Tag Archive | stress

The Lost Summer: The Bar Exam, Magical Cell Phones, and Brazilians

Summer 2003 was hot. Or maybe it was cold. Maybe it was unseasonably humid and hordes of mosquitoes swarmed the city. Maybe people died that year because of record-setting heat, which was dangerous in high-crime neighborhoods where people locked themselves in the “safety” of their apartments only to roast from the inside out.

I don’t know because I took the Bar exam that summer.



Weather? What weather? I paid no attention to it or the news or my family. My beloved Grandmother died, but I was so frothed up about the two-day test that I balked. I didn’t go to her funeral. Like Ethan Frome swerving before he hit that tree, I told Southwest Airlines “I won’t be needing the ticket.” Then, I sat at the glass dining room table staring at my shoes wondering, “What will become of me? Who misses their grandmother’s funeral for a test?” Next thought: “What’s the difference between larceny and trespass to chattel?”

The first morning of the two-day exam I woke up several hours early to review my flashcards. How silly. We were told to wrap up our studying the night before and then let go. Either you know it or you don’t, they said. I decided I didn’t. I flipped through my color-coded, handmade cards, letting the ones I answered correctly fall to the floor like dandruff. It wasn’t about learning; it was about saving myself the agony of regrets that began “If only I’d studied a little bit harder.”

The second morning, I let go a little. I only reviewed a few esoteric concepts while I blow-dried my hair. I tossed the stack into the trash when I was done. It was my boyfriend’s birthday, and the celebration would begin as soon as I tackled 100 multiple choice questions covering all of American law. We had a reservation for one of those places where waiters rove around with slabs of juicy beef sides and slice it onto a warm plate right before your very eyes. Brazilian, I thought, like the waxing.  Ghastly on so many levels, but what did I care? The bar exam would be over.

With only one hour left in the test, I started to obsess about my cell phone. (If your cell phone rings during the test, you automatically fail.) I had taken my battery out of my phone and put it into a separate bag, but suddenly it seemed plausible that somehow it might have put itself back together and rung while I was trying to figure out this stupid question about the use of lie detector tests. I kept thinking I heard it ring.

Ohmygod, they’re going to come and kick me out of the legal profession before I ever start.

I finished the test and avoided other law students as I bee-lined to dinner where I hoped that heaps of meat might soak up my anxiety and bring me back to myself, the person who disappeared the second I cracked open my first study guide back in May.

I was a wreck through dinner.  I started every conversation with “do you think I answered the lie detector question correctly?” The anxiety clung to me like a rash.

The next morning I had the house to myself.  A Thursday.  I sat on the balcony for hours staring at nothing.  I felt the weather for the first time in weeks.  It was a cloudless, vibrant day, the sky so blue I couldn’t help but imagine God’s paintbrush.  I read the newspaper cover to cover, including the obituaries.  I called my family members and reintroduced myself.

I was back.



September Bitch Slapped Me From Day One

Acclaimed poet TJ Maxx T.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruelest month,” in 1922.  With all due respect to Mr. Eliot, I think it’s time to update that classic; therefore, I humbly submit this sequel:

September can kiss my biscuit-white ass.

Oh, yes, September bitched slapped me from day one when I found myself having a delightful picnic dinner of humus sandwiches with grilled vegetables in the antiseptic confines of the EMERGENCY ROOM.  There’s nothing like hitting up the children’s hospital on Labor Day weekend to really rouse the soul.  Gratefully, the injury was never life threatening– Simon earned himself five stitches after his little hobbit feet slipped on our living room floor.

And I’m not naturally a hater (I’m more of a self-pity-er), so I assumed the month would turn around.  Like every other family with children, we suited up for our first days of school and gamely signed up for volunteer activities, while juggling back-to-school nights and looking up EMDR therapy to treat the PTSD from the carpool line experience.

Each banal challenge showed up like a barrel and I jumped like Donkey Kong.  Mid-September, I learned that my beloved office was going the way of many a budget cut, and I tried not to cry so loud that I disturbed others. (I was not successful.)  I endeavored to forgive my aging therapist for leaving town for the month of September, which I shall refer to hereafter as “the month that hates my guts” (“TMTHMG”).

