The Good Kind of Stress

I sat in the lobby, relaxed, waiting to be called for an interview. I was dressed in the one professional outfit I still owned, and I was seriously hoping it would help me nab a job I very much wanted.

“Diane?”

After engaging in conversation for forty-five minutes, I skipped out of the office building and stepped into fresh air. The sun was shining brightly, and I stopped for a moment to close my eyes and inhale deeply as the warmth flooded over me.

Life had been nonstop lately. My classes, extracurricular actives, trying to exercise more than just running up the stairs at school, and working on my writing was starting to consume most of my time. Whenever I began to feel the stress of juggling time, however, I quickly remind myself that this is the best stress to have. It’s the good stress.

Last year around this time I was settling into my classes, but I was still very shaken up. I had made a huge life change, moved over a couple of provinces, and threw myself into university full-time. The stress I felt back then, perhaps added with the air of uncertainty, would keep me up at night. It was one that gnawed at me when my mind was occupied with other things, and I remember not being able to escape it.

But this is different. This I welcome. Even with the crazy schedule, the exams and papers,  running to interviews, and trying to remember to eat during the day, I am happy. This kind of stress reminds me that a good life takes work, and I would rather forever be working towards the good life, laughing along the way, than feeling stuck in a life I was unsure of.

I know I’ll never figure everything out. I know that I will never be one hundred percent sure if the decisions I’ve made are the right ones. But as I walk the path that I’m on, with school, work, and date nights laughing on the couch, I know that even though there is nothing certain in this life, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying everything.

And right now, I’m enjoying every minute of it.

 

Have a wonderful week,

Diane

 

 

 

The Yearly Interview

I sat in the doctor’s office, changed into one of those paper gowns that couldn’t clean up an entire glass of orange juice if it spilled.

It was my yearly physical, and I loathed this day. Perhaps it is my general disdain for any buildings that have needles in them (except tattoo needles – obviously, those are fun), or maybe it’s because every time I have a physical, it feels more rushed than a McDonald’s drive through.

My heart sped up as people walked by the barely shut door, anxiously waiting for my doctor to come in so I could get this over with. I hadn’t had the foresight to eat breakfast before my morning appointment, and my stomach was politely letting me know.

“Hello! How are you this year?”

I smiled back at the middle-aged doctor, who clearly used her gym pass instead of placing it on top of her dresser to look at every time she put on socks, as I did.

She went through the motions, asking me how I was feeling and if there was anything new since she had seen me a year ago. Finally, we got to the fire question round of deeply personal questions, and I was reminded just how much of your personal life they need to know.

“Are you seeing anyone? How long have you been seeing this person? I see you turned 30 this year, didn’t you say last year you want kids? Do you still want kids? How many kids do you want? If you were to have a child right now, would that interfere with your school? Did you happen to have a child in the past year you forgot to mention? Did you happen to have two children in the past year you forgot to mention? What would you name them? Where would you send them to school? DO YOU WANT A BABY RIGHT NOW?

I glanced at my watch. “Well, probably not right now, I’ve got class in 45 minutes and I seriously doubt that’d be enough time for the birthing process.”

Clearly my mother had called the office beforehand to spruce up the question period a bit.

I chuckled nervously, now seriously regretting skipping my morning coffee, although this was enough of a wake up call on it’s own.

She proceeded to discuss the apparently limited time I had left for children as she finished up the exam. Soon, I found myself alone in the room again, thrilled to be able to put clothes back on that didn’t resemble something you wrap leftover desserts in.

As I walked through the halls to my class, I thought about all the kid questions. Did I want kids? How many? At 30 years old, I felt like I should know. Most of my friends had children and were already looking forward to having them out of the house.

The past few years have been such a whirlwind that this particular topic wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, and although I’ve never been particularly good with decisions, I’m hoping I’ll just know when the time is right.

I approached a food counter to grab a coffee and donut before I rushed off to class.

“Hi there, what can I get for you? A donut? How many? What kind? Where will you send it to school?”

Peace

I sat on the hotel room bed, somewhere between my old life and my new one. After eighteen hours of driving, I was tired, and I wanted nothing more than the comfort of soft sheets and a quiet room to help me forget my worries.

