Monday, March 11, 2013

Resisting the Rush

In my post about needing to relax in order to sing, I mentioned that I had spent most of my adult life in a constant state of tension.  That's because I was an adrenaline junkie.

Many people who say that mean they're attracted to danger and spend their spare time hang-gliding, shark-baiting, or jumping their motorcycles over school buses without wearing a helmet.  Not me.  My adrenal glands were always at the mercy of my career.  Insurance may sound dull to most of you, but I was generally managing a department full of rugged individuals, handling complaints from at least one state's Department of Insurance, trying to calm unhappy agents (did I mention some of them were married to the mob?), traveling under harrowing conditions to work-related public speaking gigs, and trying to balance an impossible budget, all within extremely tight time-frames.  For several years I worked 70 hours a week - 9am to 9pm on weekdays, often without a lunch break; at home on Saturday afternoons and evenings; and back to the office on Sunday afternoons.  Fortunately in those days I could afford a cleaning person, laundry service, and eating out.  Not having children turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  At least work was my main bad habit - I didn't have time for substance abuse or power shopping.

Even the years I didn't work 70 hours a week were full.  I may have set some kind of record for how long it takes to earn a master's degree.  My BA is in English and history, so of course I took no undergraduate business classes when I was in college the first time around.  When I decided to earn an MBA I had to go to night school to pick up basic courses in accounting, finance, statistics, economics, IT, etc. before I could even apply to grad school.  By the time I moved to New York I had two years of graduate work under my belt, only to learn that the new grad school I was applying to wouldn't accept transfer credits from ANYWHERE.  Back to the drawing board, and another five years of night school.  With group work sucking up my weekends.

I thought I would finally be able to relax when I retired from insurance, but then came crisis-a-day (or sometimes crisis-every-five-minutes) Barry.  When we were together I sometimes felt like a sprinter at the starting line, waiting for the gun.  Readiness was all.  Coping would be required; the only question was WHEN.

So, for the last two years I have been letting go.  I've had occasional minor financial stress and of course the hassle of getting my parents moved, but nothing approaching the constant demands of my previous life.  Sometimes I have even been able to kick back and do NOTHING without feeling guilty.  Until...

I started working full time for my friend the realtor this winter.  She was busier than any two human beings should be, so shifting part of the load to me wasn't as helpful as we'd both hoped.  Every Monday morning when I turn on my computer and start reading the emails that piled up over the weekend, I can actually feel my heart rate and my breathing speed up.

In my former life, I would have tried to stay on top of everything by working longer hours.  I could easily go back to spending my life on red alert, riding the adrenaline wave until I drop from exhaustion.  This time, though, I'm trying to work smarter, not harder.  I work late only when it's absolutely necessary.  I organize little pockets of chaos so we can find what we need without frantic, time-wasting searches.  I'm evaluating Client Relationship Management software so we won't have to consult a gazillion separate spreadsheets to see if we've done everything we need to do for all our clients.

It's not really enough.  I need to do more to bleed off the tension at night.  I still need to get back into the gym and cut back on my stress eating.  The good news, though, is that at least now I relax enough on the weekends so that I DO feel that adrenaline kick-start on Mondays; I'm not living with it 24/7.

Deep breath...thinking OM...

"Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it." ~Lily Tomlin

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