This isn’t really about Bob Ross.

My last post was about two months ago, so I figure it’s about time that I get back on my game. At least until another two months passes and I remember I should get my money’s worth while I own this domain. Since I’m sure you read and reread my last post just to see if it was a new one, you might recall that I was last dealing with stress.

Like all other breathing creatures, I’m still dealing with stress. But the once incredibly high levels have become my normal. I’m sure there’s something new just around the corner. My job title has changed twice since March, and I’ve spent most of the last six months learning. Though I’d easily be able to give you a list of what I’ve learned, I won’t bore you with the details of explaining how to audit an MVR to see if a driver self-certified correctly or what it’s like to navigate the various state requirements for tax-exempt ownership transfers of vehicles.

This Bob Ross clothespin doll you can buy on Etsy doesn't have anything to do with my work stress, but you click the picture for the link and buy it for me to keep at my desk and make this sort of make sense.

This Bob Ross clothespin doll you can buy on Etsy doesn’t have anything to do with my work stress, but you click the picture and buy it for me to keep at my desk. Then this would sort of make sense.

(I really just needed to create some mystery to keep you reading past that last sentence. It’s called creating tension and it’s a writing technique.)

Anyway, I’ve found that the most stressful part of my day doesn’t happen at work. After 8-12 hours of operating at my highest mental capacity, I come home and have little energy to do anything for myself. Things like working out, journaling, going through old journals for Throwback Thursday Posts, reading a few chapters (or compelling essays about brain disorders) before bed each night, or cooking a meal to share with friends. The few moments before I doze off after reading only 2 paragraphs of a novel are the worst of my day. That’s when I reflect on my day and realize I completely skipped over things that enrich my life. I absolutely love my job, but the sudden realization that my Me-Time has all but evaporated sometimes knocks the wind out of me. Fortunately, consciousness doesn’t last long. My sleep is usually heavy and dreamless.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve made the deliberate choice to not accept vegging out with mindless television as the only way to recoup from the day. A year ago, I used to really look forward to my near-daily runs. I felt enormous pride knowing I could run a few miles after a full day of mentally-taxing work. It was a mental restart button for my day. Whatever I had dealt with earlier would lose its saturation by the time I started cool-down stretches. I read plenty, slept soundly, and awoke renewed. Knowing that better sleep and higher quality of life is just switch of willpower away is such a stupid problem, but my apathy made me powerless.

I’ve probably said it before, but the problems that frustrate me most are the ones over which I feel I have no control. These make me feel as if all my weaknesses and insecurities are a meme I can’t escape. I see my ineffectiveness everywhere. When I was really freaking out about a car, all I could see was evidence of everybody else successfully owning cars. I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow one of my parents’ cars for a few months, but my insecurity about it was terrible. See a gas station? “OH MY GOD. YOU DON’T EVEN OWN A CAR THAT RUNS RIGHT NOW. YOU CAN’T EVEN PUT GAS IN YOUR OWN CAR.” Pull into the parking lot at work? “EVERYONE KNOWS YOU DON’T DRIVE A DURANGO AND THAT YOUR CAR DOESN’T WORK. ALSO YOU CAN’T FIX A CAR.”

I’m not really sure why it took me so long to change my approach with this problem (Foolish optimism? Fear of the salesman? Fear of rejection? All of the above?), but eventually I decided my dad’s time could be better spent on things other than trying to fix a 19 year old car I wanted to set aflame. I started car searching and I found a great car that was made in a year in which I have vivid and fond memories.

Seeing that I could eliminate that stress was satisfying. I was hooked on being in control. To prepare for the added expenses of a car, I created a really awesome budget spreadsheet (I only update TWO TABS with my debits and credits of a 15-tab spreadsheet. It’s uploaded to Google Sheets so I can access it on my phone and know exactly where I stand for the month). I got a Fitbit and started tracking my steps and sleep patterns. I started to meet with a health coach to set goals and hold me accountable each week. I took a Saturday off and spent six hours reading a book. SIX. It was incredible.

