Tag Archives: Stress

The Battle to End All Battles (or just to wash my underwear)

A few weeks ago, I awoke to find a note on the kitchen table from my roommate. Hastily scrawled on a piece of scrap paper were the words that were to bring war to my cozy little apt. Ugly, unrelenting, all or nothing war: The washing machine tore my blanket to shreds. I think it’s broken.

Let me start with a little background. We moved into our fabulous new apt with the knowledge that we would no longer have to drag our unmentionables out into the cold, cruel streets of New York in order to clean them. We would never again have to drag bags of freshly-pressed clothes up four flights of stairs. No elevator? No problem! We were also blessed with a combo washer dryer (much like New Englanders are blessed with below-zero temperatures in the winter.) This one little box of a machine washes and dries your clothes. In the same compartment. No, really. It does. Or is supposed to.

I found it curious that when we signed the lease, the realtor said no fewer than 17 times, “The hookup is the management company’s responsibility, but the maintenance of the machine is yours.” Hm. Strange that this point was so important to make. But, mere weeks later, standing with a bucket of towels and a user’s manual I found online clutched in my hands, I realized that it wasn’t strange at all. It was genius.  Sauron, Darth Vader, fill-in-your-own-favorite-bad-guy-worthy genius.

About a week after finding that note, I broke into my “time to do laundry” underwear. You know the ones- the stuff you bury deep in the bottom of your sock drawer in the hopes that no one will ever find it. Faced with five of the unsexiest pieces of clothing ever known to man and the decision between going to a laundromat or calling a plumber, I made the most intelligent choice. The obvious one. Fix it myself.

 

I was pretty sure the blanket had clogged the machine. Why not run it once without clothes in it to unclog it? Brilliant idea! So simple! I can do that! I happily put a little detergent in, hit start, and sat down to enjoy a cup of tea. The calm before the storm. I went back into the bathroom and was met with the ominous sight of a water and suds filled window. Lovely. My roommates both at work, I was left to sort it out on my own. I had found a how-to manual on the maker’s website, and realized that no one had ever cleaned out the filter. It’s probably just clogged! I bet if I clean it, all of the water will drain immediately. (There are moments in your life that you look back on your decisions and imagine a world where time travel is possible. Not so you can change it. No. So you can go back to that moment and bitch-slap the hell out of your past self just to get even.) The filter was located at the bottom of the machine. I carefully began to unscrew it, and was stopped by a geyser of water hitting me in the face. Dripping with suds and half-dissolved pieces of blanket, I quickly closed the filter, and spent a good ten minutes staring at the machine, willing the water to evaporate. After this inexplicably did not work, I  began the arduous process I fondly like to call: holding-a-1-billion-lb-machine-at-a-forty-five-degree-angle-with-one-hand-while-scooping-sudsy,-blanket-filled-water-out-with-a-travel-coffee-mug-into-a-tupperware-container-and-getting-the-entire-bathroom-soaked-in-the-process. After thoroughly cleaning out every nook, cranny, and filter, I ran the machine again, confident in my plumbing skills. I was a powerful, resourceful, independent college graduate! I could do anything! I…shouldn’t have started the machine again. It quickly filled without even the slightest hint of draining. And so it went, and has gone, for about two weeks now. But will I call a plumber? No. I will fix this myself.

…that’s actually a lie. I’m most likely going to call a plumber. Especially after my roommates and I thought the tub was clogged, poured a whole bottle of Drano into it, and then realized that the bathtub drain switch was on. It just seems that, after that, a professional is probably a solid choice.

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Blame it on the Zodiac

When it comes to making decisions, I am generally not the person you want to turn to. I credit this entirely to the fact that I am a Gemini- this is not because I am a true believer in the whole Zodiac signs thing, but rather because it’s an incredibly useful and available scapegoat for why I run to the hills whenever anyone asks, “Where do you want to go for dinner?” Or “What CD should we listen to while we get ready?” OR the ever ominous “What should we do tonight?” You get the picture. Indecision is my most impossible trait, and it rears it’s ugly head 24/7. (I’m gonna blame it now as to why I haven’t written in three weeks- i.e. what should I write about?)

