How do you handle stressful situations? With so much going on in my life and in the lives of those around me, I thought I would share my current method of escape. Some people exercise. Some people read. I’m eating ice cream – and lots of it!
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in a bad mood and everyone has noticed. I have had a tough time maintaining a good poker face – both at work and at home.
On the work front, things have been quite stressful as I try to balance the needs of the people at my plant with the expectations laid out by senior management.
On the home front, things haven’t been quite as stressful, but living in a home with three young daughters who think they are teenagers presents its own set of challenges – especially as the start of the school year gets closer and closer.
As I write this post, I am not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me or to be overly concerned about my emotional well-being. Most of my stress is self-imposed, and I am managing it just fine. There are many people in my life both near and far that are dealing with far more adversity than myself.
Over the past few weeks, I have had many friends and co-workers deal with things like serious injury of a love one, a family member with a severe illness , or even the death of a loved one. I have had three friends who have recently lost their fathers to various illnesses. Another friend’s mother is seriously ill, and the doctors aren’t 100 percent sure of her diagnosis or prognosis, and on top of that, she was notified she would no longer be employed once she is well again.
I also have a co-worker whose mother-in-law may have had a stroke today. I have another friend whose elderly mother had surgery to repair a broken leg after a fall. And finally, I have three friends and co-workers who are dealing with the loss of a wife, a mother, and a mother-in-law. All of these people are dealing with more pain, stress, and sadness than myself. That’s for sure.
On the family front, my brother-in-law and his family are dealing with a much more emotionally draining and stressful issue – the return of their adopted son who doesn’t want to be part of the family. It’s a long story, but it’s one that involves mental illness caused by neglect at a very young age – long before the family adopted him and his older sister. Fortunately, she has adapted well, but she still has a ways to go.
So, there are lots of things going on and lots of stuff to think about. And that’s one of my problems.
I can’t stop thinking!
My mind is constantly churning – trying to figure out the right thing to do at work, trying to think of the right things to say to my friends, family, and co-workers or what I can do for them in their time of need.
On the work front, I have what author Jim Collins calls in his book Great by Choice – “productive paranoia.” When things are going fairly well, I’m never happy with the status quo. I live in fear of missing something – not anticipating the next challenge. I’m always planning for that next step. I don’t like surprises. I also worry a great deal about the well-being of my people. According to people who study leadership, this is what I’m supposed to do.
On the home front, I think about other things. With school approaching and Carrie returning to work, I think about how we will manage all of our activities while still having some time for each other. Family time is very important, but the way things are shaping up, it looks like we’ll have something going on every night of the week. I am going to try to play softball again (Carrie says I’m too old), and the girls have soccer and dance and band and and and….
Again, there are people with bigger problems than me, and I admire them for how they handle their respective situations. I also try to learn from them. Is it their faith that helps them get through it? Is it their friends or their family that help them? Are they just so mentally and emotionally strong that they deal with it on their own and in their own way?
For me, I stop and eat ice cream!
I know. It sounds crazy, but almost every night, I immerse myself in a bowl of ice cream. Some nights it’s Ben & Jerry’s Cake Batter or Americone Dream. Other nights it’s Breyers or Mayfield Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Some nights it’s just plain old Vanilla Bean ice cream with butterscotch sauce.
It’s my way to escape. It’s my way to focus on something that’s good and sweet and tastes great. It’s kind of like a reward for myself for a hard day’s work, and it’s great stress relief.
When people are stressed, they sometimes eat pizza or chocolate cake or if you’re like my wife, Carrie, anything chocolate will do. Others read books or write blogs. Others like to cry. Others listen to music. Others call their friends to vent. Many people use exercise as a way to relieve stress.
Right now, I eat ice cream. And yes, I just ate a bowl before I started writing this post.
Now, I don’t recommend my ice cream habit to everyone. It hasn’t been particularly good for my waistline. I’ve recently had to loosen my belt a little, and I’ve noticed my shirts feel a little tighter (I think that’s because Carrie leaves them in the dryer too long, but I won’t dwell on that too long…). But now that I’m going to play softball again, I hope it will start to disappear.
It should disappear, right?
Either way, if you look at what Mr. Roosevelt said in his quote above, life isn’t always going to be easy, and those who deal with adversity well are often times some of the most admired. How a person handles a stressful situation can have a huge impact on those around him/her. There have been many leaders through the years that come to mind. Abraham Lincoln. Moses. Herb Kelleher (CEO of Southwest Airlines). All have handled adversity in different ways and succeeded – even in the face of imminent disaster.
