You know those days right? When you’re terribly ill but you have deadlines to meet and your car breaks down and you’re stressed about money and your household help absconds? Basically, everything imaginable goes wrong and you cannot think of what problem to deal with first, so you just get under the covers and duck and pretend that none of this is happening?
Well, this whole horrid month has been like that. Julys are my least favorite time of the year, I feel kind of stuck between the optimism of the start of the year and the festivities that come towards the end. The weather is only lovely if you’re trekking or doing weekend getaways but it is really anything but lovely if you’re stuck in the muck of urban life figuring out whether the slowly dripping moisture from the sky really calls for an umbrella. All Julys are very okayish for me but this July has just taken the cake for being the worst month I have lived. Without exaggeration (Ok, no, I just recalled a worse time but still very, very bad)
To begin with, my FIL has been in and out of the hospital. Minor concerns; slight aberrations in the blood test readings that all add up to become a cause of major worry. He was out of the hospital for a week but he fell down and broke his femur bone and is back in again. Everybody is anxious and tired and trying to juggle schedules and work while deciding on the best course of action for Pappa. Since the husband has to work all day long, he generally stays overnight at the hospital which means it has been just me and Rumi at home for a long time now.
We also had some German guests staying with us, and that just added to the mix. We could not really show them much of Pune and they were unfortunately suffering from bad tummies. This meant they could not enjoy the meals that I had painstakingly planned beforehand and needed medical care on the last day here, before they left for Goa.
The child has also been on her worst behavior. Her sensitivity has reached a whole new level: she now cries and throws her arms around the neighborhood kids when they have to leave for home, thus totally freaking them out. She has been very angry and clingy; she doesn’t like it if I speak to anybody but her and her tantrums have increased manifold. This is all very understandable, she hardly sees her Baba for a few minutes every day, she hasn’t seen her beloved Ayayah and Kaka and Kaku for weeks now and kids are very quick to sense the anxiety and cloud of worry at home. But what this means is, I have to be with her the whole time till she finally shrieks out that she is hungry and then I cook with her hanging off my thigh like a barnacle.
Since the slightest stress is enough for PCOS to rear its ugly head and wake up from its sleep, my health has been worrisome, with a horrid allergy to wake up to every morning, apart from the usual menstrual cycle problems.
Every day has been a struggle; we are all drifting through it in hazy, fatigued smog, moving on the next thing to be done till we can collapse on the top of our bed covers every night. My favorite way of beating stress is sleep and I can literally hibernate like a bear in times of distress. However, you cannot just hit the sack like that when you have a child that depends on you. You have to just find it in you to shove it all aside and get up and make another nutritious snack, plan another activity and try to not let your eyes shut while you pretend to enjoy ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for the umpteenth time.
It is possible to endure it physically but what is the best way to stay emotionally sane in a time like this? I am prone to an outburst of tears when it gets too much but this time I have not given myself permission to just sit on the floor and break down because Rumi is very fragile right now and it would be the worst thing for her to see her Mom become a howling mess. Yes, Rumi has become my motivation, my reason to practice tough love and push myself harder and harder because I unfortunately lacked the self-discipline and self-love to be that tough on myself earlier. And because I cannot break apart I dig deeper to find out what may be of help to us in this difficult period.
And what I find out is this:
I need to stop waiting for a chunk of time in which to gather my thoughts and be ‘recharged’ for the days to come. Normally, weekends are like that. With Rumi-cat away, we mice play and indulge in naps and books and movies and good food. And I find that I keep waiting for such chunky luxuries of time where I can really put my feet up. But if these windows of time are not available to me, I cannot keep waiting for them till I am so burnt-out that I would fall flat on the couch the minute I got that kind of time.
Instead, I need to find 2-minute or 5-minute or 10-minute delights or feel-goods that I can incorporate in all the crazy of the day, just enough to make me smile or feel warm or connected or sane.
Since I am prone to extremes and all-or-nothing kind of thinking, it is very difficult for me to come up with things that may make me feel better in two minutes. I generally say things like “If I can’t read for two hours now, I’d rather not start the book at all” (Which is still true for reading cause it does get difficult for me to peel my eyes away from a good read once I’ve started) but when I rise to the challenge of discovering 2-minute delights, I find a number of things that really change my mood in two minutes:
A really hot shower
A shot of cold coffee
Listening to one favorite song
Soaking my feet in warm, soapy water
Looking at my wedding album
Folding clothes into perfect squares and rectangles
Reading an Amelia Jane story
Coloring with my beautiful watercolor pens
Sometimes I manage a combination of these things: A short Enid Blyton story and a cup of cold coffee in the bathroom with my feet soaking in a tub. And this may not the best cure for all the things I’m struggling with but it is enough for me to know that I can deal with it all. That despite the worst day ever, I have everything I could have ever wanted. This reminder is powerful enough to keep me grounded half an hour later when the house looks like a total mess and the child is kicking me away.
And so I have made it a practice to use these grounding techniques, at least once a day. There are some things I avoid such as writing for the blog or reading because it is annoying and difficult for me to stop due to sudden interruptions. And I am not less tired but I’m definitely not the emotional wreck I would have been if I refused to take any action at all because I had only 5 minutes.
What are the techniques you use to preserve your sanity in chaotic and overwhelming times?