Unfortunately, I had sprang for a $99 hotel room in Regina, and instead of silence and soft sheets, I was greeted with what sounded like a wrestling match outside my room and the unusual feeling of a bed made from what one can only describe as gently used sandpaper.

I was not having the best weekend. Waking at two in the morning on Friday, I set out on a twelve hour drive to retrieve my car, which had been getting repaired after colliding with a deer on an Alberta highway. Ever since that accident, I had been a little timid on highways, and I wasn’t exactly excited to embark on the start of this journey in the dark.

Working up the nerve to reach the speed limit on the highway was a little tricky, but about an hour outside of Winnipeg I started to feel comfortable. Then, perhaps because I had just reached a point where I wasn’t clenching my jaw, I entered into what can only be described as a deer convention. There were so many of them. I slammed on my breaks, and stopped about an inch short of a doe. She stared at me for a moment, and I quickly looked at my surroundings. It was three a.m. on a Friday, the highway was shrouded in complete darkness, and the only other vehicle I had seen on the road was a semitrailer about fifteen minutes ago. That moment, that very precise moment, is when I allowed myself to have a little pity party. I felt warm tears roll down my cheeks, and the windshield started to fog up in front of me.

I thought back to the past summer. To my desire to go back to the comfort of Alberta. To see my friends, to be in the mountains again, to pretend for even a little while that the last eight years of my life hadn’t been lived in vain. I remember a powerful feeling of safety when I had returned there in August, almost as if the familiar had scooped me up into a cocoon, far away from harm’s reach.

And here I was. I didn’t feel so safe now. Alone, in the dark, on a highway in the middle of the country. Wishing I hadn’t gone to Alberta in the first place, while simultaneously cursing my decision to do so. What I thought would bring me great comfort, had ultimately brought on more stress and anxiety.

Running away can only do so much. It might help you for a while, it may even bring you a sense of peace, but with that peace comes a wakeup call. For me, sitting in that hotel room on my way back to Winnipeg, I realized whatever comforts I thought Alberta could provide to me were gone. They were merely an illusion, one that looked like a warm home, but was cold and empty inside once you opened the door.

I looked out the window at the grey, swirling sky, and took a breath. It was time to stop searching for peace in distant places.

It is time to find it where it has always been.

 

Uh huh

I stood in line, browsing the menu at the university restaurant I frequent. I’m not sure why I bother reading it; perhaps it’s to trick myself into ordering a new dish, but I know by the time I reach the cashier, the huevos rancheros will once again have won my heart.

As I glanced around, taking in the sights and sounds of a busy new semester, my eyes fell upon two people engaged in what appeared to be a spirited debate. Since my curiosity knows few limitations in public spaces, I studied them for a minute, wondering what topic they could be discussing with such passion at 10:30 on a Monday morning.

I admire when people are passionate in conversation. When it is evident that there is emotion behind their words, and they are not speaking just for the sake of speaking, but rather to be heard.

It made me think of the last time I truly had an engaging conversation, without thoughts dancing in the back of my mind, or the distraction of that little glowing electronic thing that I can never seem to rid myself of.

I am especially guilty of it with those I’m most comfortable with. Perhaps it is a habit that we’re all getting a little too used to, but more and more I catch myself scrolling through Instagram as I mutter out “uh huh”, while a family member attempts the now outdated act of speaking to someone’s face.

Isn’t it a shame? Technology, with all of it’s powers, seems to be simultaneously connecting us and tearing us apart. While I’m more than delighted to accept a friend request from someone I haven’t seen or spoken with in ten years (alright, maybe delighted is a bit strong of a word), I also appear to deem it more important to see what they had for lunch today than look directly at my mother while she tells me about her day.

So the next time another human attempts the ancient art of eye contact, I will put down my phone, silence the back of my mind, and be ever present in the conversation.

Have a wonderful week,

Diane

 

Fast, fast awake

My eyes shot open to the roaring sound of a lawnmower. I closed them again, briefly, just long enough to silently curse my neighbours. As I stumbled out of bed, attempting to walk a path that couldn’t have been anything farther from a straight line, I reached for the handle to close my bedroom window.

“Come on man!”, I shouted through the screen. “Is that necessary?! My God, it’s only…..”, I glanced at the clock, “eleven thirty.”