So, when things get tough, turn your mind off for a few minutes and escape to a happier place. If it’s reading your Bible – read your Bible. If it’s playing video games, play video games for a little while.
For now, I’m going to keep eating ice cream. I just bought a new flavor to try – Mayfield Snickerdoodle. Cinnamon cookie flavored ice cream with cinnamon cookie pieces.
Sounds awesome to me. How about you?
If you were Jewish, would you live your life as a Christian?
Would you try to hitchhike across America without a penny to your name?
Would you walk across the street to spend quality time with your neighbor?
These questions and many others will be discussed in my most recent post.
While I was on vacation at the end of last week, I took the time to read a couple of books – actually finish one book and read another. As a chemist with a sociology degree, I am drawn to the nonfiction realm. Lately, I’ve been on a biography/memoir kick. Most of the stories involve a person/author who feels the need to live life outside of their comfort zone. The author is normally at a point in his/her life in which he/she wants to do something different. He/she wants to interact with people that they wouldn’t normally interact with on a daily basis – to experience new things.
To have these experiences normally means leaving a job, their home, friends, and family. In some cases, it means living a totally different life – like a devout Jewish person living a year as a Christian as I discovered in Benyamin Cohen’s book, My Jesus Year. Or hitting the road without a penny to their name to see if society will still open up their lives and their homes to complete strangers in Mike McIntyre’s The Kindness of Strangers.
The common theme in each of these books is the author’s reliance on others – normally complete strangers – to help them discover their purpose or achieve his personal mission. For Cohen, it was living life as a Christian to gain a greater appreciation for his own religion. For McIntyre, it was hitchhiking across the United States penniless, relying solely on the kindness of strangers.
How many of us today would even think of stopping to pick-up a hitchhiker? Apparently people still do. People from California to the coast of North Carolina stopped to help McIntyre achieve his mission – travel the country without a penny to his name.. And very rarely were they middle class people like you and me. They were mostly people of limited means who knew what it was like to be in McIntyre’s shoes – penniless, living off the kindness of strangers. For me the book sent a powerful message, and made me question how far I would go to help others.
When I read Cohen’s book, I asked myself: How many people would take the time to share their beliefs with a non-believer or even with fellow believers? Could I do it? In the book, Cohen shared his experiences with people from many different faiths – Mormons, Baptists, Evangelicals, Monks – and how their faith helped shape their everyday lives. They all opened up their lives to a complete stranger – in this case Cohen. As I read the book, I was a bit envious. I have a hard enough time sharing my thoughts and feelings with my wife – much less a friend or a stranger.
So, you’re probably asking, Delton what is the point of this blog?
I’m not telling you to run out and pick-up hitchhikers or to run tell your wife or your friends your innermost thoughts and feelings.
The point I’m trying to make is don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Experience new things. Be kind to people you don’t know. Share your thoughts and ideas with new people. Build a relationship with a co-worker, a fellow church member, or even build a stronger bond with your husband or your wife or your children.
Get to know your neighbors better. As I’ve read in a number of publications and books, many of us hardly know our neighbors. We are strangers in our own neighborhood. So learn more about your neighbors and their families – not just what they do for a living or where they’re from. Have a deeper discussion. You never know when that neighbor could make a huge impact in your life or you in theirs.
What do you think?
I am not one to discuss politics, but as a South Carolinian, I have enjoyed following the race for the House seat in the First Congressional District. South Carolina has a rich history of controversial politicians from Strom Thurmond to Mark Sanford. Let me know what you think.
I very rarely delve into discussions about politics at home, with friends, or in the workplace. I believe one’s political views are personal, and I very rarely feel the need or desire to share these views with others. I’ve lived in South Carolina for all but 4 of the 38 years of my life, and I have seen the political machine at work for many years. From Strom Thurmond to Fritz Hollings in the US Senate to Carroll Campbell, Mark Sanford, and most recently Nikki Haley in the Governor’s office, South Carolinians have traditionally elected people who have worked to make our state a better place for all of us to live…for the most part. All of these leaders worked to carry out the wishes and desires of all South Carolinians even if that meant making unpopular decisions at times…like making video poker illegal. Thanks Jim Hodges!
