Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Right Stress

Life is interesting, with each day revealing a bit more to us than the one before as long as we are paying attention. Like most people I spend most days doing anything but paying attention. Paying bills, petting the cat, reading the blogs... But every once in awhile I'm actually alert when the Cosmic Trickster decides to pull the curtain back for a second to let me in on some of the secrets of the universe. This week's lesson? The right kind of stress.

See, I used to think that I was great at handling stress. Then over the last few years my attitude eroded and I became, well, difficult to deal with and a poster child of "overstressed." Then this past Thursday I got news that at first was fairly traumatic. It indicated that things were going to change. I had gotten used to the way things are and wasn't sure I liked the idea of change. But once over the initial shock something interesting happened. I was PSYCHED! Something that I had sort of known for years became completely, viscerally clear.


I love the challenge of change. I love the mental athletics of figuring out what to do, the mental and physical endurance required to see it through. My entire being is uplifted by facing the uncertainties and decisions required. I knew, on some level, that I love starting things. But I hadn't realized that it would triple my energy level and make me, you know, great to be around again. To go from grumpy, overworked be-atch to bouncy, enthusiastic songbird in about four hours is pretty amazing. It made me realize that the reason I had thought, previously, that I was good at handling stress is that earlier in my life THAT was the sort of stress that I was handling. A lot of people hate that sort of stress so they would look on me with wonder and confusion about how I could be so upbeat while dealing with it. Little did they (or I) know, it was GIVING me energy.

That got me thinking and I realized that it is a common thing. Some situations that one person considers stressful, another thrives in. For instance, Winterwolf is energized responding to a disaster. Give him people to take care of, logistics to handle, and issues to negotiate - all while some horrible natural disaster is bearing down on him - and he is completely engaged. Put me in the same situation and, well, I wouldn't accept the situation. I'm not built for taking care of others in crisis. Contrariwise, he doesn't much care for leaping out into the great unknown and "building a parachute on the way down" in the way that I do. To an outside observer there may seem to be a lot of similarity between what we are energized by, but to us it seems radically different. When I want to start a business he keeps me from acting too quickly, when he needs to help someone who had a fire I stay home and take care of the dogs.

So, basically, all of these things are only stressful to the people who shouldn't be doing them. And for each thing that you consider stressful there is probably someone who thrives on it like the nectar of life. Which makes me think that this is all some sort of cosmic puzzle.

What stress is the right stress for you? What challenging things invigorate you while everyone else stands by and says, "Wow, I don't know how you manage to do that!"

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