Atticus said that Jem was trying hard to forget something, but what he was really doing was storing it away for a while, until enough time passed. Then he would be able to think about it and sort things out. When he was able to think about it, Jem would be himself again. – To Kill a Mockingbird
The past few days I’ve been stressed. Abnormally stressed. The type of stressed that makes its way deep into your bones and, no matter what, will not shake itself free. I’ve tried running, listening to sad songs so I could maybe cry it out, and long drives in my car. I’ve tried distracting myself with TV shows or hanging out with my friends. And, honestly, I don’t have the time for all that. My bills are falling behind, my room is a mess, and my to-do list seems to double itself every half hour.
On the way to work I listened to angst-y punk rock bands hoping it would be cathartic. Then I switched to Adele and belted out sad tunes. When that failed, I pulled up to Dunkin’ Donuts thinking a French Vanilla coffee and a bagel would help. I had fifteen minutes until work but the store was right around the corner, I’d make it in plenty of time.
The line was longer than usual. I practiced my order ahead of time, since I usually get nervous and blank when I get to the counter (much to the annoyance of the people behind me in line.) When it was my turn to order, I gave a flawless delivery and even gave myself a mental pat on the back for making great time. I haven’t ordered a bagel this well since before I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in 2007. Things were looking up.
However, there was a new employee behind the counter who didn’t know how to use the computer yet. I repeated my bagel order 3x and immediately all of the stress I was trying to run from started bubbling up within me. This morning “treat” was supposed to help my stress, not aggravate it! Still, I kept calm knowing in my head that everyone has to learn when they first start a job. It wasn’t that I was rude to her and I didn’t completely lose my shit like you might see in a movie, I just didn’t like the way this minor road bump made me feel. But I guess that’s why people tell you that it’s valuable to learn how to sit with negative emotions rather than always acting on them.
After three people who were behind me in line got their orders before me, I realized that my bagel was taking a very long time. And while fifteen minutes is usually long enough to grab a coffee and bagel in the morning, I was now three minutes late to work. But, from the way my blood was boiling, you’d think it took a half hour.
It must have been written on my face, because the guy behind the counter apologized 20 times, even though I really hadn’t complained.
As I got into my car and drove to work it hit me. The man behind the counter apologized so many times because some customers would probably lose their shit about it. Knowing how close I was even though I’m usually a relatively calm person made me a little bit scared.
I started to think about why our society is so high strung over simple, minuscule things like bagels, and I realized that our society isn’t strung out about bagels. We are strung out over the stress we endure at jobs we hate every day. We are strung out because between all of our obligations we don’t have time to take care of ourselves. We are strung out because we want people to like us but it’s exhausting to always be on our best behavior. So, when the poor guy behind the counter messes up our order, it’s easier to take everything out on him rather than take it out on someone we actually know and love, like our family members.
I thought about the night before when I laid in my bed and actually tried to cry, hoping it would release some of the stress. But when it wasn’t really working, I decided that I could better spend my time watching New Girl or sleeping so I could get up and run at 6 am.
I don’t know where it stops. I don’t know when “giving ourselves a break” becomes a normal habit. Maybe sometimes people get depressed because sinking into a deep depression is the only way we can call off the shots for a while and recuperate. I’m not sure. I can’t even figure out how to relieve my own stress, let along solve the problem for society at large.
But for the sake of bagel makers everywhere, I hope we can all figure it out soon.