Making peace with the stresses of life
I wish grief didn’t exist. I’d rather be sad instead of grieving. Sadness hangs around a bit and then it’s gone. Grief is sneaky. I never know when it will pop up. Will it be a “passing thought” visit or an ice cream and tears visit? Never know.
I got back to Memphis from Minneapolis on Tuesday night after the funeral. I thought I was doing pretty well when I arrived at work that morning. I smiled, made small talk, focused on work. I had on my industrial-strength big girl panties pulled all the way up. The elastic band must have been around my ribs. I stepped out at lunch to get something and the next thing I know, I’m trying to find the fastest way out of the Target, so I don’t break down over in front of strangers.
I stepped out at lunch to get something and the next thing I know, I’m trying to find the fastest way out of the Target, so I don’t break down over in front of strangers. I sat in the parking lot and cried. I was mad at my tears. Eventually, I pulled myself back together and went back to work.
Grief is like a weight on my back that I can’t reach. It doesn’t really bother me until the status quo is disrupted, like when I see her name appear on my Facebook timeline, pass by a picture of her in my apartment or think about how she would respond to something.
Night time is the worst. I lie there trying to sleep, and grief torments me. I wonder why she didn’t tell me the cancer had returned. Was it something I did? Was I a bad friend and she was just too good of a person (and friend) to let me know how badly I sucked at being a friend? I should have been a better friend to her. I had plenty of opportunities, but I was so mired in my own shit, I was blind to the needs of those around me. I wish I were a stronger person. Sleep would eventually come, but it was never complete.
This first week has been hard. I can’t imagine what her family is going through. They had another service for her this past Saturday and laid her to rest in her hometown of Buffalo next to her mother.
I ordered a book on grief, Life After Loss by Bob Deits, and it arrived on Saturday. I just started reading it, and it looks promising.
It’s Prince’s birthday today and my official mourning period is over. It’s time to start writing publicly again. There is much work to be done.
Prince died Thursday. I thought it was a silly rumor at first, but when the Associated Press confirmed it well, you have to believe it then, right? Aside from the standard tears, shock and disbelief, I felt like I had swallowed a millstone. I slept most of the day. Something was off. I just couldn’t deal.
The next morning, I threw up that millstone along with decades of memories, expectations, disappointment and shame. Prince was more than a role model; he was the touchstone for my creative life.
I first encountered Prince in 1984, with the release of Purple Rain. My brother and I went to see it at the shiny new mall in Aurora, Colorado. I’d heard his music before, but Purple Rain was…everything.
You see, I was an *unusual child* as they say. Different. Odd. I was highly creative, my clothes never looked right, I understood things I shouldn’t have, talked to plants and animals, and I wrote strange stories that worried the adults on more than a few occasions. These were aspects of my personality – not a phase or anything. It was just who I was.
I first felt the weight of conformity in 1984 as I began my journey into womanhood at the age of 12. It was now time to grow up and act right. I had been indulged long enough. I didn’t understand it back then, but in hindsight, being a Black girl in America was challenging enough; adding oddness to the mix seemed dangerous.
But in that darkened theater in Colorado, when I saw Prince rolled up to First Avenue on that motorcycle, I saw possibilities that gave conformity the middle finger.
Let’s examine that more carefully: a Black man wearing makeup, high-heeled boots, a fabulous press & curl, a silk suit and ruffled shirt pulls up to a nightclub on a purple motorcycle in 1984.
What?!? He’s not supposed to do that. That isn’t what boys do. I was learning the grown-up rules, and THIS went against damn near all of them!
As the movie progressed, I saw people wearing underwear in public. They had on masks, furs, and psychedelic makeup but more importantly, they were all making incredible music.
Then there was the puppet. Nestled in its velvet purple cone, popping up when Prince needed a confidant. What, he talked to non-people too?!? I can’t tell you how badly I wanted that puppet!! Magic did exist in the world and that purple cone was the fount from which it poured.
If he didn’t have to follow the *supposed-to-be,* grown-up rules, then why did I? It gave me hope that there was a place in this world for someone like me after all. Prince MADE his own rules and transformed the world in the process. He didn’t grind down his uniqueness to make others comfortable. He provided them with an opportunity to examine their discomfort and grow from it.
Prince lived and died doing what he loved. And in the end, isn’t that the only life worth living?
According to the American Psychological Association, there is good and bad stress, known respectively as Eustress (good) and Distress. Good stress stands alone while Distress can be Acute, Episodic, and Chronic. I’ll cover Distress in a separate post.
Stress is the body’s response to change
Eustress is what is referred to as positive stress. It is a short-term response that improves performance and is within the range of a person’s coping skills.
Excitement, Focus, Drive, Accomplishment, Kicking Ass, Taking Names.
Ok..so that’s it for positive stress. Pretty easy right? Distress or negative stress is much more complex and can lead to serious health problems. But we’ll discuss that in Part Two.
So, I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of months now trying to document *un-stressing* my life as it were. I’ve written a few posts on the issue directly, but I’m sure you have noticed plenty of photographs, doodles and dog pics. I assure you; however, there is much work going in real life.
I’m just trying to determine how to present what I am learning as I go and document any resulting personal discoveries. I feel like there is so much I want to discuss, but there are a few things I must address first.
I’ve studied and used stress management techniques for many years. They have indeed helped me manage my stress-related symptoms, but I want to do something more with this site.
I want to find the taproot of my stress and pull it out. It’s a lofty goal I know, but that is my target. And I have to tell you; this is really hard work. Over the past few months, I’ve been researching stress; it impacts on the body and mind, and I’ve even completed a comprehensive stress assessment on myself. I’ll write a more detailed post about that later.
But I must say, I’ve had to face some hard truths about myself and how much control I abdicate in my own life. I needed some time to process that. But this is a positive discovery. It stands to reason, if I am giving away my control, then I can take it back.
So here I sit, trying to muster up the courage to do what I promised: pull back the curtain and share my journey of self-discovery as I root out the underlying factors that keep bound in stress.
The next couple of posts may be a bit academic, but they will serve as a reference point for subsequent posts like my assessment results, and where I go from there.