One of the big side effects to indecision is insomnia. You see, once I make a decision, however hard it is to make, I am fine. Golden. This is what I’m going to do, and so now I’m just gonna shut up and do it. But the minutes, hours, days, WEEKS preceding that moment? I’m like a crazed, sleepless, twitchy ball of fun. And since I am in the process of figuring out all sorts of fun things like where I’m going to live, who I’m going to live with, when I’m going to move, and what I’m going to do for a job, I haven’t been sleeping much. With all this extra time on my hands, I was faced with yet another decision: What am I going to do at 2 AM?  So, I thought I would compile a list of things to do if you, like me are ever faced with insomnia:

1. Reread books. – Let’s face it. You’re still tired, even if you can’t sleep. Reading new books, therefore, is pointless. You’ll have to reread every page about 30 times before anything sinks in. 

2. Watch countless hours of Netflix.- You are about to be SO caught up on every t.v. show you’ve ever watched, thought about watching, tried to watch but didn’t have the time, or swore you would never, ever watch.

3. Call/text other insomniacs. – Friends, family, exes, neighbors, that girl you did a project in school with once…the possibilities are endless.

4. Write in a journal. – This makes for some pretty entertaining reading in the morning. Or whenever you’re not tired anymore.

5. Clean. – I know, I know. This sounds awful. But when you’re about to fall over, cleaning can be very conducive to stress release. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself. In any case, your house will never look better.

6. Try to name state capitals.- …nah, I’m just kidding on that one.

7. Cry out to the sleep gods for mercy. – I mean, what have you got to lose, right? Besides your dignity.

Well, I hope this helps you sleep. It helped me… since I created this list at 4 am last night, and then finally crashed. Maybe that’s a good number 8- make lists.

Got something to add to the “to do list for insomniacs”?

Operation Track is a Go.

I am not a runner. Not by anyone’s standards. Igor from “Young Frankenstein” could easily beat me in a race. After he had a few Jager Bombs. And twisted his ankle.

I am also not a patient person, especially when it comes to myself. If I think I should be able to do something, then I should be able to do it by the end of the day. Gradually building up to things, making reasonable short term goals to climb towards long-term ones…these concepts do not work well with my general state of being.

And yet, I have always been fascinated by running. The passion this sport ignites in people is incredibly seductive, especially when you’ve never experienced it. It’s also one of those things that you have to start slowly and work at continuously, gradually pushing yourself past your original limitations, onward… clearly, this was made for me.

Regardless of my obvious short-comings in the world of running, this fascination has led me to my most recent endeavor. Let’s call it Operation Don’t Look Like an Asshole on the Track- or Operation Track, for short. Recently, I was introduced to a 6-week running plan for new runners. And since I know nothing about how to do this (if you have ever had the misfortune to see me run, you understand how true that statement is), I thought perhaps it would be best to turn to someone who knows what they’re talking about before I end up on crutches. Or just out of breath and no closer to being able to run two miles in one go.

I wish I could say I was writing this at the conclusion of week one, and boy do I love it, how could I have waited so long to start, yada yada yada. Nope. Day 1. And it’s just as wheeze-inducing as it’s always been. But this time, there’s a determination that I have never experienced with running, a need to prove to myself that I can do this. I am capable of doing this. And so, as much as I would love to wake up a runner tomorrow, or just stick with pilates and call it a day, I’m going to commit to this. It’s something I can control, hold myself accountable for, and feel good about doing. I mean, the last time I started something that covered all of those, I started writing a blog. Pretty good motivation, if you ask me.

So, any tips for new runners?

The Smaller Things In Life (or how I outsmarted the universe, and how it got me back)

I have, for the majority of my life, been known as a variety of things. Looking back, I’ve started to notice a pattern:

-Perfectionist

-Stress-wad

-Uptight

-Anxious

-Twitchy…

My College House Shirt. “Twitch?” Yep, that’s my nickname.

…you see my point. In fact, my fourth grade teacher gave me the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” for an end-of-the-year gift. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an insane stress-case who doesn’t know how to loosen up and have a good time- I just save my stressing for afterwards in situations like that.

I have never been good at letting things go, putting things out of my mind, or redirecting my thoughts when they are hell-bent on worrying about how I’ll be able to [fill in the blank here with problem that is at least three years away]. I’ve never had the ability to change that. Then, this past weekend, the universe stepped in and made it abundantly clear that I must, must, change my ways.

1. Saturday morning, I awake at 7:00 AM, on my day off, to go to breakfast with my sister and her friend. And, due to a series of random and unfortunate events, end up paying. This is fine, I don’t mind footing the bill at all. A minor thing, truly.

