Saturday, September 09, 2006

Stress in Transition

When David and I started dating some 26 years ago, we found that when we were together it was fine and when we were apart it was fine. It was the time just before he left or came back, that bred difficult days. We had to constantly readjust to one another. I guess it happens with all families, both adults and children. When the kids go to camp you miss them terribly for a few days, but then the quiet is a welcome change. Then when they return, having established their independence, the process of reestablishing parental authority is no easy task. And without a doubt there is bound to be tension. When you are living your lives together (in the same space) and you share the events of the day, things are less likely to fall between the cracks—like calls that were supposed to be made or errands that were supposed to be run. But when everyone is heading off in a different direction and you are giving one another assignments, there’s bound to be miscommunication and misunderstanding. It creates problems which lead to stress in transition.

Since Jordan was born we have all lived our lives together with a three week rule. No one is allowed to be gone for more then three weeks. I guess it started when we decided to get married and we did it within three weeks because we knew if we waited longer we would talk each other out of it. So when Jordan went to camp it was a three week session and when David got an assignment or I had to travel we did our best to stay within the parameters of the rule. And mostly it worked. You see, after three weeks you not only suffer stress in transition, you have to play catch-up. For the person who is traveling, they may have unique experiences, but life stays the same. For the people left behind, life changes. Things happen daily that impact on the way life is lived. Whether it’s that the air conditioning needs to be fixed or a friend is having a personal crisis, things change. So after three weeks, as I said, you not only do you have to deal with stress in transition but you have to play catch-up as well. Neither is particularly healthy for interpersonal relationships.

Over the last six months the majority of my time has been spent in New York. I have been in Virginia to pack or unpack (see July blob “Open Close Vacuum”). Or to pay bills, pick up mail, weed the garden, clean the house, or wait for repairmen to make an appearance because something was broken. David has mostly not been around so Jordan and I found comfort in our little NY pad. In fact, we were both sleeping in my room to conserve air conditioning, so the first time David said he was coming back Jordan said, “But where’s he going to sleep?’ Anyway, in NY, there is a doorman, garbage is just down the hall, the cleaning lady comes infrequently but does clean, the space is small and has to be without piles of crap—because then no one could fit, and you can order take-out for every kind of food which will be delivered within minutes. But nothing is perfect.

I am still suffering stress in transition along with occasional not serious catch-up. But the stress is not because of our personal relationship it is because of geography. I start to put dishes away and I don’t know where they go. I search for clothing that I have left in one place or the other. I hardly know where I am. I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and I don’t know in which direction to walk. My friends never know where I am. My mail goes to the wrong place and I don’t know how to pick up phone messages in NY. Or, I call friends for entertainment -- who do love live in the city in which I happen to be. “Hi, it’s Rees, want to grab dinner? Oh my God, I’m not in NY!” This is often embarrassing, and at the very least, disconcerting. And the double life is causing me to seriously stress.

David and I used to think that, having what he calls “our beach house”, in NY and our residence in Virginia was having the best of both worlds. And it probably is. I love both DC and NY. Our house is 4 miles from the White House so we are close enough to the city and two major airports not to consider ourselves in the burbs. I am a city girl. When I lived in Boston I was in heaven. Even 8 miles out was OK. But when we moved to the middle of nowhere Massachusetts I was miserable. Too much grass made me itch and too much garden made me hyperventilate.

So what do I do? I don’t want to give up either life and I don’t think my stress is a case of too much city. I think it is a case of too much information about too many spaces in each of the places I live. So maybe downsizing things is the answer. Perhaps I’ll rent out some rooms, a few glasses and the TV in Va. Maybe I’ll give away the clothes I can’t find and if I leave a compass by the bed I might find my way to the bathroom with less difficulty. Oh my. Oh my. Just when you think life is getting easier the stress in transition pops up to smack you in the tuchas. I guess the simple always has its complications. We’re Just sayin...

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