Just One of Those Weeks

by Dr. Dorree Lynn

Mental health professionals are ordinary human beings who are educated to be experts in a specific area of life. Most of them are well-trained women and men of good will who have your best interests as their end goal. Sometimes, individuals forget that although their expert may know how to do an outstanding job in their chosen field, their professional is also an ordinary human being with life events that may be just as complex as yours can be. 

This week's events brought home the reality of the dichotomy that I too sometimes face. I found myself unable to practice what I preach and I had to go easy with myself as I laughed at me and at the touch of "egg on my face." Day after day was filled with stressful events and I found myself taking walks to stay sane and trying to remember not to scream at my husband and loved ones

There was no time for anything, and I too began to fray at the edges. The best I could do, was to think ahead, prioritize what had to be accomplished, exercise to release body tension and plan for future contingencies so that, I could avoid the domino effect of having one life event continue tumbling on to the next. As the adage goes: "Watch for what you ask for, you may get it."

Along with my usual family and work commitments, I had spent several years working on a book: Getting Sane Without Going Crazy. It was now ready for publication. Suddenly, I was faced with proofs to edit and a variety of deadlines to meet. My usual life schedule left little room for this added stress.

I didn't want to get out of bed on Tuesday. Sleep kept beckoning and I didn't want to move. However, I had my neighborhood exercise commitment. Sleepy eyes opened, tired muscles flexed and as the sun was rising, I knocked on my friend's door only to find that she too seemed to want to sleep. We smiled, took deep breaths and went off on our daily round. Pretty pleased with ourselves for doing what we "should" and energized after our slow jog, I thought the day would be "a piece of cake."

I was looking forward to those precious quiet moments before people and technology entered my life. I meant to take my shower and look presentable before meetings started and the day got underway. Then, the phone rang. It was a business call from Europe. Beth, a colleague whose day had started three hours earlier, was much more interested in her lunch than my breakfast. Because of the different time zones we had had already missed connecting several times, so I took the call. The morning still seemed to have a possibility of order about it and then I realized my husband was working at home that day. (I love being with him, but did he really have to choose that day to work at home?)

Over the years, we have learned how to keep our own space and respect each other's needs for privacy, work, or time with a child or grandchild. But, anyone who has ever worked at home knows the difference between a quiet house and one where noise and energy wafts through walls when others present---be it children, friends, business associates or spouse. 

Next, my assistant called in sick. "OK" I thought. I wasn't seeing clients today. It would be a good quiet time for me to catch up on the sludge work that I, like everyone else, accumulates. "No Sweat" after all, I no longer had little children at home, I could manage without help. Or, so I thought.

Parenting never ends may be a cliché, but, it is a cliché because it is true. One of my kids called with a question that needed an instant response, or so she informed me. We talked for what seemed like a few minutes. I looked at the clock, an hour had passed. and it was past noon. Still dressed in my jogging sweats and still not showered, I moved on.

I smiled at the humor and paradox of it all. Here I was, a professional who had spent her whole life teaching people, especially women, often working moms to learn to say "No" and to take time for themselves and here I was still in sweats, saying "yes' to everything that came my way. I had articles due, tons of work to finish and a dress-up reception to go to at the end of the day. I remembered the years juggling, as a single mom, as a working married mom, a blending a family wife and a professional with a career. If a day could get so out of control now, how did I do it then?

I couldn't remember whether I had breakfast or eaten lunch, but if I could just check my e-mails, that wouldn't take too long. WRONG!. Sixty e-mails to delete, answer immediately or put on hold. Then the phone calls started all over again. I spoke with a young mother in Colorado, trying to work on her website as her four year old daughter wanted to bake. I spoke with a man in the throes of preparing himself for the onslaught of four children whose teenage hormones were all about to erupt at the same time. I spoke with a woman, fighting for gay rights. Still, I was dressed in my by now smelly sweats.

Several people arrived early for a meeting that was supposed to start at two. Phone calls continued, and all the while, lodged in what I am convinced is a special part of a woman's brain, labeled "mommy concerns," I wondered if my daughter who thought her problem had to be solved immediately was all right. I still had the dress-up reception to attend. Was there food in the house for my family, and what on my "to do" list hadn't I gotten to? My sweats wee starting to stick to me.

I had a memory of an event that happened years ago. I was a new mother with a young baby in my arms. I had been invited to give a speech at a local college. That I happened to be living in India and didn't yet know the customs hadn't really occurred to me. I picked up my daughter and with an entourage of help, arrived at the college only to find that although I had anticipated talking to a small class, I was in fact speaking to several thousand individuals---the entire student and faculty population. At that moment, my infant daughter decided to throw up all over me on my new white dress. I gulped, had no time to clean up, and I walked to the podium hoping that what I said was interesting enough so that the yellow stains down my left side would go unnoticed.

I had thought those kinds of days were behind me. It was now almost five PM and I was still in sweats. The day had sped, people had come and gone and I had less than an hour to transform my image and look as put together as a doctor "should."

"Everybody out," I said, showered, quickly dressed and off I went to my function. When I returned, I still had work to do. " OK" I said to myself. "I think I remember how to keep going and get it all done." I did---almost. The only difference between then and now is that as with so many of the younger people I speak with, I once had extra energy reserves. By Wednesday, a friend listening to me over the phone, said "Dorree" you have to sleep." Then came that all too familiar thought "but how will I ever get everything done?" Putting the thought aside, I listened and I did go to sleep. The week continued to go awry, but getting the sleep I so desperately needed, did help. I thought it a sign of maturity, that I listened to others whom I trusted and who had my best interests at heart. It was just one of those weeks, when all help was needed. Others, could see me better than I could see my self. I was grateful that they cared enough to comment and to take care of me.

One of the advantages of aging, is that I do have a better perspective about myself. I know, if I don't slow down when needed, I am of little value to myself or to those around me. I have made some small progress remembering to ease-up, breathe and make the moment last. Life's pace is really far too fast. I, as many of you will, go to sleep tonight reminding ourselves that "Tomorrow I will do better, I just know I will." Some of us will actually remember our own admonitions in the morning.

This column's for you,

DR. D

Dorree Lynn, PH.D.
Dr. Dorree Lynn, author of the forthcoming book Getting Sane Without Going Crazy, is a noted speaker, columnist, and practicing psychologist. Visit her at http://www.sanecrazy.com.