2. Go downstairs to take care of my 16-year old cat, who has decided to mark, vomit, or otherwise make himself known on every inch of my basement floor during the night. Surrender myself to an hour of clean-up. Psh, oh well. You can’t really blame the cat. I mean he’s sixteen years old. The fact that he’s still traversing this earth should be enough.

3. Decide to clean my car out. Finally. Start sorting through all of the random junk, and find the Valentine’s Day CD I made for my ex (Don’t judge me. It’s a thoughtful, budget-friendly gift. And it has awesome music on it.) Ooookay then. It’s fine. Everything is fine. So-ho-hooo over that, anyway. The sun is shining, I’m alive, and I just found a really good mix CD.

4. Get asked out via text message by a close friend. Have to kindly decline. There is no silver lining to that one- now I just feel like an asshole.

5. After insisting that I wash my car myself (instead of taking it to the $5 car wash down the street, as my parents suggested to me. All afternoon.), and spending the better part of the afternoon making it shine, a random and overpowering gust of wind suddenly rises out of fucking nowhere and blows pine needles and other debris all over my still-wet, white car. It sticks. Well, i mean, gotta laugh at that, right? What a horrible, heinous, hilarious coincidence…right? RIGHT?!

6. Decide to make mac & cheese for dinner (I mean, I am trying to eat healthier these days). Finish the pasta and realize that there is no milk in the house.

Now, here is the point where my entire day comes crashing down on my head. All of the tiny, small annoyances begin to add up, swirling about in my brain until I begin sobbing over my plain, just-cooked and quickly drying-out noodles, begging the universe to explain to me what in the hell the lesson is, so I can just learn it already and go about with my life! Okay, not one of my more glamourous moments, I admit. But as I walked to the corner store on my street, racking my brain for what I was missing from all of this (because there had to be some sort of lesson), I remembered that gift from my 4th grade teacher. And I realized that all day, I had been letting all of these little, insignificant annoyances kill my mood. I had let these fleeting moments of anger or sadness or stress affect the rest of my day. And that was really…well…stupid. And I started to laugh. Right there, on the sidewalk. Full blown, maniacal belly-laughter. And I got honked at. A few times. But I didn’t care! Because I had unraveled the mysteries of the universe. I once again had control of my destiny. I was the master of my own life.

And, later, as I ate my mac & cheese, still feeling smug about the whole outsmarting the universe thing, I lost on a scratch ticket. Well…can’t win them all, right? RIGHT?!

The End of an Era…and the Beginning of a Dramatic Eulogy.

I’m a talker. I love to talk. I enjoy talking. I like it so much that sometimes, when I’m alone, I say my thoughts aloud. I’ve dealt with this my whole life-from the first time I had to write my name on Mrs. Stolgitis’ blackboard in first grade for talking during class until now. I choose to confidently blame this on my Italian heritage (although I probably get it from my mom, who talks more than I do and is, in fact, French).

Regardless of why I talk so much, the fact of the matter is this: all of that talking has finally caught up to me. I’ve noticed over the past year that if I talk as much as I am used to, my voice gets insanely tired. Very quickly. This has become a problem, as I’m an actor. And a singer. Both of these things require quite a lot of my favorite pastime. And to preserve this future, I have been forced into a false, taciturn existence.  My silver tongue has been silenced, after 20+ years. Lovers of quiet, rejoice.

This might sound a tad dramatic (something I also have a knack for), especially for those of you who have an aptitude for silence. (And if any of you reading this fall into that category, please– Share your secret.) For me, it’s sort of like having my right hand chopped off: I can still write and type and brush my teeth using my left hand, but it’s gonna take a lot longer and not turn out as nicely.

So, as I continue the search for ways to get my voice in shape, I will suffer through hours of silence. I will think my thoughts, instead of say them. I will listen to others spin their stories, and offer no complementary tale. I will- okay, this is actually getting too dramatic for even me.

I will shut up for a while. And maybe do some yoga? That seems to jive well with silence. Any other ideas on things to do while being forced to stay silent?

Guilt A La Carte, Please

I’ll admit it- I’ve got a pretty well-developed guilt complex. Forget to call a friend back for a few days? Apologize profusely upon next encounter. Show up late to a meeting? Wring hands and twitch sporadically for the rest of the day. Put off writing maid-on-honor speech for sister’s wedding in four days? Lie awake at night trying to decipher signs of impending doom while contemplating the horrific effects my procrastination will undoubtedly have on the entire affair.

