Saturday, October 11, 2008

Stress & The Yellow Canary In The Hat

The other day I was sitting at my laptop, writing a for the blog, when I was rudely interrupted by a chirping noise - coming from my ceiling.

That's never good.

I went to investigate and found nothing. However I did discover the culprit of a very obnoxious - albeit entirely separate - tapping noise. Mr. Woodpecker seems to have opened up spare whittling shop directly under the awning of my house. Unfortunately his hours happen to be exactly whenever I am working/writing/sleeping.

Since then I've decided that there is very much a small bird living inside some little space in the roof of my house. Which frankly, I've come to think, is pretty damn nifty. I like to consider him my little pet. He sits up high and watches me write and throws out little chirps of encouragement. Or so I like to believe. I think he's probably yellow and wears a red and white polka dot hat. My little yellow canary bird in a hat. (Apparently I've graduated from having imaginary friends but not pets. Nice.)

This little bird has also become somewhat of a metaphor for the way I've been thinking about my life lately. He has it all figured out. He probably has a mostly stress-free life. The area I live in is pretty wildlife friendly (the house cats tend to be rather tame and most dogs are kept indoors) so I doubt my little bird is having any Jason Bourne like chase scenes in his day-to-day existence. He has a constant food source. I know this for a fact because every time it rains the entire worm population in the tri-state area congregates on my front sidewalk and sings Christmas carols regardless of the season. Rain today? Yea well: BOOM. WORM SONGTIME.

Plus this bird also has an endless amount of entertainment. He can watch Sammy (the puppy) get chased by Little Brother, Little Sister, and Zoey - the evil dog. He can watch my mom have fits when she can't figure out something that's written in her textbook. And he can also while away his hours watching me at various times curse, hug, pet, and stare dreamily at my laptop (the last one is only when there's a picture of John Krasinski on it. Or something shiny. Or a Kindle.)

And all of this got me to thinking. I want a stress free life. My dentist says that I grind my teeth while I sleep - something to do with stress/how I lay when I sleep/my diet/exercise/the air/allergies and basically anything even remotely medical-ly sounding. However apparently if I was less stressed I would have fewer headaches and pointier teeth so that has become my new goal of late. Less Stress = Utopia Based Lifestyle. Or something like that.

Except that lovely God-like command isn't as easy as it sounds. You know just because the booming voice spouts off one day with "BE LESS STRESSED OR I WILL SMITE YOU IN SUCH A WAY THAT YOU WILL BE EVEN MORE STRESSED MWAHAHAHA" doesn't mean I can just magically poof and be all happy go lucky. Because, frankly, my life is a bit stressful.

Not that I'm not completely blessed. Because I am. I'm young, I have pretty great health, I have a family and friends that adore me, and I'm lucky enough to have found an amazing man who cares about me as much as I care about him. So overall I try really hard not to complain. But when it comes to matters like the economy, figuring out how to pay for college, trying to write my book, and ultimately finding some way to move back down to Salt Lake to be closer to the fiance things tend to get a bit overwhelming - and as a result - stressful.

So what I would really like is to be like my little bird that sits up in the ceiling watching things with a detached perspective. It doesn't bother him if maybe my website isn't working one day or if I didn't manage to get up as many posts as I would have liked one week. He's just happy to be safe and warm and able to chirp without anyone getting after him (which I've warned my family away from by threat of using the blender at 6 am on a regular basis - you want sleep? the bird stays).

I think the most important thing to remember is that my little bird also doesn't get stressed about being stressed which, remarkably enough, is something I've been known to do. Because when it really comes down to it I'll figure out how to pay for college. I'll get my website up and running soon enough. I'll find a job and an apartment down in Salt Lake in good time. Maybe it wont work out according to my timeline or the way I planned but it will all eventually work out. And that's what really matters.

I think my little yellow canary in the hat is a pretty good example for how I should try to live my life.


Sarah said...

I like your little yellow canary with the red poka dot hat.

I wish that I could learn to not stress out about being stressed. I wish I could learn that I am getting what I want accomplished and eventually I will be able to do things I love.

But most of all I wish that I could live a carefree life, maybe just not in someone's ceiling.

GutsyWriter said...

I'm so glad you have a bird and not a rat in the attic like we do. I can hear it rummaging above my head, when I wake up early.

You know one thing the bird is doing that most humans forget to do. He's living in the present moment, not thinking of yesterday, and what pissed him off, or stressed about tomorrow and next week. What I have started doing is focusing on every minute, even if I'm doing something less exciting like laundry. If I think about how great it is to be getting the clothes washed, rather than, I have to hurry up and do laundry--such a waste of my time--then hurry up and rewrite a chapter in my book, then hurry up and grocery shop, etc. etc. then you realize that your days become less stressful. You can actually enjoy the "boring" stuff by paying attention to it. I've read that if you don't enjoy the journey to whatever it is you're accomplishing, you won't enjoy the end result. I believe that's true.

Mark Antony said...

Thoughtful post! To simplify life would indeed create less stress, but for many, it will lead to us wanting more. It's a material world we live in, it seems to me those who are happier are those who've never been a part of the commercial world at any point. Example, some African villages have very happy children, mostly, yet they live in mud huts. Could we live that way? I doubt it...

Did your dentist recommend an NTI for your teeth clamping?

Regards, Mark.

GutsyWriter said...


I agree with you that we live in a material world with entitled kids, which is why we chose to leave materialism to bring 3 sons, including 2 teenagers to live on an island for a year in Belize. That cures kids from over-materialism, including my husband and I who have learned a very valuable lesson from that year. A two week vacation in Africa, could never have the effect of 1 year living in such an environment.

Elizabeth Marie said...

Sarah - I agree with you there. I would like my life to be more carefree too. And you are absolutely accomplishing what you want - I was so excited to hear you had decided on a specific avenue of Biology. Go you!

Gutsywriter - You know my fathers house had a squirrel that lived in the attic that they kept trying to get rid of. I fed it cornflakes in hopes that it would stick around! I love your thoughts on being present - I have spent so many years trying to learn to by mindfully present throughout my day. I think it helps me be more grateful and less rushed all the time. Also you are quite right about how materialism affects children. It's almost an epidemic in our society today.

Mark - You have a great point here. I've read studies that say that even though we have one of the highest average rates (per family) of wealth in the world we also have the highest number of unhappy people as well. Clearly money is not the key to happiness as we're so often told. I'm not sure what an NTI is (?) but he has fitted my teeth for some nifty little "guard" that supposed to stop me from putting pressure on them. It's rather small though so we'll see how it works.

Begin - writing, yoga, and more said...

I love your whimsical and imaginative post. Part of not being stressed is learning that no matter what things turn out okay. They really do.

You also might try some facial and neck relaxation exercises to move the tension out of your face. I find Cobra and Sphinx pose in yoga very relaxing for the face and neck. Also Mountain.

Have you ever tried any yoga? There are many styles and many good DVDs that can get you started. If you're interested, leave a comment at my blog, and I'll try to think of some beginning references for you.

Best with your writing and your relaxation!