It’s a late Sunday night at 11:23. I’ve spent my weekend and afternoon in the Florida sun, completely ignoring the fact that I have two midterms that are undone and due at midnight. Now I’m sobbing, in a fit of stress and disappointment. Why did I put this shit off? Why did I think beers by the pool were more important than this? The musings in my head were so loud I could hardly focus and each sentence I typed felt further from sense. By 11:57, Kyle had listened to me cry for the last two and a half hours, and fail to write even one of my midterms. Pissed off tears just fell on my keyboard. Foggy brained, defeated, and disappointed, I gave up for the night and decided to pay the tardy fee. I’d finish it tomorrow.
On Monday, I woke up and was daunted by the work that sat unfinished on my computer. I was miserable. I needed to get them done to avoid furthered late points. I had to get going. It was a new day, after all!
What did I do instead?
Turned on Netflix. Drank two coffees. Cleaned the house. Flossed…twice. Cooked an unnecessarily frivolous breakfast. I did the dishes. I went for a bike ride. Then I sat down and stared at that damn computer. I stared and did nothing. In fact, all I did do was everything except what needed to be done.
Because I was overwhelmed. Because I couldn’t think. Because I wanted to do anything that wasn’t the one thing making my life hard.
I managed to finish one paper throughout the day, but by 5 o’clock that night one remained undone. I came home from work and was unnecessarily aggressive. I sat on the couch and couldn’t even focus. I panicked about the pages that were still unwritten. This lead to worrying about the bills I hadn’t paid and how I was going to afford plane tickets on top of that. I was annoyed about cooking dinner. I was aggravated I couldn’t follow through with the original plans I’d had. Then I started missing my family and home and wondered why we even moved to Florida because it is way too hot here anyway. The shadows of all that happened in the past year of my life came creeping out of the recesses and sunk me even further. Because I didn’t do one paper, because I felt like a failure, suddenly all the stresses of my life were attacking me head on. I couldn’t even breathe.
It’s amazing how we let negativity do this, isn’t it? How one small incident can tear us down so far that suddenly we are drowning in the ocean of our problems? Problems that aren’t even cousins with the original one we were having! The fact that I hadn’t written 1,000 words on Microsoft had nothing to do with my break-up or the thousands of miles between me and the people I love. Yet somehow, I burrowed until I found every last existing mess up in my life and put the heavy load right on top of my chest.
“Here is proof of all the times you have failed,” I reminded myself. “This isn’t going right because none of these things did either. It’s pretty heavy, isn’t it? This weight you’re carrying. You’re probably tired. Why don’t you hang out here for a while? That weight will feel light eventually…just wait until a few more shitty things come your way.”
So I listen.
The weight-that was heavy in the first place- becomes so substantial that it pins me down. I close the door, turn off the light, and grab my blanket. Might as well get cozy in the dark place, am I right? I close my eyes and let the ocean flood the room. Here we go.
Now I don’t just have a paper that’s not finished and getting points deducted by the second. I have an anxiety disorder that I am too afraid to deal with. I have a relationship that is still healing from brokenness. I have a family who is far away. I have an aunt who is sick in the hospital and I can’t hold her hand. I have friends who are sad and stressed and in completely different countries. I have bills to pay, a small bank account, a pile of debt that is definitely larger, dreams that are unfulfilled, places I haven’t seen, a world to discover. Throw in the fact that I could die tomorrow and we are really killing it, guys.
Every. Single. Problem. Floods. In.
And in this moment when I’m lying on my couch, supposedly dealing with the stress of an unfinished midterm, Kyle gently touches me arm so that I open my eyes.
“Go to boxing and punch something, please. Just do the paper when your head is clear.”
I can’t leave. I’m trying to stay afloat here.
“I know you will feel better when you’re done. I’ll see you in an hour.”
He basically shoves me out the door.
Man, I love that guy.
So, I went. I beat the crap out of a few heavy bags. I sweat my ass off. I laughed with new friends and completely forgot about all of the existing issues that were barricading me in only an hour before.
I cleared my head.
When I got home, I didn’t just finish my paper. I knocked that bitch out it in 20 minutes.
So friends, my point is this. I don’t really know what your problems are. Maybe, like me, you understand the stressful lifestyle of being a working adult student who just wants a life and then remembers she must write an essay. Maybe your family is broken. Maybe you have a shattered heart. Maybe you don’t know how you’re going to put food on the table. These are all substantial, real problems and in no way need to be validated by you, much less by anyone else.
But- don’t let these small, yet still significant failures rule the way you live your life. Do not let darkness haze out the promising light at the end of the tunnel. Go hit a punching bag. Go get ice cream with your best friend. Take a walk. Blare your favorite song as you drive with the windows down at full speed. Hell, get on a plane and see a new place if that’s what you really need to do. So many times, we do not realize that our minds are clouded by sadness and uncertainty because we just need to do, see, or be with something we love. The space is in there. We just need to clear it out. To make room for something good.
We somehow keep forgetting that our lives aren’t meant to be heavy and burdened and full of anxiety. And when you say it out loud, it sounds so fucking crazy you will even laugh at how easy it is to actually forget.
The paper is going to get done. The pain will fade away. The bills will get paid. The troubles will subside. Believe me. But only first, if you clear out all that nasty from your brain and let some light in.