This past week has been a freaking five-star buffet for my guilt, what with all of the last-minute wedding details, discussions/arguments about moving to NYC (how many roommates? to share a room or not to share a room? location?), and, of course, the job dilemma that I faced earlier today.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve become a bit of a temp-agency groupie, bouncing back and forth between different agencies, hoping to score something (Hah. “score” something. Get it? No? Too lame?). Finally, today I had an interview. Great company, temp-to-hire position, so I’m guaranteed a good job until I move to the city. Great. Perfect. Interview’s going just swimmingly until I ask the question, “How’s training?”  I am quickly informed that training is integrated into the work day but usually takes upwards of 60 days to complete. That’s funny, because I’m only planning to stay at this job for two months.

As I smile and nod along to the rapidly increasing rhythm of my heartbeat, I feel the old symptoms begin. All of the moisture in my mouth seems to have traveled to my hands, because while they are just saturated, I’m lucky if I can swallow. The walls are closing in. My eyes seem to think a strobe light has been placed in the room, and I’m forgetting to listen to what she’s saying.

I’m offered the job. I pause for only a moment and think, Now would be the time to admit that you’d be leaving once the training was complete, and would completely waste their time by accepting their offer. Be noble. Be honest. Be- poor. Huh.  So, instead, I shut my mouth, shake her hand, and leave the building as a new employee, vowing to work extra hard to make up for what is going to be a bit of a surprise for them in August. I mean, technically I’m just a temp. So, I shouldn’t feel too guilty, right? As for that maid-of-honor speech…well, I should probably go write that.

Frodo and the Oven

Every time I’m in a bookstore, I always try to find a minute to peruse the self-help selection, specifically for the titles. Rows and rows of clever little quips about how to not “sweat the small stuff,” promising a more happy, healthy lifestyle, one that is devoid of stress and anger. What a happy little bubble of hope.

I’m not knocking self-help books. I think they’re great. I’ve just learned, over my many years on this earth (hah), that a stress-free life is as elusive as a laser pointer light is to a cat. Chase it for as long as you want, you’re never gonna catch it. So, while I’ve certainly tried my fair share of deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques, and happiness journals, I have found two things that work exceptionally well when life becomes an overwhelming, suffocating mess: watching epic movies and baking cupcakes.

This is where I found myself yesterday. After the past week of job hunting, last minute wedding details for my sister’s upcoming nuptials (still haven’t written that maid of honor speech. Two weeks. No worries.), re-acclimating to home, and talking to my ex for the first time since the break up ( maybe more on that at a later date), I fell back on that tried and true ritual.

Let me explain. First, why epic movies? And what exactly do I mean when I say “epic movies?” I’m talking specifically about any movie where the protagonist is dealing with larger than life situations- superhero movies tend to work really well. As do fantasy adventure films. This time, it was Lord of the Rings. For some reason, watching Frodo Baggins deal with the fact that he has to find a way to destroy the ring of power, all while fighting off pretty much every other creature in Middle Earth AND his own desire for the ring makes my little issues seem entirely manageable. Pleasant, even.

As for baking cupcakes, I discovered this trick senior year of high school. I remember specifically the day it clicked for me. I was waiting for my honors trigonometry study group to come over, and decided to pass the time by making snacks for what promised to be a thoroughly miserable evening. I had never made a cake from scratch before, so I thought, “Why not?” It was not the best thing I’ve ever tasted, but it lit a fire. After that, I turned to baking whenever everything else seemed like too much to handle. Something about following the instructions, deviating a little when inspiration kicks in, and having something perfectly delicious and sinful come out of it all is incredibly appealing. Especially with cupcakes, where you get 12 chances to make them look amazing (I love decorating. That whole saying about eating with your eyes before you eat with your mouth? Totally true). Yesterday, it was homemade chocolate cupcakes with mint marshmallow frosting.

These were so good! Maybe I’m eating one as I write this…

After all was said and done, the combination did the trick. I felt perfectly at peace with the universe, ready to deal with everything it put in my path, AND I got to eat these incredibly tasty cupcakes while finishing the movie. Self-help books ain’t got nothin’ on that.