Over the years, we have had the pleasure of allowing a number of misguided politicians fill leadership roles as well. A couple come to mind, but most recent award winners include former Lieutenant Governors Andre Bauer and Ken Ard. Bauer liked to drive fast, and Ard was charged with misappropriation of campaign funds. Some would say that Thurmond would fall into this group as well. Thurmond was a classic flip-flopper politician who once ran for President as a “Dixiecrat”, and was a Democrat and then a Republican starting in 1964. Talk about a politician who knew how to play to his constituency. Thurmond managed to stay in office until 2003 and was even accused by author Dave Barry in one of his columns of coloring his hair with Tang…you know the bright orange stuff.
All of us would say that Mark Sanford would fall into this group as well. Sanford, a real estate developer and a fiscal conservative, was originally known as the Congressman who slept in his office while in Washington because he didn’t want to waste taxpayer money. Sanford was elected to his first term as governor in 2003 and was on the fast track to becoming a possible Republican nominee for President in 2012 until he went “to hike the Appalachian Trail” which is code for going to Argentina to visit your mistress (Maria Chapur). To the citizens of South Carolina, Sanford appeared to be a happily married man to his wife Jenny, and the father of 4 children, but apparently, he was not.
Sanford claimed to “follow his heart” in order to find his “soulmate.” For all intents and purposes, his political career was over at that point. He completed his second term as governor, got divorced, went into seclusion, and eventually got engaged to Chapur. In late 2012, Senator Jim DeMint decided to hang it up and leave the dysfunctional world of the US Senate to run the Heritage Foundation, a highly conservative organization in its own right. This left an open Senate seat that needed to be filled. A couple of weeks later, Governor Haley selected Representative Tim Scott to fill the position. Scott would become the first African American member of the US Senate from South Carolina, however he left vacant a seat in the House in a notorious Republican district in SC (I know they are all Republican). Sanford, after talking with his ex-wife, decided to come out of hiding and throw his name in the mix. At first I thought his was strange, but then I thought at least he had the common courtesy to check to see if she was running first.
The Republican primary, which was held a month ago, was filled with a number of political novices who had very little name recognition and very little experience with the political machine. After a runoff, Sanford won the Republican nomination and advanced to meet the infamous Stephen Colbert’s sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the election that will be held on May 7 for the seat in the First Congressional District.
South Carolinians are a forgiving lot. We keep re-electing Lindsey Graham even though he continues to hangout with John McCain, and we will probably give Arthur Ravenel’s son, Thomas, another chance at political office at some point even though he was convicted of federal cocaine distribution . Almost all of us believe that “Shoeless” Joe Jackson should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame even though he was part of the infamous Black Sox scandal in the early 20th century. We appreciate people with humility. That is a key characteristic displayed by Sanford. His ability to come across as just a normal guy who “followed his heart” resonates with the citizens of SC. That was the case until Mark Sanford decided to be a Dad on Super Bowl Sunday.
Apparently spending quality time with his son on Super Bowl Sunday was not part of his divorce settlement – especially when it’s spent at his ex-wife’s home. I guess the lawyers forgot to negotiate that clause. Once the National Republican Congressional Committee caught wind of this indiscretion, they stopped backing poor Mark, but that hasn’t stopped him. He continues to travel throughout the Lowcountry visiting restaurants, shaking hands, posing for pictures, and trying to connect with voters. He even posted a campaign ad that contained his cell phone number. I hope he has another phone for personal calls.
His personal life is a mess, but his political ideals still match-up with most South Carolinians. He has received a number of endorsements from many of his friends and colleagues, including the aforementioned Lindsey Graham and most recently Larry Flynt…that should really help, right?
Sanford still believes he has a chance to win, and I think he does too. Also, South Carolinians tend to pull for the underdog, and right now he is definitely a big underdog!
Would I vote for him? Probably.
Personal life aside, I agree with many of his views, but I still can’t discount the past even though he has always been one to take responsibility for his actions. He is a fiscal conservative, who has shown a willingness at times to work across party lines on more moderate social issues. That is typically where I fall in the grand scheme of things.
Tomorrow is a big day for my friends that reside in the Lowcountry. Do they vote for the lady whose brother appears nightly on Comedy Central and is a relative political novice, or do you vote for the underdog, the guy who many people have said deserves a second chance?
It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
I’ll be watching. Will you?
Do you live with a child that’s an introvert? I do, and sometimes I lose sight of that. Read about what happens when a parent forgets.