It was a dark and stormy night…
No, it wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It was a rainy, grey, Monday morning while getting ready for work. My favorite weirdo (MFW) came into our bedroom and said, “well they sold the apartment and we need to move.” We knew this was a possibility when we decided to move into my partner’s downtown apartment. It was on the market, the open houses had been conducted and we were now playing the “wait and see” game. The Vancouver real estate market shows no signs of slowing down, so we knew it would sell, but we didn’t know if it would be an investor, who would be happy to have us stay, or someone who wanted to move in. Turns out, they wanted to move in. I looked at MFW and replied, “I need a moment.” It was not more than 3 days ago that I had completed my move into that apartment. We spent time, effort, energy and money to redecorate and make the place “ours”. Now we were faced with uncertainty, where were we going to go? Would our newly designed home match with a new layout? Would it still be within walking distance of work and the gym and the pub? But there was also some certainty. We had to go somewhere and we would go there together.
In that moment, on Monday morning, with all the stress of moving and combining lives still lingering, I was not sure I could take much more. MFW sat down next to me, took my hand in his and started looking at apartment listings on Craigslist on his laptop. I took several deep breaths, booted up my laptop and started to work. His hand still wrapped around mine. Within a few hours, he had texted and emailed a few places of interest. And had even set up a viewing for that same evening.
Stress is an integrated part of life and our physiological make up. In biology, the definition of stress is: Physiological or biological stress is an organism’s response to a stressor such as an environmental condition. Stress is the body’s method of reacting to a challenge. Stress will generally start our reflexive and inherent ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.
At that particular moment, on that particular Monday morning, I did not feel a need to fight or a desire to run. Nor was I “frozen with fear”. Rather, I had an overwhelming urge to pull the sheets over my head and hide. I wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening and completely avoid the situation. However, it’s not the fight, flight, freeze or fail response. That’s what I was doing, though, and that’s what I felt like doing…failing. Of course, I couldn’t let MFW do this all on his own, I was not going to make him fend for the two of us. I got this…didn’t I?
A quick Google search of stress and my screen was full of “strategies to manage your stress”, “six signs you have too much stress and how to manage it”, “Stress signs, symptoms and causes: improving your ability to manage stress.” The key is that psychologists, counsellors, life coaches, all target strategies and methods to manage stress not to eliminate it. Stress is a necessity. It keeps us motivated to accomplish tasks, to meet deadlines, to get out and actually experience life. And just like most things, there is good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress). That being said, too much of anything, including a good thing, is just that…too much. Had I reached that point?
Finding and falling in love with MFW, moving in together and redecorating, clearing out my old apartment…all events that are positive, life changing and life fulfilling. I would not change one thing. However, those events, no matter how exciting, are still major changes and these major changes create stress. In fact, moving locations and changing living situations, for example, sharing a front door with MFW, all rank on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Inventory scale developed in the 1960’s. Of course, so did having a mortgage larger than $10,000…this has since been updated! https://www.stress.org/holmes-rahe-stress-inventory/ However, continuing to pile up, even good stress, can create a negative experience and turn eustress into distress.
Was there a way to turn distress into eustress?
I believe so much of our perception is a choice and choosing to see a potentially, or actually stressful event, as a positive can change your experience of that event. Our stress response, that good ole “fight, flight or freeze (or fail)” instinct, reacts strongly to our perceived threats. If I did not perceive this change, this curveball, if you will, as a threat, then it would not become one.
I looked at MFW and decided. I put my natural tendency to catastrophize (‘calamatize’) aside, took some more deep breaths and smiled at him. A real smile. One that I actually believed. I’m not sure that everything happens for a reason, or if we make up the reasons after shit happens, but there was definitely a way to flip the script on this change of plan.
Tomorrow we are moving…again. We are moving up. 12 floors up, to be exact. We are moving to an apartment in our same building, with the exact same floor plan and the exact same distance to work, the gym and the pub. The apartment represents a new start for us too. It is not my place or his place, but rather a new space, together. A space that will accommodate the exact same layout as we worked so hard to achieve.
My instinct to ‘calamatize’ and start up the hamster wheel in my busy mind, was inactivated by MFW’s calm, practical approach to the challenge. He saw it as an opportunity. An opportunity for us. As he held my hand and I calmed down, I understood in that moment, it’s a choice and we got this, together.
Plus, we signed a lease so we can stop all this moving already!