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Stress & Big Laughs
"It could be worse, right?"
As I began writing this latest installment of deathless prose, I'd been up since 1:08 for no particular reason I could put my finger on yet there I was, wide-awake and knowing I was done with sleep for the night. No sign of a midnight roll in the hay with a succubus (I checked) and no disturbing dream/dreams. Just . . . awake.
A man's got to do something when such circumstances arise so I did what I normally do: made a cup of tea, fired up the lap top, and started flooding the ether with missives to my friends. There was a time – before the Internet became available to the general public - when I might have called or written a real letter, usually the latter because let's face it: nobody wants to answer the telephone after midnight and I'm not at my best on the telephone. I'm a written word sort of cove. Besides, my letters usually contain drawings and charts and arrows and diagrams. Best of all, perhaps, is that they're legible and only rarely will you find a word or phrase scratched out which is a point of some pride for me. That being said . . .
My cup of tea has reached room temperature, which is something that happens far more than I would care to admit. Not being able to sit and enjoy a cup of tea, one that is hot from first sip to last, is so . . . wrong. The English half of my genetic makeup does not approve: “Let your tea go cold? Some things just aren't done, lad.” The Polish half, however, shrugs and mutters "What can you expect? Remember 1939 . . . the Germans . . ."
This sort of interior dialogue goes on all the time.
This wasn't the case night before last but something that has been responsible for a stream of troublesome dreams during the past week or so has been Stress with a Capital S. Though often tied to high blood pressure as “The Silent Killer” - which I suspect is because it doesn't involve the sounds of breaking bones or gun shots and their often attendant screams and moans though such situations are indeed stressful in their own way - there is nothing silent about my Stress a-tall. It positively screams at me, wastes no time lurking in dark corners and mumbling.
This particular form of The Not So Silent Killer and I have crossed paths before. A couple years ago I had a job which, after five years, began intruding upon my sleep, causing me to wake up every 45 minutes or so to remind myself I wasn't at work and could go back to sleep. Which I would do for another 45 minutes or so until I would wake up to remind myself I wasn't at work and could go back to sleep. Which I would do for another 45 minutes or so until . . . Now tell me: did you find that last bit rather tedious, tiring and annoying? Be glad you only had to read it, not live it.
My fellow employees found this situation laughable while those higher up the food chain (with one notable exception) merely smiled. Dreaming about work? Come on. Nobody does that. Yeah, well . . .
I left that job some time later and became gloriously unemployed. Okay. Truth be told it wasn't all that glorious: contrary to what Hollywood would often have us believe, there are not a lot of comic or romantic overtones to being broke and unemployed. After a while, selling off your stuff and constantly borrowing money from family and friends would even dim the sparkle in Meg Ryan's eyes. But, hey – it could have been worse, right? At least I was sleeping straight through most nights.
Now, to be honest, I haven't been completely inactive during the past 18 months (and counting). As a musician, I was on tour in The Netherlands for 5 weeks. I also self-published a collection of short stories. So those things brought in a few bucks, right? Hardly. Before leaving for Amsterdam, I'd had to sell 3 of my 5 guitars and my amplifier (I'd previously unloaded other musical gear, as well as borderline rare books) to keep gas in my car and make my monthly payments for back taxes. A friend ponied up the considerable cost of flying round-trip from Phoenix to Amsterdam and the short story collection sold all of one copy (thank you, Cousin Cindy). The tour supported itself for the first 8 days after which I relied largely on the kindness of my Dutch friends and distant loved ones to keep me from sleeping on park benches or – worse – canceling dates and making an early return to The States. So while it was a wonderful experience, certainly one not to be missed, the financial side is jotted down in bright red ink.
Several months later, I'm still having to get by on the sufferance of friends and loved ones. A continuing stressful situation, to be sure. But that's not the worst of it. What's been waking me on a semi-regular basis during the past week or so are dreams about jobs I don't even have! I kid thee not. Being unable to get into work for one reason or another, unable to contact anyone to let them know, the clock ticking away, and all the while having to deal with other sorts of craziness within the dream, on and on. I woke up at 5:30, as certain as the approaching dawn I was going to be late for work, and said out loud, “But I don't have a job.”
Isn't that funny? Isn't that positively hilarious? Since I didn't yell the line out (ALL CAPS) or laugh as I typed it (“lmao”) and there's no audible laugh track, maybe it wasn't meant to be any funnier than it felt at the time. Well, that's Stress for you. But hey . . . it could be worse.