You know, my rational mind keeps questioning why I bother obsessing about what Adrienne, my co-worker in the cubicle 2 down from mine, said about me yesterday. I didn’t even hear what she said, but I don’t think she likes me and I feel like she keeps shooting me dirty looks. My rational mind questions why I still care if my family thought the chicken was overcooked last night, or why I am stressing that airline tickets for the Holidays are going to shoot up after I held off on what seemed like a fair price the other day. Does my tummy stick out? Did I gain or lose points with my boss on my work presentation last week? Will my mom make some unnecessary critical remark to my husband when she visits next week? Probably. Will he then be in a bad mood and avoid her, and therefore me, for the rest of the visit? Probably. Is that what my mom wanted in the first place? Probably.
Those are just a handful of the things that plague my mind. If it is not those exact concerns, it’s always something like those things. My rational mind tells me that those are unproductive things to think about. It tells me to focus on solutions, not problems or potential problems. I think I do nearly everything right. I love my family, I eat healthy, I workout, I stay current on the issues facing the world, I don’t overspend and I even maintain a fairly good social life. So, what is the problem? Why do I still feel anxiety? Why am I still stressed out? When we do things the right way and life is going in the right direction objectively, shouldn’t our reward be that we are stress free?
I watched "The Affair" on Showtime. A story about a perfectly nice family with a malcontent husband/father. He forces an affair with another married woman right under his wife and her parents’ noses. All sorts of tragic events ensue and he and his wife separate but maintain a cordial relationship for the sake of their children, but really because they still care about each other.🙄 The last season goes crazy as the show intertwines the #MeToo movement into the story when the father/husband becomes a successful novelist and a number of women accuse him of sexual misconduct. His reputation is ruined and the only one who still cares about him is the mother of his four children. He realizes his mistakes and finally becomes a wise old contented man. I kept thinking to myself, this story is all over the place, but I suppose that is the point. Life is all over the place.
Could it be that the irrational stresses of life are meant to keep us all mentally stimulated? Is it a protective, almost preventative, biological function of our brain to keep the repetitive mundane nature of our existences from driving us mad? Do we sometimes create problems just for the sake of having problems? I know, anyone reading this might be thinking that they have plenty of real problems they neither created or wanted. Certainly, there are very real issues we must contend with. Sickness, crime, poverty and unexpected tragedies are the core and justifiable reasons for stress and anxiety. Chemical imbalances and medical conditions that result in undue stress are beyond our control. So, what is the excuse for everyone else plagued by stress that don’t have any real problems?
Have you ever made a puzzle before? You know, the classic 300 to 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle of a picture of anything. Somebody probably got it for your kids, but you’re kids weren’t quite old enough yet. You put together the border of the puzzle first and then scrutinized the details of the picture on the box to match up the centerpieces. At some point you got stuck. You looked around for 1 particular piece that you were sure you knew what it should look like, but you couldn’t find it. You started thinking that maybe you lost a piece. You looked under some of the junk scattered across the table. You looked under the table and chairs. Finally, you decided that you needed to take a break and go make lunch or something. When the puzzle was finally finished you felt a brief moment of satisfaction, followed up by a feeling of being underwhelmed and then a feeling that you just wasted a bunch of time putting a child’s toy together.
Maybe our lives are just one jigsaw puzzle after another. While we are intrigued by the challenges, perhaps we spend more time looking for that missing piece than anything else, metaphorically speaking of course. Looking and not finding the missing piece makes us feel deficient and inadequate. Problem solving is supposed to be what people are good at relative to the rest of life on planet Earth. But, maybe we aren’t good at it. We are simply good enough. Who wants to just be good enough? So what if you completed the puzzle? Somebody else probably completed the same puzzle much faster than you did. Why haven’t you completed more puzzles? What is your ultimate contribution? So what if you have a good job and a family? Why are those remarkable achievements in and of themselves? Are we all just running through the same old routine until we get old and die?
No matter how much planning we do, no matter how prepared we are, no matter how much we have worked on optimizing every little detail, we always find a reason to lose our patience, lash out at those that love us the most and be incredibly critical of ourselves. Perhaps those of us that have done everything in our power to prevent hardships, have never had a reason to sit back and appreciate what we have. Why stress? That’s easy. We stress because we all know that we are going to have to cross that bridge at some point. Something is going to go wrong. The tears are going to come. The jolt of reality is coming that our lives, and those we care about even more than ourselves, are not perpetual. Wouldn’t it be nice if our rational minds would allow us to find contentment before the awful happens? Can’t we learn from other people’s stories? Can you imagine being perfectly content at the age of 25 or 30? Do you even really want that?