Oh. Whoopsie.

I mean, in my defence, it was before noon.

I have never been a morning person. All my life, less the years I was employed at 9-5 jobs, I have stayed up impossibly late. Truly a display of being my father’s daughter, even in my teenage years it was normal for us to say goodnight to each other around 2 a.m., far past the time the rest of the household would retire. There was, and still is, something I love about being wide awake when the rest of the city is fast asleep.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy mornings. In fact, I love them. If I wake up early enough to get things done and accomplish a to-do list before 10 a.m., I feel that I still have the entire day ahead of me. I’ve embarked on many of these days, and it always seems like an absolutely novel idea to continue the pattern of a regular sleep cycle. That is, until I try to visit dreamland.

My mind races at approximately one thousand miles per hour.

Short of being shot with a tranquilizer gun, I have tried everything to get to a place where I wasn’t staring at the ceiling, wondering at midnight if I could correctly remember how the very last episode of “Friends” ended.

No electronics an hour before bed? Check. Meditation? Check. Chamomile tea? Probably drank too much of it. A somewhat unnecessary body pillow? Check. Adjusting the thermostat so it’s not too hot, not too cold, and apparently just the right temperature in case Goldie Locks makes an impromptu visit? Check.

Lately, and especially with the schedule of a university student, I find myself staring at the clock later and later into the night. “Well, it’s only midnight, I’ll make sure I’m asleep by one, and then I can still get in a solid seven hours.”

Four hours and several google searches on the entire personal and professional life of George Clooney later, I finally begrudgingly close my eyes, mentally adding up how much money I’ll be spending on coffee the following day.

So, does anyone have any sleep advice? A few of you have sent messages, which I love reading, so any comments on how you mellow out for those precious sleep hours we’re all supposed to get would be great.

Even as I type this, the clock reads 1:34 a.m., and I can’t help but wonder…

Was George Clooney on every season of “E.R.”?

Sleep well,

Diane

People Being People

It’s one thirty in the morning, and while I should be fast asleep, visiting dreamland before a busy day tomorrow, my mind is racing, and I am reminded of the challenges that can arise simply from being human.

Sometimes, people come into your life, and make it so much better. Time seems to slow down because of them, and you want them to surround you, if only to bask in the glow of their positive energy.

Other times, inevitably, individuals enter your life and leave you feeling drained. Maybe they do something for the worse, maybe they hurt you on purpose, maybe they hurt you by accident.

We cannot change what others do. We don’t decide someone’s actions, how other people react to them, and ultimately, the consequences they bear. Sometimes these actions are harmful to us, and can linger through time, slowly fading into the background, but never quite disappearing. People have their own reasons for doing what they do, and we’ll never know if their actions spring from a place where they themselves were hurt.

But something that took many years to realize, and will always be a work in progress, is that we get to choose how we react. Will you then, let something gnaw at you? Will you hold it close to you, carrying it with you, while allowing it to take up more space in your life, after it has already taken enough?

Or will you let it go? Will you set yourself free from the actions of others, from the hurt and pain it caused? Will you allow yourself to wake up every morning, a new day, and let whatever happened yesterday melt away?

Your burdens, whatever they may be, can be as heavy as the world on your chest, or as light as a feather. The more you feed it, the more power and energy you give to it, causing it to grow.

So let it go. Let it shrink so small that it becomes that tiny feather, and with one breath of air from your lips, let the breeze carry it.

Far, far away, behind you.

 

Goodnight,

D

 

What do you write about?

I was on my third day of classes, and eagerly introducing myself to another student when a common question popped up:

“So what do you write about?”

“Um, well, kind of everything. Wait, not everything. I mean, there’s no fiction. Well sometimes I change names and locations, obviously. Okay, it’s about my life. But, not ALL about my life. I mean I write about things I experience, but I try to say more than just what happened. Really, I try to keep it interesting, even funny sometimes, although this summer I just could not write anything with any amount of humour.”

It’s around this point that the nice smile on their face gives way to a puzzled expression.

“You know what, it’s non-fiction, let’s leave it at that.”

I should really come up with a more straightforward answer.

After having this exact conversion with probably the tenth person, I realized I needed an explanation that would not only explain my writing, but also entice them to visit the blog.

