Who, Me, Stressed?

…So this morning I sent Sarah, the woman who works for us, to the market with a list of things.  When she came home, however, and started unpacking, she showed me what she got and somewhat hesitantly pulled out a  bottle of Worcestershire sauce as she told me that she didn’t have enough money to buy most of the vegetables and other items because of the cost of the sauce.  So we have nothing for dinner now – but we have Worcestershire sauce, mind you.  Worcestershire sauce that was HALF of the total amount I was expecting to spend on our week’s groceries.  Worcestershire sauce that cost more than TWICE the amount I had seen it for sale a week ago. 

I was feeling a little overwhelmed about our recent sauce purchase while I was getting lunch ready when a roach decided to make an appearance.  Bad timing.  I was getting a spoon for Judah and there it was – camping out on the spoon.  The spoon my cute little baby was about to eat off of. 

And then I lost it.  In retrospect, none of this is really a big deal, is it?  But a couple hours ago, it was A Big Enough Deal that I threw two spoons across the room as a cuss word flew out of my mouth and was hurled at the roach.  Yes, I cussed at the roach (Wait, are my parents reading this?  Or my boss??  Crud.  😉  ). 

Last week, Chris attended a seminar on crisis management, and Judah and I went with him so we could enjoy a little get away.  One of the sections at the seminar focused on stress, and the book he read referenced a study that had been done on stress.  This study mentioned that on a stress scale, a score of 300 per year indicates a high level of stress and a problem that affects health and one’s ability to function properly on a day-to-day basis.  Most cross-cultural workers, however, had scores of 600 and higher (from various factors, including but not limited to cross-cultural communication, work overload, cross-cultural living, etc.).

… I have to say that, despite that knowledge, I never really considered myself to be stressed about much in general….

Until I cussed at a roach.

I also had a realization akin to this at the retreat center last week.   Our first night there, I was reading a book and I didn’t have my constant nighttime companion with me, my trusty headlamp.  I wasn’t sure what the power situation would be where we were staying, but I figured it wouldn’t be good and I would inevitably need the flashlight sometime that night.  I felt a bit panicked: Where did I leave the light?  Had I unpacked it yet?  This was a new place, and if it got pitch black, I would have a hard time making my way to the bathroom and to Judah when he woke up to be fed at night.  Suddenly I was a bit overwhelmed with this thought of groping around in the pitch black in a strange new place.

Just as quickly, though, I realized that we had light for now, anyway, a somewhat rare occurrence at night for us.

And suddenly in that moment, I felt this release of stress that I didn’t even realize I had been carrying.  It took having lights at night and this apprehension about when they would go out for me to realize that most of the time, I live with bated breath, just waiting for the power to go out.  When I cook dinner at night and we happen to have power, I walk around on eggshells, rushing to get things done before my light source becomes limited to a single beam from my head or a little portable light we have.  I quickly open the fridge and get things out so too much air won’t escape because who knows when we’ll get it again.  When I do laundry, I wonder if the power will go off in the middle of a load and I’ll have to rewash the clothes yet again because they’ve sat too long and end up smelling musty (The record for one load is rewashing them 3 times).  A load of diapers actually sat in the wash for 3 days a couple weeks ago because something went wrong with the power…. (Really, I prefer to think that they just had a really long pre-soak in bleach…..)

We only lost power twice while we were in Miango – though I still kept the flashlight under the pillow, just in case.

I find myself wondering, though, what it will be like when we go back to the States for a month in December… what it will be like to sleep without a flashlight tucked in the bed… how Judah, who sometimes looks up in wonder when the lights come on, will react to having Those Bright Things on all the time…. I wonder, too, if I literally felt a physical release of unknown stress when we drove an hour away from our house to a place that mostly had constant electricity, what other stress am I carrying that I am not aware of, and how much of that will I feel leave when I step off the plane in New York?

…And beyond that, will I ever get to a point here where my body doesn’t unknowingly carry this burden, where my body becomes so adjusted to life here, with all its ups and downs, that it doesn’t react to those downs?

Judah, stress free

Looking forward to cheap Worcestershire sauce in the States,

Christie (“I wonder if Nigerian stores have a return policy?”)
Chris (“I’m  surprised Christie was the first one to throw something, because I’ve been tempted to several times – and not just tonight when she served me fries for dinner.  Yes, that’s right – fries.  Period.”)
Judah (“Aw, man, I was this close to having a roach spoon-fed to me this time instead of having to chase it!”)

P.S.  So that you won’t imagine the worst and be afraid to leave your small children with me lest I wrongly influence them, it was the “d” word.  😉  Because I know someone’s going to ask.


8 thoughts on “Who, Me, Stressed?

  1. Christie,

    Your story is an important one, with a great lesson. So much of life is lived “in fast forward and understood in reverse.” Our reflection about our own situation is really the most important way we learn about ourselves in our personal growth. In this case, it really helped you come to grips with how much stress you actually live with on a daily basis.

    I am not smart enough to have thought that quote up, but read it somewhere. Now that I think about it, that might have been the quote for the week in a Hope planner. (Chris probably had them, since he was always a well-prepared student.)

    Hugs to you all.


  2. I am glad you still have your sense of humor. I too have said a cuss word when things got stressful – only I said the s word when our house flooded. And don’t worry – I would leave Noah with you anytime!

  3. LOL, well you have a very good reason to be stressed. And I’d imagine that would be one time when a language barrier might just be convenient 🙂

  4. Y’all crack me up! Thanks for sharing your triumphs and your challenges…it is healthy to do so, rather than just pretend to be the strong, take anytthing in stride cross cultural worker. And yes, these things will get better as you get more and more accustomed to life in Jos. Sure looking forward to seeing you guys in January. I have a rubber roach I may have to give Judah so that he can chew on a substitute rather than going for the real thing!

  5. Sounds a lot like what life was like in the Bronx, except we did have lights most of the time. Except for the Big Blackout and when someone ran an air conditioner. That blew out the whoe line from basement to 5th floor. But I love the fact that you can write about it in such a funny way. Someday you will look back and laugh at it all. Keep hanging in there. You are learning so much, (I know, isn’t there an EASIER WAY?)

  6. Great post. Thanks for being so transparent, Christie. We think about you guys a lot here and wish we would’ve had more face-to-face time with y’all. Looking forward to hopefully seeing you in December/January!

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