I feel like I’ve been complaining about my work/personal/sanity balance for a while now. I swear there’s more to my life than this. I have many more entertaining stories to share. Like the Sadness Parade I took part in with my dad and older brother (taking my old car across town for a mechanic friend’s opinion), what a food scientist packs for an evening picnic date, my realization that sports bars are not my natural habitat (weird, I know), what it was like driving my new car home the first night, or how I wish I would have handled a construction worker sort of sexually harassing me while we were both stopped at a red light. Spoiler alert: it’s not half-smiling and asking myself if that really just happened.

With time, you’ll get those stories. For now, I’m making the deliberate choice to read. I just had to share more complaints with you. Just one last time. Probably.

Defending One of My Maladaptive Coping Mechanisms

This thing I found on Wikipedia defines a maladaptive coping mechanism as follows:

a coping technique [that] will just reduce symptoms while maintaining and strengthening the disorder. Maladaptive techniques are more effective in the short term rather than long term coping process. 

I define maladaptive coping mechanisms as awesome.

I feel like I need to preface this whole thing by saying I’m not complaining. I’m just venting. Because there’s a difference, connotation-wise. Complaining is just going on and on about your problems and never dealing with them, just hoping that somebody will poof all your problems away. Venting is thinking aloud until you come to a plan of action that you and your audience agree on. Even when I complain I’m venting, so keep that in mind next time you hear me say something negative. You might not hear my action plan, but you’d agree with it if I bothered to articulate it.

The last few weeks, I’ve been dealing with an unusual amount of stress in my professional life and my personal life. My stressors are as follows:

  • Navigating new territory of more responsibility
  • Excel. The bane of a young professional with only a liberal arts background
  • Supporting a friend through a difficult period
  • My possibly dying plants: my ivy is getting dry, one sprig of a festival-purchased peony plant has turned black, and I have no idea if my bamboo has grown over the last 13 months
  • My constant deliberation over the pros and cons of living as a lazy slob
  • My not-so constant deliberation over the pros and cons of living as a productive human who eats more than a bowl of granola for dinner
  • The slow realization that I am no longer in my prime
  • The knee-jerk reaction to the previous point (RUN TWO MILES BEFORE WORK EVERYDAY! NEVER EAT PROCESSED FOOD! NEVER DRINK SODA! STOP DRINKING COFFEE! DON’T EAT THAT BREAD UNLESS YOU WANT TO GAIN 5LBS IN YOUR SLEEP! DON’T WALK – CROSS GROUND IN LUNGES ONLY!)
  • Working to pay off some debt to make room for new debt (ie, a car that was made within the last decade) & the realization of the fruitlessness of adult life
  • Wondering where I’ll be when my 19-year old car finally decides to die
  • Only being in Season 2 and not wanting to miss when someone finally kills King Joffrey, but not really liking anyone other than Tyrion

Without going into too much detail about any of the above items, I’ll summarize by saying that I feel like I spend 80% of my week being stressed. While I enjoy being challenged, I reached my point a few weeks ago where I was like, “COME ON, UNIVERSE. DON’T BE SUCH A JERK.” Then the universe was just like, “LOL NOPE. HERE’S MORE.” I expect that as I become more accustomed to my responsibilities, my stress level will plateau until the universe decides it’s time I have more excitement in my life.

Today happened to be a particularly stressful day (despite my better intentions, one interaction early in the day clouded my mood for the next 9 hours). After working for 9.5 hours, I came home and announced to my roommate, “I’m just going drink the leftover wine in the fridge and bake cookies. I’ll probably just eat cookie dough for dinner.”  I’ll defend it by saying this: Some days you just need to feel that you’re able to complete one thing from start to finish. I knew that there were about three glass of wine between the two bottles of wine (moscato and chardonney) in my fridge. I knew that I could follow a 7-ingredient recipe, set the oven timer to 8 minutes, and remove the cookie sheet without burning myself.

To cope with my stress, I really just needed to be reminded that I was able to complete something from start to finish without interruptions. I now have five dozen cookies to prove it. The same issues will still plague me tomorrow, but at least I’ll have cookies.

Don’t judge me.