Stress Test

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by Andrea Chilcote

 

The following is a recount of an event that took place over a year ago. It seems like an appropriate message as this week closes.

Every now and then, I get a simple stress test. I had one last night.

It was 1:45 a.m., late enough that I was finally in a dream state, yet sufficiently early enough to not be disturbed by thoughts of unfinished to-do’s or the bottle of water I finished before bed. Delicious, deep sleep.

Then suddenly – lights, pulsing beeps, and a repeated, recorded announcement: “Proceed to an exit. Leave the building now.”

I sat up in my hotel bed and looked around. No smoke, no smell. For a brief moment I considered ignoring the warning – a misguided, sleep-induced idea of course – and then I heard doors opening and closing in the hall. I would join the others who must be more aware of what was happening than me.

What to wear? What to take?

I located a sweater and pulled it on over my pajama top, more for decency than warmth. Next I found my room key (didn’t they always say to take your key in the event of a fire?) and my phone, and exited, joining many other guests on the parking lot. I was on the first floor, so my trip to a side door exit was a short one.

Understandably, no one spoke to one another. We all found separate places to stand or sit. I chose a corner curb, but not after envying many who had brought along their rental car keys and entered their cars, making a nap a possibility.

Why had I not brought my car keys? And my wallet? I briefly considered the hassle of having my wallet burned in the potential fire, a scenario that seemed unlikely given that there were no signs of anything amiss. It was a lovely evening – quiet and warm – and a catastrophe was not in the offing.

About the time the sirens came roaring in, I was becoming annoyed. Who or what caused this interruption of my sleep? As I often do when things outside my control create stress, I had a conversation with myself. “You’re only making it worse. It is what it is. You’ll surely get some sleep before the alarm goes off.” And perhaps the most significant advice I had for myself: “Look around you. No one else is getting agitated. Just chill.”

“Why,” I wondered, “do I still sweat the small stuff?”

Soon enough, an official fire department vehicle drove through the parking lot, telling us it was safe to return to our rooms. While I wanted to know what had happened, sleep was more compelling.

Back in bed, I struggled to relax, stressed over the fact that my own alarm was set to go off in just a few hours.

At about 3 a.m., once I had finally gone back to sleep, the event repeated itself. This time I dressed, and took my wallet and car key. I would have gone immediately to my car had I not been stopped mid-trip by other guests returning at the advice of the staff. The alarms were quieted. I went back to bed again.

I’m guessing I got 90 minutes of sleep after that, for a total of four or five hours. It was certainly not a crisis, and I knew I would be able to (and did) function just fine the next day.

Why do I let these irritating yet small things annoy me?

When I checked out of the hotel this morning, the front desk manager was apologizing profusely to the man in front of me. “No problem,” he said with a smile. “It happens.”

I relaxed and tried to model this man’s equanimity. While I probably fooled the manager, I still felt annoyed.

Many hours later, I’ve let it go – of course. What I haven’t (completely) let go of is the question of why I compound stress by worrying about that which is out of my control.

Do you ever waste precious time and energy thinking and feeling violated by unintentional inconveniences? I do, too often. I’m going to memorize and practice the other guest’s line: “No problem – it happens.” I’ll let you know how it goes.

What is Your Anchor? (2014)

What's your anchor-Faith seems to be a theme for many of late. Enjoy this throwback post that recounts a lesson of faith.

by Andrea Chilcote

So many people are making their way through difficulty, living through turbulence without an anchor. And an anchor can be an important tool for managing the natural fears that arise when life throws surprises at every turn. It’s one thing to feel fear and work through it. It’s quite another to let fear spiral out of control.

Several years ago, during a trying period of my life, I had a dream that made a profound impact then and became my anchor during future challenges.

In this dream, I found myself driving my car down a steep but very wide paved road. The road was covered with a thick layer of ice and I was having difficulty braking. My car swerved side to side at first, and then began to slide downward, out of control. About the time I realized I could not stop the forward motion, I noticed that the road ended just ahead, the pavement simply cut off and hung over an abyss. It was a look similar to that of a bridge or freeway ramp mid-construction. Just as the front wheels of my car neared the edge, a very large hand arose from the abyss, reached out and stopped my car. Just in the nick of time.

As if this was not enough, I then found myself once again driving on iced pavement, this time in a crowded parking lot. I was driving up and down the aisles, trying to get to the exit and onto the street. I was struggling to maneuver the lanes without hitting parked cars. After several minutes of white-knuckled navigation, I managed to safely exit unharmed, without damaging another vehicle.

The morning after that dream, I relayed it to a wise friend. Her reply was a question: “Andrea, will you ever again doubt that you are protected?” I hesitated at first, then answered firmly. “No. I have faith that I am indeed safe,” I replied.

In the years since, that dream, that hand, has served as a reminder that no matter how challenging things become, help is always available. The anchor is a comfort to me, even as I experience natural and unavoidable fears that accompany a full life.

What is your metaphorical anchor? What do you or can you call upon to remind yourself that even amid distress, life is still sweet and forgiving, endless possibilities exist, and all will work out?

What is Your Anchor?

by Andrea Chilcote

So many people are making their way through difficulty, living through turbulence without an anchor. And an anchor can be an important tool for managing the natural fears that arise when life throws surprises at every turn. It’s one thing to feel fear and work through it. It’s quite another to let fear spiral out of control.

Several years ago, during a trying period of my life, I had a dream that made a profound impact then and became my anchor during future challenges.

In this dream, I found myself driving my car down a steep but very wide paved road. The road was covered with a thick layer of ice and I was having difficulty braking. My car swerved side to side at first, and then began to slide downward, out of control. About the time I realized I could not stop the forward motion, I noticed that the road ended just ahead, the pavement simply cut off and hung over an abyss. It was a look similar to that of a bridge or freeway ramp mid-construction. Just as the front wheels of my car neared the edge, a very large hand arose from the abyss, reached out and stopped my car. Just in the nick of time.

As if this was not enough, I then found myself once again driving on iced pavement, this time in a crowded parking lot. I was driving up and down the aisles, trying to get to the exit and onto the street. I was struggling to maneuver the lanes without hitting parked cars. After several minutes of white-knuckled navigation, I managed to safely exit unharmed, without damaging another vehicle.

The morning after that dream, I relayed it to a wise friend. Her reply was a question: “Andrea, will you ever again doubt that you are protected?” I hesitated at first, then answered firmly. “No. I have faith that I am indeed safe,” I replied.

In the years since, that dream, that hand, has served as a reminder that no matter how challenging things become, help is always available. The anchor is a comfort to me, even as I experience natural and unavoidable fears that accompany a full life.

What is your metaphorical anchor? What do you or can you call upon to remind yourself that even amid distress, life is still sweet and forgiving, endless possibilities exist, and all will work out?

If you enjoyed this post, check out our newly released book, Erik’s Hope.