Taming the Busy Trap

3461156831_79c3049815_zBy Allison Backhous Troy

I’m emerging from one of the busiest seasons of my life.

My wedding and a move from Michigan to Wyoming have filled my summer with enough checklists and tasks to keep me running around until one in the morning, until I finally put myself to bed, the set of tomorrow’s tasks stuttering in my ear while I try to sleep.

I’ve been asked numerous times how I’ve held up under the stress. How I deal with feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and stretched too thin.

And, to be honest, I’ve had to say, “Well, it doesn’t feel too bad, actually. I’m doing fine.”

I have felt fine. I’ve been sleeping regularly and haven’t resorted to a diet of coffee and junk food. Maybe my seeming lack of stress is due to the fact that I got to spread these tasks over my thirteen-month engagement.

Maybe I’ve been channeling some inner peace that makes this series of beginnings and ends more tolerable, serene, easy to handle.

Or, perhaps I’m not as stressed as people think I should be because, in the regular routine of my life, planning this life transition has felt like a vacation. Like a pause in the midst of a usually numbing busyness, one that turns every hour into a blank slate, waiting for tasks to fill it. [Read more...]

Hello, Insomnia, My Old Friend

4539066536_d5b0cb95a8_oIt may have started with the antique grandfather clock in my childhood living room. The mahogany behemoth bonged on the half hour, and whether I was conscious of its waking me or not, the booming rattled my bones: 10:00. 10:30. 11:00. 11:30. Midnight.

Around eighth grade, I began to struggle with falling asleep. As I lay there, I anticipated—dreaded—the half-hour intervals of time. The midnight gongs were the worst: the official passage into the next day, the extended knell of loneliness, the reminder that I was the only person awake in the world. Around then, I would stand in the hallway outside my parents’ room. I knew it was selfish, but I wanted someone, anyone, to join me in my tragic vigil. I rarely even had to say a word. My mom would sense my presence and whisper, “Just close your eyes and lie real still.” It’s like she, too, never slept. [Read more...]

The Two Lists

imageSeven-year old Isaiah found a small desk in the back of our garage and claimed it. “I want to paint it red,” he said. So we prepped it with a hand-sander, and I bought him a can of paint. Familiar with Tom Sawyer and being no fool, he recruited two of his brothers. Determined to let this be Isaiah’s project, I left them to their labor. Soon the desk was drying in the sun, and I was preoccupied with cleaning brushes along with whatever boy flesh I could lay hold of long enough to scrub it with mineral spirits.

Isaiah returned to the scene of the crime to survey his work. It was a damned atrocity. Paint ran haphazardly against the grain, tacky pools of it collected on the surface, and thick rivulets had crawled down the sides and hardened.

“Look at it,” the boy said, his arms spread wide. “It’s beautiful!” [Read more...]

In the Marrow of Depression and Anxiety

8025692978_ddec2400e8_mBy the time you read this, I’ll be feeling much better. Therapy will have commenced, medications will have been adjusted, and clinging to the One who clings to the brokenhearted will have kept me affixed to a drip line of peace.

I can say this with some confidence, for it’s not my first time off the high dive. An episode with postpartum depression knocked me out in the spring of 2005. A thyroidectomy, and the resulting difficulty with getting my levels adjusted, incapacitated me in 2011. Today, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on. Hormones seem to be fluctuating. Obsessive thoughts have sparked actual conflicts, causing more anxiety and guilt. Constantly trying to “hold my thoughts captive” has depleted my energies and now sunk me into a depressive state. [Read more...]

Soft Hearts and Thin Skin

3763198498_98d40f2c48_oRecently I found myself engaged in another maddening conversation with my four-year old daughter. We were discussing the aquarium we were going to visit the next day. She wrinkled her nose and pronounced that she wouldn’t go.

“Why?” I asked, more than a little impatient.

“What if there are sharks? What if there are eels?”

I assured her that we would keep her safe.

“No,” she said, firmly. “I am not going to the aquarium.”

“Yes,” I said, “you are,” thinking of the tickets we’d already purchased and out-of-town friends we’d meet there.

She cried and flung herself onto the couch. “But the sharks! But the eels!”

I had no pity. My heart was a steel trap of already-made plans.

My daughter has a history of fixating on small worries in her life—every night there was a book or a toy I needed to take away, and so many questions about death and existentialism that I’m unprepared for. As she wades deeper into an awareness of life, I just try to get us through as best as I can.

And I really wanted to go to this damn aquarium.

[Read more...]