We were all stressed. It was about to become disabling. But there was supper to enjoy.
Minutes earlier, Hannah — my musical, magical, ennui-appropriate 13-year-old — stomped off to her room, the door shutting dramatically, triggered by a simple discussion of school-schedule events. Olivia — my still-enchanted, newly turned 10-year-old — was agonizing about her spelling test the next day and her physical growing pains.
Alexa — my husband's tenaciously adorable, college-bound 17-year-old — was, as usual, multitasking, in her techno-phonic digital way: homework, relationships ("friend drama"), field hockey, chorus, and em-ployment. She produced her color-coded calendar. I wanted to bring out mine and have her color code it, too. Stephen, my husband, was expanding his business plan per his boss. And I was frazzled over a deadline ... due the day before yesterday.
I considered Sir Isaac Newton and my father, the psychiatrist, in one blended moment. I remembered Newton's three laws of motion, which I will paraphrase and put into my own modern-day terms:
1. Inertia — a resting state, 2. Acceleration and momentum, and 3. Reciprocal actions — every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Here are my own three Newtonian laws of emotion: 1. Steady state — the blending of negative and posi-tive equally; each must be anticipated, embraced, shared, and resolved, 2. Motivation and courage — the willingness to figure out a realistic path toward a goal versus being weighed down by worry and fear,
3. Reversal — negativity (stress, anger, resentment, blame) must be equally opposed by the positive (peace, love, understanding, exercise). Do the opposite of how you feel when you are feeling negative. The benefit is instantaneous.
All five of us at the dinner table had to repackage our stress. So we did something different. We went around the table and stated what was hanging over us and why it was stressing us out. We did not com-pare, belittle, or judge.
We realized that regardless of age (10, 13, 17, 45, and 48), our stress was an ongoing part of each of our everyday lives. And it felt the same — regardless of the reason. This put everything into balance.
Life has no place for the thought "as soon as I finish this and do a good job with that, my stress will be over," because tomorrow's to-do list is just a day away. We have to find ways to embrace stress as some-thing different. Stress is not energy — just the simmering siren of life. And as R&B soul sensation Mary J. Blige so wisely says: "It's all about learning to love living with a whole lot less drama."
Here's to a drama-free New Year filled with all the expected bumps and stresses along the way that can lead us toward heartfelt moments of understanding. Perhaps even at your own dinner table, tonight.
Yours in well-being,
Nan-Kirsten Forte, MS
Editor in Chief, WebMD the Magazine