Whenever I teach a class on stress management, the participants are often in shock when I admit to feeling stressed about a variety of things. How can someone who knows so much about a subject ever get anxious, depressed or irritated?
Well folks, it's easy.
The No. 1 reason is that I'm human. If I could have my feelings surgically removed, than it would be a piece of cake. But I, like most people, react to life's ups and downs. I probably am more fortunate than most in that I have an incredible ability to find the ridiculous in most situations. However, lately I have been seriously tested.
I just had to put my mother in a nursing home due to her increased frailty. She is not happy. An unhappy 93-year-old Sicilian woman can give you a major stress attack. Her calls consist of asking me why I am trying to keep her a hostage.
Now mind you, this is one of the loveliest facilities in the area. It is run by individuals who are caring and nurturing. She is getting exquisite care. But none of that matters because at the root of this situation is a long, familiar history of guilt that pushes my buttons.
There is virtually nothing I could do that would make my mother happy. Yet I keep on trying. Half of me gets that it is she who is unhappy. But the other half attacks me periodically with thoughts that perhaps there's one more thing I need to do and then I will finally pass muster.
If I want to distract myself from this problem, I can start thinking about my divorce. Yes, after 23 years of marriage all is said and done. Friends and family have been extremely supportive.
Some of what they say is often comforting, but sometimes people are at a loss for words, and they say things that make you wish they had left their vocal cords at home. It reminds me of a funeral I went to where one of the mourners went over to the widow and said: "Well, we all have to go sometime." The widow responded by saying: "When do you think it will be your turn?"
Unfortunately, there is no one magic answer to life's twists and turns, but I will admit to having a great deal of belief in the power of hope. I think when we can hope that things will get better, we allow ourselves to stay somewhat optimistic.
Without that, we condemn ourselves to a life filled with doom and gloom. So I'm going to put on my happy face and go see my mom. Who knows, today I may get it right.
Published on July 15, 2003