Still, I took steps to keep my mind aloft, far from the maddening flood waters that threatened to carry away my peace of mind.  I started watching Joel Osteen at the gym instead of gluing my eyes to the CNN crawl because one more piece of news about gunmen in malls or bombs in railway stations might have pushed me over a cliff.  Now I have  uneasy nightmarish dreams about Mr. Osteen’s hair coming to tell me how sinful I am for having negative thoughts.

Other existential battles I waged in my head and heart and are the subject of my forthcoming memoir (due in 2018) so I won’t detail them herein.

And to give TMTHMG  his due, I will acknowledge sublime runs on the lake in the brilliant autumn sunshine, bonding family time as we learn our new neighborhood, and faithful friends who’ve helped me peel my ass off the floor countless times in the past 30 days.  Like all difficult times, it wasn’t hard every.single.minute., but the minutes that were felt like they were going to take me under and poison me with stress and anxiety and discomfort.

I will not miss you, TMTHMG– I will wish you well, because that’s what Joel Osteen would do.  Please take your crises and woes and stress with you.  And yes, please let the door hit you on the ass as you leave, because you sort of deserve it.

I Swear I’m Not Hysterically Crying Because I’m Stressed

I’m handling the move just fine.  Really. I’m fine.  What’s there to be stressed about? Those 30 cardboard boxes on my dining room table? Why would that be stressful? They are all broken down.

Proof I'm not stressed: Stressed people don't post pictures of cutie pie cats.  Image credit: http://www.desura.com/groups/cat-lovers/images/stress-cat

Proof I’m not stressed: Stressed people don’t post pictures of cutie pie cats. Image credit: http://www.desura.com/groups/cat-lovers/images/stress-cat

Oh, that thing about how Costco is no longer a mile away, but now is like 4.5 miles away down a long, dark road? Why would that be stressful? Just because my happy place remains just out of reach for the foreseeable future and my will to live has evaporated like so much chimera.

Nope. Not stressed.

The dry cleaners doesn’t have candy for my kids so I had to deal with their tandem tantrums upon depositing my dry cleaning yesterday.  That wasn’t stressful.  Who doesn’t want to introduce themselves to the neighborhood by having their children break the sound barrier down one of the most famous streets in all of Chicago? (Michigan Avenue)

It’s not remotely stressful to not know where that box with my workout clothes is.  Who needs to work out when she is SO CLEARLY not stressed?  And the fact that Jeff and I have traded off unpacking the kitchen, which has resulted in both of us instituting systems that as of yet appear to be incompatible? What’s the big deal? He thinks that oven mitts go where I am positive the sixteen spatulas he insisted we keep should go.  That’s not stressful; it’s a marital challenge.  Like Biggest Loser for couples, except I am pretty sure I am gaining weight, but not from stress eating.

Because I am not stressed.

Maybe you heard that I spent 20 minutes crying in therapy because the stupid fucking sellers of our new house didn’t leave us a mail key and I am fixated on an out-of-print writing book I ordered and a sizable check that is currently lost in the bowels of the postal system of this great country.  It wasn’t stressful at all when the management company told us we had to hire a locksmith to get into our mailroom.  Those tears weren’t stress.  They were tears of pity for the sellers who have wreaked havoc on our lives since we first spotted this home and entwined our lives with their for the span of time it took to buy their house.  Bless their hearts.


So, yeah, totally not stressed.  There is not an emergency stash of chocolate Clif Bars (because they are “healthy” and also: Chocolate) in my bathroom closet just in case I need a fix as I wade through this decidedly not stressful time of my life.  (And I certainly haven’t eaten more than half the box in my first 4 days here. (They come 12 to a pack.)).

I’ve been rolling with the little moguls that life has put in my path.  Laid back, I’d call myself.  Sadie slathered her arms and legs with Desitin and then walked all over our new floors.  That’s cool, honey, I’m so happy you did that experiment. What did you learn?  I’m psyched about Simon’s new hobby, which I believe is best referred to as “pediatric kleptomania.”  Now I’ve got a mini van full of toys that don’t belong to us and a kitchen decorated with white footprints that smell like ass cream from the fucking devil.