“It’s about my life,” doesn’t seem particularly mesmerizing, unless I happened to be jumping through hoops of fire and juggling a set of steak knives while I shout that carefully thought up slogan at them.

As I thought back to blogs I had read in the past, I realized what kept drawing me back to them; I was truly interested to peer into a small window of their life.

The same can be said for why the world is so fascinated with reality T.V. While the content may be nothing spectacular or short of ordinary, we as humans are curious by nature, the same reason that many people can’t stop themselves from listening in on juicy gossip.

Reading about, or watching someone else’s life, mundane as it may be, may allow us to temporarily disengage from our own lives, and see what it’s like to step in someone else’s shoes, if only for a moment.

And it was with that thought that I knew what I would say the next time someone inquired as to what I wrote about.

“It’s about my life, really, and it’s mildly entertaining when you’ve ran out of absolutely everything else to do on the internet.”

Enjoy your week,

Diane

 

 

New post, every Wednesday

I skipped down the halls of the university, feeling a wonderful mix of excitement and nerves on my first day in the Social Work program.

“Morning, Peter!” I smiled cheerfully at the man I had seen almost every weekday morning the semester before, while trading a few coins for a hot cup of coffee.

As I stirred in my sugar and cream, we exchanged stories of our summer, and it felt nice to interact with someone I was familiar with. I told him orientation for Social Work began in twenty minutes, and that’s when the nerves overtook the excitement.

I swear, I am an outgoing person. I worked a job all summer where I approached people and chatted with them. This, however, felt different. Perhaps because I know I will have the same classes with the same group of people all year, I wanted to make the best first impression possible.

The doors opened to a large room with several round tables. While there were empty tables, I made myself take a seat at one that was almost full, so as to not purposefully isolate myself within the first five minutes. Most everyone had their heads down, staring at their phones, but it wasn’t before long that I glanced at the itinerary laid out in front of me, and noticed the words “icebreaker.”

Ugh. Okay, okay. Just be yourself. Just be cool, don’t say anything weird, and don’t do that thing where you ramble on about something else when someone asks you a question. And don’t, for the love of God, start with the fact that you just turned 30. Compared to the rest of the group, you look like a bus is going to pick you up when this is done and return you to the old folks home.

The girl to my right suddenly turned to me.

“HELLO I AM DIANE AND I’M THIRTY.”

Smooth.

Thankfully, she chuckled, and I pretended for a moment that my awkwardness was enduring.

The rest of the day went off without a hitch, and left me even more excited for classes to begin tomorrow.

While on my way home, however, I pondered this blog. It’s such a wonderful resource to me. Not only does it allow me the therapeutic action of placing my thoughts into words, but I have also been able to connect with people through it. That’s why I seriously need to get some consistency going, and now that classes are back in full swing, it seems like perfect timing to make sure a blog post gets out every Wednesday.

So, I will see you every Wednesday, and maybe on random days in-between, if the writing bug strikes me.

Have a lovely week,

Diane

 

 

Quick and easy

I stood in the produce section of the grocery store, trying to look like I was fully in charge of the mission I was on. The grocery list I had in my hand had been transcribed from an online recipe, and the basket of items I was carrying was starting to make me seriously regret I hadn’t grabbed a cart.

I looked through the salad section, you know, the pre-made ones for people who are too lazy to buy a head of lettuce and take the time to cut it up and stick it in that tiny rotating bowl that resembles a miniature washing machine for, say, Tinkerbell. My eyes were starting to glaze over. I don’t know if I feel like a Greek or caesar salad, and more importantly, if I’m grocery shopping for the entire week, how on earth am I supposed to know what I’ll want to eat in three days?

Other shoppers were now moving around me like I was a permanent fixture. Yet, as I looked around, I noticed the same glazed eye look in a few other people, and they all seemed to be my age….or younger.

Ah. There it was. I was fortunate enough to grow up during a time where fast and convenient food was available to me 24/7. Have to work late? I’ll grab a burger and bring it back to the office. Don’t feel like cooking tonight? I’ll manage to get off Instagram for the two minutes it takes to order a pizza online. Drank a little too much on a night out with friends? I’ll graciously buy the cab driver his own fries if he takes me through a drive thru at 1:30 in the morning.

Even the food in the grocery store is becoming fast food. Right in front of me, was a container of chopped red peppers. The tag read “Great for stir fry!” and it cost a ridiculous four times the amount of simply buying a red pepper and venturing into the scary part of your house where all the appliances are to find that thing with a sharp steal blade and cut it up yourself.

I lugged my now exceptionally heavy basket over to the under enthused cashier. As he rang my items though with the same amount of excitement as someone watching paint dry, I saw the number on the screen grow larger and larger.

“That’ll be $73.86”

Sweet guacamole!! I could get 50 cheeseburgers for that price! I pulled out my debit card and tapped it as quickly as possibly, hoping that if I kept my eyes closed, the money would somehow stay in my account.

As I drove home with my whopping three bags of groceries, I thought about the differences of cooking between generations. People used to take time when they cooked. It wasn’t just to feed yourself, it was an event, and it ended with family sitting down at a table, with fresh, homemade food, talking about how their day was. It wasn’t just about the food you were eating, it was the bonding that occurred when you broke bread with those you cherished most. It’s something that seems to be occurring less and less these days in our ultra rushed, eat fast-food on the go lifestyles.

“I’d like to get back to that”, I said out loud, as I dialled my Mom’s cellphone number on bluetooth.

“Hey Miss”

“Hey, I’m just going through the drive thru at McDonald’s, you want anything?”

Alberta

Writing down your thoughts, especially the ones you rarely share out loud with others, has a certain vulnerability to it. All of a sudden people have a window into your mind, something to peer through. They can understand your thought process, how you interpret the world, what makes you tick and what makes you smile.

Writing has been, and I imagine always will be, a medium in which I communicate best. It allows me to convey my experiences and all of the feelings that arise from them, whether those experiences are good, bad, or regrettably, boring.

But sometimes, as this summer has demonstrated, the bad experiences overrule the good ones, and I am left staring at the keyboard, consumed with the guilt of knowing that I shouldn’t feel so down over such petty things.

Alberta fixed that. Driving into the mountains reminded me of how small I am, and that whatever problems I thought I had were minuscule in comparison to what others are going through. I struggled through the first week, as one does when they are working through the odd emotions of shame and confusion that come along with feeling sad when you’re not quite sure what you’re sad about.

Relief came in week two, when outings with friends and the warm reminder of my old life in Alberta left me feeling relaxed and more like myself.

After a day surrounded by mountains, I was happily driving along a stretch of highway, making my way back to Lethbridge. As I normally do on short road trips, I was speaking to a friend on bluetooth, catching up on things during the past week. It was dusk, and I was glad I had made it through the mountains before the sun set.

As my friend recounted a story, he was cut off mid sentence by the sound of a loud bang and what I would later find out was a full minute of screaming. The pleasant drive with the picture perfect backdrop in my rearview mirror came to a prompt stop when my car crossed paths with a deer, sending him into my windshield and over my car.

The car was stopped, but my hyperventilating (I know, I know, how dramatic) was in full swing.

“DIANE! DIANE!”  Scott was still on the phone. “Are you ok? What happened? Are you bleeding?”

I looked down. There was glass everywhere. My arms immediately started to burn, and there was blood where most of the glass had hit me. I started to speak, and felt a loud crunch between my teeth, spitting out glass which had found it’s way in during impact.

Luckily, and I’m quite grateful for this, Scott just happens to be a paramedic. He asked me all the important questions, and then told me to hang up and call 911.

After blubbering to the operator, I threw my four ways on. No one had stopped, and vehicles were whizzing past me at 100 kilometres an hour. I knew someone was fairly close behind me when the deer tried to leap over my car, and I had a sad moment for humankind when I realized they had simply kept driving.

As I sat there waiting for the ambulance, assessing the situation for what would be a good 20 minutes since I was aways from town, I began to calm down. I kept looking at the smashed windshield, grateful that the deer hadn’t made his way in. After determining there would just be scrapes and bruises, I clearly remember my second thought:

“Getting this all taken care of is going to be such a hassle.”

For a moment at least, I was thankful to be alive, followed by being more concerned with the headache of dealing with getting my car fixed, and not being able to get back to Winnipeg this week .

My God, had I learned nothing?

Perhaps the unexpected extended stay near the mountains will do me some good.