Every so often I have a personal epiphany.
Sometimes it occurs while I'm repairing a toilet; sometimes...well...actually, they happen so rarely I only remember my most recent one - prior to yesterday's - had something to do with repairing a toilet.
Yesterday's was related to understanding the causes of my own stress. It typical male fashion, I've reduced it to an equation rather than deal with it more viscerally:
THE STRESS EQUATION: S = O + P2
In other words: Stress is equivalent to (O = the number of obligations you have) + (P = the number of people you are obligated to, squared) divided by the sum of (Su = the amount of support you have) - (T = the amount of time you have to fulfill these obligations).
This is the challenge shared by everyone and, in a unique way, by parents. Why unique? Because children, especially young ones, by default increase your obligations and provide no support of their own (cuteness and cuddling, while providing emotional support, doesn't get the dishes done.)
This epiphany came to me yesterday as I prepared one heck of a spinach salad alone in the kitchen. I was feeling short-fused and edgy, but couldn't understand why. Then I realized that even at that moment, although my wife was getting the kids ready upstairs to head out for supper, I was still fulfilling an obligation - making a spinach salad for a dinner party. It had been the most recently car added to a train of obligation which was a month long. Either at work, or at home; meeting deadlines, or doing laundry; answering e-mails, or calls of "dad...daddy...DADdy!...DADDY!!!" - I had been ceaselessly obliged to someone for something.
I call it an epiphany - and not just a sad realization - because understanding why I was stressed helped me cope with the stress itself. I could compartmentalize by identifying what was most irksome and then prioritizing what was most important.
This salad needed to be made - priority one.
The kitchen could remain dirty - leave it.
My wife was getting the kids ready - stop wondering how far along they are.
We may be late - so be it.
This epiphany removed the number of obligations I had at that moment and gave me more time, thus reducing my total level of stress.
Look, I'm well aware of the geek factor and high level of simplicity in this argument. But, I share it with you anyway, Dear Reader, if for no other reason than giving us all something to think about before we throw the &%*n' salad bowl out the window.
Now, stare at this, and relax: