When I am stressed out, I do one of two things: I blast loud, angry music and clean something, or I Netflix binge episodes of The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross and knit.
How do I decide which one? Well, I don’t — it’s sort of a “game time” decision. Sometimes I think it depends on whether my kids are involved in my stress levels: if the boys are driving me up the wall, I unplug the quiet (knitting) way. If it’s just life in general that’s got me in a twist, I grab a sponge and my iPod.
When I’m knitting, I’m creating something of value for my family: right now I’m working on a sweater for my youngest. And, in theory anyway, I’m learning to paint. I’m convinced at this point I could take some Van Dyke Brown and create happy little trees with the best of them.
When I take my stress the other route and start scrubbing, it’s almost a violent process. Nobody better speak to me, make eye contact with me or otherwise engage with me in any way until I have finished. My husband has walked into the kitchen — seen me on my hands and knees scrubbing the baseboards — and backed away slowly, arms raised.
I don’t know if it’s just a weird personality quirk or if it’s further evidence of my addictive/obsessive personality, but recently I have realized that I do pretty much everything to excess. I don’t just wash a load of laundry, I have to wash, dry, fold and put away every article of dirty clothes I can find.
I don’t vacuum one room, I vacuum the whole house. I don’t put $10 worth of gas in my car, I fill it up. I don’t just make spaghetti for dinner, there’s the pasta — but there’s also salad, garlic bread, dessert and a bottle of wine.
Every task I do is done to completion and if for some reason I can’t do it all the way to my satisfaction, then I won’t even start it. If something happens to come up while I’m in mid-whatever and I’m forced to abandon what I was doing, I fret about it until I can get back to it.
Leaving things half finished drives me insane.
Here’s where it gets a little weird: I’m also a terrible procrastinator. Now, on the surface you wouldn’t think those two personality traits would go together very well — but you’d be wrong. See, there’s a method to my madness. If I start something, I know I have to finish it. Therefore, when an undesirable task is looming, like doing the laundry, I put it off.
Of course, I’m only making it more difficult for myself in the long run because by the time I have to do laundry (or we’re all going to be going au naturel) there’s a mountain of it and it takes all day. Fun fact: Knowing this does not prevent it from happening on a bi-weekly basis.
Such was the case on Sunday.
I don’t know what had gotten into me, but everything was annoying the crap out of me this past weekend. All of those little tasks (that I had continuously delayed in undertaking) had all converged in my mind into one 24-hour period where I had convinced myself that we were one dirty sock away from having our own A&E special.
I snapped. This was not to be a Bob Ross kind of day.
The house needed to be cleaned, and (in my mind at least) it all had to be finished that day. Ceiling fans needed dusted, the kitchen had to be swept and mopped, all of the laundry had to be done, the kids’ toy boxes needed sorted, everything needed vacuumed, dishes needed to be washed and the refrigerator had to be emptied of old leftovers.
To top that off, the boy’s new car seats had to be installed in both my husband’s and my car and the old ones needed to be cleaned up and photographed to be sold online. Of course, before the new car seats could be put in our vehicles the cars themselves needed to be cleaned out, vacuumed and washed.
My list kept growing to the point where I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to do all of it. But instead of either diving right in or prioritizing my list, I stressed even more.
At about the time my downward spiral into complete mental chaos was reaching its pinnacle, my 4-year-old son Ben came up to me with his blanket and a DVD and asked me to put it on for him. When I had the movie playing and was heading back to the kitchen he yelled no, he wanted to watch it with me.
He smiled his sweetest smile and patted the couch next to him.
I took a deep breath, forced myself to smile back at him and sat down. Five minutes, I told myself. I’ll watch this for five minutes and then get to work. After all, I had a zillion things to do, watching Finding Nemo was nowhere close to being on the list.
But then, an amazing thing happened: Ben snuggled up to me under the blanket (something he rarely does anymore) and I felt all my stress, worry and anxiety about my self-imposed list of chores disappearing. We watched Finding Nemo, then we watched the Jungle Book. When that one was over, we started on Harry Potter. At some point I made popcorn and sandwiches but we spent the whole day just hanging out and watching movies and occassionally napping.
It was glorious.
As I am writing this, the laundry still isn’t done. The ceiling fans didn’t get dusted and I’m fairly certain some of the leftovers in the fridge are going to resemble a science experiment before I get to them. But you know what? That’s OK. I’ve found that I’ve gained new perspective on what I thought was important versus what is actually important.
Besides, if you keep the ceiling fans turned on, you can’t even see the dust.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.