I wish I knew how to repel stress. It seems that when I'm already stressed, I attract even more stress. I overreact, I freak out about stupid stuff, I get highly emotional - you've all witnessed this on my blog. It might be partially because when I'm stressed I can't sleep, then I try to take a Xannie and sleep it all off, and then I get groggy and forget to do things and get mad at myself. It's a vicious cycle.
The worst part is that I don't even necessarily limit myself to my own stress. I absorb other people's stress and react to it as if it were mine.
Buffy's been really stressed out recently. She calls me several mornings a week on her way to work to vent. Really, I don't mind because she talks so much and for so long that all I have to do is occasionally say "uh-huh". I don't have to actually think or process anything she says, which is great because she usually calls at the most stressful time of my morning; when I'm making lunches and getting the boys dressed and ready for school. I just have to listen. I can do that. The woman needs to vent. We all need that.
One day she called to say she was seriously considering leaving Biff, her husband of two years, the father of her 8-month old daughter Perfect Baby, and who has also legally adopted Princeton. She didn't get into specifically why, other than to say that he was stupid and insensitive and didn't support her.
She also mentioned that Biff was abused as a child and to this day Biff does not believe that what he endured (and again, I don't know exactly what it was, nor do I want to know) qualifies as abuse. How fucked up is that?
Another time she mentioned that she was spending about $1300 a month in child care (which is more than she makes at her part-time job), that they would be unable to pay their mortgage, and that she fears Princeton is resentful because he used to get an allowance and have more of the things he wanted back when they lived in Washington State and didn't have to worry about money.
And she fears that he would internalize the resentment rather than say anything, because the reason they moved across the country was for him to attend a particular school associated with their religion. It's true, knowing him, he's not the sort of kid to complain. I can see why she'd be concerned about that. But I should mention that she recently grounded him for leaving too many lights on in the house. I'd resent that shit too, personally, but you know me, I never judge.
BAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! God, I'm fuckin funny. Anyway...
It's hard to listen to, and not just because I can never get a fucking word in edgewise, but mostly because it makes me feel guilty for having such an awesome husband. I feel for her, truly. And the bonus? The feeling that my life sucks just a bit less than somebody else's. That's healthy, isn't it; appreciating how good you have it?
Last night, when I was in the midst of the mildly stressful process of making the desserts I was planning to take to the Thanksgiving Dinner at Chez Inlaw, my phone rang. It was Buffy. Hysterical. Not funny hysterical, scary crazy hysterical.
I have a huge, huge favor to ask of you. And if you can't do it, it's okay, but if you could...
Ok, what is it? What do you need? Please don't say money.
So she went to the owner to tell her that today would be Perfect Baby's last day at this day care. And the owner told her that she had heard about how she leaves Perfect Baby home with Princeton (who is almost 12), and she was so appalled by her poor parenting skills she had an obligation to call CPS to report Child Endangerment and Neglect, and she emphasized that she should, but she wouldn't because she thought she'd cut Buffy a break. How considerate.
Buffy was so upset she could hardly speak:
Sarah, why is it that even if I'm perfectly justified in doing so, nobody wants me to cause a scene? I've done everything right, I don't know what I ever did to warrant the way this total stranger treats me, and I'm the bad person because I spoke up and SAID something. What, am I supposed to just keep my mouth shut and let someone treat me like crap just so everyone can get along?
Oh, Mother of CHRIST, how I relate to lowering one's standards of how one expects to be treated for the sake of maintaining peace between the parties involved. You don't even know how much of my life I spend biting my fucking tongue so as to not rock the proverbial boat. That's what my blog is for. And trust me, I actually bite my tongue occasionally on here too, believe it or not.
Ok, so what do you need me to do?
Could you please, please, PLEASE go to the day care and pick up Perfect Baby's things?
Right, right now?
Before they close at 6.
Uuuhh... yeah, yeah, that's fine.
I just can't go back there...
Seriously, I totally understand. Do you want me to bring it over after?
Sure, I'll bring it by, no problem.
So I went there, leaving my own 11 1/2 year old daughter in charge of her younger siblings, texted R to let him know I had to help Buffy out of a crisis and I didn't know when I'd be home (but that I'd make the cheesecake and pie when I got back), drove about a mile down the road to the day care, picked up a huge trash bag full of Perfect Baby's stuff, and took it over to Buffy's. And Buffy was an absolute wreck.
She was upset that they hadn't sent home Perfect Baby's artwork. I'd have been a little upset about that too.
She was extremely apologetic for her state and she said over and over again how much she appreciated that I'd do this for her. I told her I was honored by the fact that she knew she could call me in a situation like that and I would help. I sincerely meant that. And she hugged me and cried even harder.
She's pulling Perfect Baby out of this day care that they can't afford and putting her into a more expensive one. And I'm not going to Second-Hand Stress about that because somehow, when someone's making a conscious choice that seems completely stupid to me, they gotta live with that. I don't. When someone's a victim and shit's beyond their control, then you get my sympathy and I'll absorb your stress for you.
So I went home and told R the whole story while I made the pumpkin cheesecake and chocolate truffle pie, and the fact that I had been stressing about my impending showdown with FIL made me feel like a bit of an asshole. I only have to deal with FIL for a few hours. Buffy's shit is more of a lifestyle choice, and that's on her. It's sad.
The effect was that I actually stressed out about my own shit less. So maybe there is some sense in listening to other people's drama. That's probably why y'all read my profanity-laced tirades, isn't it? So your lives seem a little bit better?
Glad I could help. :)
Oh, hey - anybody local want to go see Jon Hamm on the big ass IMAX with me?