I am thinking about stress this morning. Stress is the feeling I get when there are too many things to do while not having enough time to do them. It is often related to upcoming events, visits from family for example. Or to events for which I have some responsibility like a party or fundraiser for a charity. It is hard for me to let go of those things that I do routinely like my morning reading, time I spend writing, attending regular meetings with a variety of support/enrichment groups and keeping somewhat of an organized house. I feel stress, too, when I see something that needs to be done and day after day I fail to give it attention. Right now it is washing the windows in the house – a spring chore for most. When I was trying to organize old stuff in my basement, I realized what a mess our old family pictures are. A few years ago, I organized photo’s from the time we married until whatever that time was. But I have boxes of photos from Bernie’s childhood and my own and of ancestors that we don’t even know. Just thinking about it causes a slight rise in blood pressure.
I am also thinking about what it means to live in the moment. All that I read about spirituality comes around to this. Where does one find God? In the moment. It is the answer to all that we have been looking for. To find God all you have to do is stop. Here God is at the end of my nose. If I look anywhere else, God is gone.
Enter stress again. Also in my spiritual readings, I am learning that stresses I experience because of past events or because of worries about the future are self-inflicted and not real. Is there ever a moment when stress is real? Of course, the feeling of stress is always real if I am feeling it, but are the causes of my stress real or imaginary. This leads me to try to imagine a real cause for stress, a cause that is worthy of one’s feeling stressed.
Let’s say I am pulling together financial records that have to get to my tax guy by three o’clock. At two, my grandson comes running into the house screaming, “Grandma, the dog got out of the kennel and ran away!” A task with a time limit interrupted by a task that will require most or all of whatever time I have. That sounds like a reason to feel stress – in the moment. But stress I feel later after the dog has been found and the taxes have been turned in late and I’ve paid the late fee – this is a pointless stress. “That damned dog,” I might complain to someone. “He is nothing but a headache,” while feeling stress again. Meanwhile Fido is laying on the couch next to me and I am scratching him behind the ears where his fur is soft and warm. Fido here now is the moment. His running away is not…and not worthy of more stress.
I am again looking at my financial records, realizing the debt I still carry. I think about my job and how several other employees have been laid off recently. Suddenly I feel stress. I start thinking about the difficulties of not having an income to pay my bills. I am anticipating an event that may or may not happen. It is not real even though I feel stress as though it were. This is real: right now I am paying bills out of a account that has enough money to cover them.
I cannot tell you how difficult it is to live in the real moment. “This is here; this is now,” is a prayer I often pray. I tried to think it when I saw the sun rise this morning. There was a breeze and I set my thoughts on how it felt across my face and I heard the birds singing. I noticed the dark spaces in the leafy trees. I didn’t think any deep thoughts about that – I just noticed.
This is a month of family and events. It is easy for me to slip into the stresses of the past or future. I know that there will be moments of real stress. But I know, too, that those moments worthy of immediate stress are few and far between. I have a friend who believes that the answer to life’s stresses is gratitude. Gratitude for the soft fur behind a dog’s ears and for money in the account to pay today’s bills. He is a very spiritual man. Maybe I can develop the ability to be grateful even for the real stress moments that teach me that I can’t control everything, that nothing is permanent, that I sometimes need to ask for help, or that I can survive loss.