It’s all part of the magical, colorful tapestry that is my life.  And it’s not stressful so if you see me losing my ever-living shit in the near future, please know I am not stressed.  I’m just crying tears of wonder and joy that all this is mine.  Mine all mine.

7 Ways I Relieve Stress And An Elevator Pitch That Involves My Vagina and Costco

July is kicking my ass. Hard. Like with a metal-toed boot hard.  Work is stressful, we are moving early next month, my husband had surgery on his mouth (which I get to milk on my blog), my therapist is out of town for 14 days, and I am pretty sure I’m going to die of anxiety. Never heard of that? Well, I’ll be the first so you’ll see my picture in the Wikipedia entry for “very first woman to die of anxiety poisoning.”

The author. Feel sorry for me.

The author. Feel sorry for me.

Worst of all, I’m behind on everything.  Who isn’t, right?  But it’s compounding my feeling of stress to be behind on things I am normally on top of.  Dr. Phil (or maybe that old guy from Kung Fu) says you should write stuff down so you can see in black and white all the things you have to do– then you can gain mastery over the anxiety.

But I’ve never been that good at taking advice, especially when I am anxious.  I like to do things my own damn way, thankyouverymuch, and it never works, but maybe this time the following 7 things that I do to manage stress will help me manage and master it (no they won’t):

1. Pudding. Chocolate. Straight from the high shelf in the fridge– you know the one with the hinged door where you are supposed to put butter.  That’s where I hide the chocolate pudding from my children.  This month we’re going fat-free because let’s face it, I’ma be eating lots of it.

2. Nordstrom Rack. Oh to lose myself in the junked up aisles of NR.  It stills my mind to wade among Free People t-shirts and Joe’s jeans (in size 24).  Considering that one of the things I am behind on is my Nordstrom’s bill, this little activity is about to hit a big fat curtailment.

3. Sex.  Look, I am just going to say it even though you’ll all be jealous.  I have tons and tons of sex when I am anxious.  Fueled by passion and pudding, I just can’t be stopped.  Husband’s surgery is complicating this too, so I am extra on edge.

4. Lying. Like how I just said I have lots of sex when I am stressed.  See that? LYING.

5. Run.  I love to lace up my Brooks shoes and hit the pavement– running through my hood dodging the ice cream man, the thuggish kids out on the prowl, and trying not to drown in the water gushing from fire hydrants that have been illegally tapped.  Running for my life takes my mind of my problems.

6. Picking fights.  My dear friends know this about me. I get testy when stressed and I pick fights with other people, hoping the rifts in my social life will distract me from the pain of anxiety.  Luckily, I am perfectly charming when not stressed.

7. Crying. Tears, tears, and more tears.  How they flow when I am stressed. Stubbed my toe? Time to cry.  Lost the house key? Water works.  Forgot to buy pudding? I’m dehydrated from crying so hard.

Come to think of it, being stressed is a lot like having PMS.

* * *

Also, I am behind on Yeah Write’s 31 days to a better blog.  But by God, I am catching up right now.   Today’s exercise was to make a list.  (See above.)  Yesterday’s exercise was to create a pitch for your blog.  Pithy– like 150 words of pithage.  The idea is to answer the question, what’s your blog about to someone who may only be asking to be nice (and won’t really be listening). Like your mom.

The gay Outlaw Mama. Image credit: www.wbur.org

The gay male Outlaw Mama. Image credit: http://www.wbur.org

Here’s my pitch:

What the hell is Outlaw Mama all about?

ANSWER: If David Sedaris was a straight, married, mother-of-two with a near lethal-obsession with Costco and a deeply ambivalent relationship to his law degree, he’d be Outlaw Mama.  But since I went to law school, and I have a vagina, offspring, and a Costco card, I get to play the part of Outlaw Mama and give lots of advice on how not to do almost everything.

What do you think?

(Now, I’m all caught up at least on blogging. Now to pay that Nordstrom’s bill.)

