Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stress and stress

My kids are in high school and college now, at least three of the four of them are.

That means this time of year is testing time--AP tests, finals, New York regents tests (well, those are still about six weeks out).  Tests mean stress.  It brings up a lot of memories for me, memories of my own test-taking days.

I remember going in to calculus tests with my heart pounding, dry mouthed, stomach lurching, hands shaking.  I remember trying to breathe as they handed me a test.  Then I'd open up my calculator, and out would slip a tiny note card on which I had penciled, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I am sure that the only reason I got A's was because God was gracious.  I don't know why I got A's--I majored in English and I don't remember anything about calculus.  I have an old scratch notebook that holds some of my favorite recipes from the olden days--I use it every time I make brownies or sloppy joes.  It also has some old calculus exercises written in it, and some Russian conjugations and declentions.  They are meaningless to me now, a faded memory of what my brain used to be capable of doing.

School was stressful.  Deadlines are stressful, and tests.  Job interviews are stressful, and client meetings and, well, lots of things.

Then I had three babies in less than three years and "dropped out."  My sister-in-law, who is a high-powered CFO for an insurance company (talk about stressful) once made a comment to me about how stressful it must be to have all those kids.

It's funny, but stressful was not a word that had occurred to me to describe those days.  Hard, yes.  Exhausting, yes.  Lonely, yes.  But I didn't feel scared, my heart didn't race, I didn't lose my breath and think I was going to throw up (except when there was a major injusry with copious blood, which, by the grace of God, actually didn't happen particularly often).

Can this be true?  Were the most difficult days of my life less stressful than other periods I've lived through?  How can this be?

I think, in me, stress comes from imagining a worst case scenario.  Some days, when my kids were sick, and I was sick, and we were going on nights of 6-8 interuptions in sleep [that would be MY sleep], I guess I was IN the worst case scenario.  And guess what--we survived it!  We are basically happy, healthy, and continuing on, by the grace of God, and it's OK.


Shannon said...

That little tidbit you added in there after talking about no sleep, exhaustion and stuff, was good for me this week. I'm tired. I needed to know someone else survived. :)

ruth said...

Thank you for commenting, Shannon!

I truly want to encourage you--when I was at my lowest, I had no idea that I would make it through. I couldn't even think about the future. All I could think about was that I was dying, physically and emotionally, and I had made a HUGE mistake and I never should have thought that I wanted to grow up and get married and have children.

It would have helped me so much if some older woman had been able to come alongside me and assure me that it was only a season, and it would pass, and there would be joy again. If I can be that woman to anyone, I will be truly blessed by God.

I read what you wrote about some Psalms on a BRF, and it resonated so much with my own experience, I had to try to join what you are doing.