I can sometimes be a bit of a stressful hedgehog. When I was a little kid I used to stare at my parents in that evil monobrow baby way if they interrupted me while I was working on something serious. You know, like colouring in. When my parents visited me the other week while I was doing my novel writing I reverted back to my evil monobrow ways. The more my parents tried to lure me away from my laptop with tea the more stressed I became.
“You don’t understand!” I yelled my voice choking. Yes, three years out of home and I totally went all teenage on them.
Everyone deals with stress in different ways. Some people drink a shit load(eventually crying into their beers) others use motivational tea towels (Keep Calm and Carry On). I do all the normal things: do bodycombat classes and imagine I’m punching the crap out of that unread Coetzee book that is Bringing Me Down, talk to friends, have a nap, listen to music, eat chocolate. But most of all I remember this story, about how stress is all situational and about getting stuck in a mindset. I call it the plastic lid fallacy.
A few years ago I had a year off working in a supermarket chain, which was like hell with fluorescent lighting. I put pink, wet chickens into the oven at 6am and served customers through til 3pm. Knock-off time for sweet, sweet freedom. Some of the most stressful days in the deli were when we ran out of plastic lids. A small seemingly insignificant thing became a full-blown panic.
“Shannon can you check out the back, we need more plastic lids.”
“We don’t have any I’ve already checked.”
“What do you mean?!”
“There’s none there!”
“Oh god! No!”
If we had no plastic lids then our job was made more difficult. We had to wrap customer’s sun-dried tomato containers in plastic cling wrap. Messy, unprofessional.
“Sorry. Sorry. We’ve got no lids.” I would repeat to customers. I was very sincere. I felt for these lidless customers. I felt horrible handing over their purchase. I worried that I had ruined their day. I felt that hot creeping crawly sensation running up to my head as I rushed from customer to customer. They all seem to want antipastos today. Why? WHY? We have no lids!
When home time rolled round I jumped into my car and drove as fast as I could. Sweat clung to my armpits.
“How was work?” My boyfriend asked.
“Horrible, there was no plastic lids.” As I said this I remember laughing. How stupid of me to get so stressed over a bit of plastic. Did it really matter? The answer was no, of course not you ding-dong. But when we get caught in the situation and geared up with adrenalin we cannot see further than our current environment.
When I am getting overwhelmed now I think about the plastic lid fallacy. You’re probably overreacting and you will get over it. A bit of a learning curve. Nothing matters too much in the end.