Back To Work = Back To Worry

Before I returned to work in February, I considered every angle. Childcare costs.  Commuting. My time away. The stress of long days in the office.  I mentally and emotionally prepared for stepping back into the work stream, after sitting two years out on the banks of mostly full-time motherhood.

Photo taken by my nanny that she texted me whilst I was a-working

Photo taken by my nanny that she texted me whilst I was a-working

The transition was as I expected.  Rocky waters on some days and smooth gliding on others.

What I hadn’t recalled– until I was a good month into the new job– was all the worry that happens about work when I am back at home.

How could I have forgotten about that?

I guess it was like some of those unpleasant aspects of parenting a newborn; you just forget until you are already holding your second or subsequent child.  By then it’s too late, you’ve got a 2- week old baby and you just then remembered what it was like to function with sore nipples and no sleep.

Anyone else return to work and struggle with reading your kids a bedtime story, but stressing about work in the back of your mind?  I hate that.  I need a solution or a way to turn off that part of my brain.

For a fuller discussion of this phenomenon, click here for my latest Mom.me post.

Now that I think about it, if I was truly being honest, my brain can always find something to worry about– job or no job.  But it feels so disheartening to be missing my now less-frequent moments with my kids because I can’t mentally step away from a work project.

So for all of us who mother– and aunt, and grandmother, and godmother– bless us, bless our worrying minds, and let us connect with each other so we can have some moments with our kids that aren’t marred by and weighted with worry. Or if they are, maybe I can just accept that and enjoy the moments in all their stressful imperfection.

Time To Get A New Coping Strategy

It’s hard to walk in my front door because packages are strewn all over our entryway (which, incidentally, is a nice justification for a mudroom).  Anyway, half of the packages are holiday-related gifts from our family out of town.

The other half?

Welcome to my not-successful coping strategy:

Because brownies are too fattening and porn is too embarassing.

Because brownies are too fattening and porn is too embarrassing.

It started Friday night, when everyone was asleep, and I was terrified that I would get sucked into the news.  I never turned on the TV, but horrible news and images were just a click away as I worked on-line.

I said to myself, “you can look at anything in the world on-line right now– baby chimps, gay porn, Cher music videos– but stay away from the news.” (I imposed this because I have a tendency toward the morbid and have a long history of ingesting tragedy to the point that I make myself sick.)

Do you think I sought out cute animals sneezing or nuzzling their furry mamas?

Do you think I checked out porn that would make even the depraved Twittersphere blush?

No and No.

I got myself busy and distracted on Zappos (which is a kind of porn, amiright?).

People, I don’t need anything, much less another damn pair of shoes. I’ll have you know that I bought a perfectly good (rubber) pair of cowboy boots and faux suede booties at Target just last month.  I probably didn’t need either of those, but their combined price was less than $40.00 and hey, I was worth it.

So, explain to me why I just ordered a pair of Frye boots from Zappos?  WTF.  I don’t actually believe in spending over $210.00 for boots– not saying it’s wrong, just saying I never have and don’t think it’s necessary for me.

For those of you who don’t live in Colorado or know what Frye boots are, they are boots that start at about $300 and go up from there.  They are seductive in that they come in a dozen shades of distressed, Indiana Jones-looking leather and they are a shoe that should be worn by a total bad ass.

Which is precisely why I will be returning them without opening them. I don’t even want to see my clumsy ass legs stuck into them.  It was an impulse purchase of the highest order.  I bought them to make it all seem less scary.  “Hey, if I get these boots nothing bad could be happening anywhere because, did you see my new boots?”  The logic makes as much sense as eating Little Debbie brownies right before a Weight Watchers weigh-in, and frankly, I’ve done that too.

The boots won’t make me safer or even cooler. (There’s something infinitely more hip about wearing rubber boots from the Target clearance aisle.)  It was a strategy to get through a scary, lonely night.  I guess it worked– I made it through the night without reading a single headline.  But now I have to schlep that giant box to the post office, which is a huge pain in the ass.

And the world is the same place it was Friday night.

What have you tried? Is it working?