. Afterwards, we'll get to spend some time with my family in Florida.  From there, I'll head down to Miami to speak at Mom 2.0 and reconnect with some dear friends. It’s an epic vacation time full of good things.

But instead of looking to all of this with joy, I've been filled with stress over the details.  My laptop crashed and completely died - so I had to work off a different laptop and send mine in for data recovery.  It all worked out but it was inconvenient.  I was trying desperately to catch up on several writing assignments so that I could be present with the kids during this vacation.  Mark had several speaking gigs last week which meant a little less time to get these things done. I had to pack for nearly two weeks away from home, along with packing up stuff for the kids.  I was also trying to pack in such a way that there would be less stress on our trip.  As if my anal-retentive packing techniques would somehow prevent mid-flight screaming or theme park meltdowns.  Having their daily clothing organized will totally prevent Karis from acting like a two-year-old, right?

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None of my stressors this week involved tragedies or insurmountable hurdles, but I was treating them as such.  I was miserable and anxious for the better part of last week.  It sort of came to a head one night when I found myself panicked and exhausted and unable to sleep at 3am.  I stumbled out to the living room and decided to catch up on some blog reading.  I logged into my google reader and these were the first few posts:

a woman who is grieving the loss of a baby
a friend who is surviving throat cancer and learning to eat whole foods again
a woman who is separated from her husband and dealing with crippling anxiety
a friend who is remembering the death of her teenage son two years ago
another blogger who is dealing with chronic pain and reconstructive surgeries after a life-threatening plane crash and severe burns that cover her body

And I can't sleep because I am having a hard time with packing.  For Disney World.  Wahhhh.

I had a little come-to-Jesus moment with myself that night in the dark.  I gave myself a hand-slap for being so ridiculous and anxious about things that don't matter . . . things I should be grateful for.  I reminded myself of times in my life that have been objectively stressful - and how in those times, I promised myself to never sweat the small stuff.  I was bummed that, once again, I allowed my perspective to slip.

You know what doesn't really help in terms of learning gratefulness?  Putting yourself into a self-induced shame spiral. But I did it anyway.

I know I'm not alone in this. I know that gratitude is an easy thing to aspire to, but a difficult place to live.  Stress seems to be a default condition for me.  It's one I'm working on.

I'm going to do my best, over the next two weeks, to live in a stress-free place.  I'm going to try hard to slip into vacation mode, and hope that being away from my house and my computer and my usual commitments will help me be more present with my kids and more grateful for my blessings.  That's my goal for the week.  And for life, too. 

But we’ll start here.

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