Walking around in fear is stressful


I’m walking around fearing sudden death, sudden incapacitation, and the need for more time-sucking procedures/tests/doctor visits/hospitals…

It’s too stressful to LIVE THIS WAY.

But after a certain number of life hits on the head with a 2 x 4, there comes a state close to ‘learned helplessness,’ where, if you’re not careful, you LET the stress have free rein – and, while you can’t change reality (whatever that is for you), you have forgotten that you CAN change your attitude.

It never stops, the stress from life

In addition to the medical stuff, which came unbidden and must be dealt with, willy nilly, I now have some dental stuff – and what the dentist thinks is necessary to do.

And I’ve accepted the job of ‘person who locates and chooses our permanent abode.’

Permanent, as in ‘where we – husband and I – will live the rest of our lives.’

The permanent solution to life

We are looking at the particular model of a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) for a bunch of reasons, the main one being that we want to spare our children (none of whom live close to us now) the ‘problem of mom and dad’ – basically, what to do with us when we’re no longer competent to manage our own affairs, and they have to step in and make decisions FOR us.

We have seen, first hand, how our parents dealt with this.

First hand – and at a distance.

And it is an interesting general problem which we’ve now seen proceed four different ways!

In Mexico City, my four lovely younger sisters have done the ‘huge extended family takes care of mom and dad’ – and are continuing to date with Mother. Done with love, it has still taken a huge amount of resources, and I have been in no position to help with much – I barely manage to visit every couple of years, and do the tiny bit of US paperwork (still incomplete) because my parents are both US citizens.

In the States, my lovely sister-in-law, who has always lived much closer to my in-laws, has undertaken the huge and complete burden much of the time, shepherding her parents as they wished and she could, and pushing for more permanent solutions when they had to be undertaken. By herself, with occasional help from her brother – as she requested it – she is still supervising all the care for my FIL.

We will have no child close, geographically, unless we move close to one of ours (and that child doesn’t move following professional opportunities, the thing that took them far away in the first place). We have no extended family in the States.

And I, with my disabilities, could provide little help to them, even if I lived close.

Making our own choices requires an enormous amount of work NOW

Evaluating places to move to, figuring out finances (husband is doing most of this part), comparing the amenities – and the long-term healthcare options – at each place has become my additional task, added to trying to write, learning to advertise – and the energy-sucking cardiac rehab exercise.

The additional task that comes when you decide you no longer want to be in charge of a suburban NJ house is selling it. Which require getting it ready for market. Which in turn requires fixing a number of ‘little’ things which, while they don’t affect the quality of living in a house all that much (such as a bump on the driveway from a tree root), WILL affect either the salability or the eventual sales price.

And the final task: dejunking a house we moved into in 1981 and reared three children in (and homeschooled them in).

Even with an assistant – whose time has been mainly spent lately helping the Master with the annual gardening tasks, not me with the dejunking – the decisions are mostly mine. And I don’t make decisions easily (that brain fog thing you have with CFS) or quickly, even with help.

There are twin mottos to keep me going: ‘If it doesn’t give you joy, out it goes,’ and ‘If it won’t fit in a two-bedroom smaller apartment, out it goes.’

Even then it is hard to make the decisions, and they must come out of my tiny daily supply of ‘good time’ – which is also my WRITING time.

Compartmentalization – and all the other tricks

The stress accumulates. I notice. I poke holes in it, take the time to do my de-stressing yoga-type breathing. Repeat.

Because there IS too much stress right now, even if the ultimate goal is much less stress.

To Do lists. Using a Scrivener Project for each of the tasks.

Doing the required things – I will not give up the cardiac rehab exercises, even if they are not yet providing anything much in the way of extra energy.

And letting go of the guilt, including the guilt that pops its head up because I can’t contribute what I should have been able to contribute to this household, had I not gotten sick all those years ago. A hardy perennial, that guilt.

And the guilt of actually spending that money we have carefully been not spending all these years, so we could take care of our needs in retirement.

And, almost daily, talking myself down from the ledge of ‘Woe is me!’

Writing suffers when the writer is stressed – normal

Blog posts have suffered, and will continue to, but, ironically, I need this outlet – because it de-stresses me to pin all this stuff to the ground in its little cages, where I let one problem child out at a time, on my better days.

The writing happens most days – though not as long. I have learned to accept that pinning something down on a timeline I haven’t looked at in two years WILL take that day’s energy – and is a GOOD use of that day’s writing time – because it MUST be done.

Most of these are from things I probably should have figured out long ago, but 15 years writing the first novel was already long enough!

I think there aren’t too many left, but have just dealt with a doozy.

And am very pleased with myself because it DID work out – and locked in, again, that odd feeling I have sometimes that I am a chronicler of an actual story. Good if you’re writing mainstream fiction with a long timeline, many characters (64 NAMED characters as of the last time I counted), covering locations in several different countries and states.

My solution to stress always includes writing it out

That’s how I make sense of the world, take the circling thoughts out of my head and acknowledge and record them, and eventually find ways to deal with them.

It is also part of my usual process to… I don’t want to say ‘cheer myself up,’ because that somehow implies putting a false face of happiness on top of the real problems. To talk back, to the stress, to the situational depression, to my feelings of inadequacy, to the long list of things I SHOULD have done and SHOULD be doing which get ignored.

Basically, the MORE dysfunctional I become, or allow myself to become before I notice that it’s gotten me again, the LESS I can do to change anything that’s causing the dysfunction, and so I have to get out of that state. And I’ve already proved – by trying – that I cannot accept chemical help and still get anything done.

So it’s my own resources, the written process after the thinking, and continuing to chip away at everything as long as God give me life and any ability to do.

And it’s a good time to prioritize (which I’m not doing as well as I need to).

MY motto is: “I’m working on it!”

Thought you’d like to know – and me to record – what ‘it’ is right now.

I’m working on it. You?









19 thoughts on “Walking around in fear is stressful

  1. joey

    I’m working on nothing right now. I tend not to work on things in the summer. Summer is too hot for me. The heat wipes me, even in small doses. Plus, when the kids are out of school, and there are so many activities and events to do as a family, that takes enough energy — add the heat… well, I don’t need more stuff to do.
    BUT I see where you’re coming from.
    For what it’s worth, which may not be much, we bought our house as is, requesting only a new fuse box up to code. We bought it even though it was 100 years old, dirty (TRULY FILTHY) and smelled like Granny’s basement. At the showing, we couldn’t see the garage floor for all the crap in it, and the updates that were done were done rather haphazardly. But we just knew it was our house.
    My dear friend bought her house in much the same way. Grand colonial in a magnificent neighborhood, at a fraction of the price because she loved the bones and didn’t care about the wallpaper and the old fixtures.
    You have to gauge your market. We bought our house at 20% off its appraised value. If doing the work will actually yield a higher sale and you’ll profit from the improvements, by all means, work on it. If you’re not going to recoup the expenses, wait for the perfect family to come along and claim it, warts and all. We’re out there.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Excellent points, all.

      We have:
      solar panels on the roof (and essentially free AC all summer – very nice)
      a gorgeous and well establish perennial garden, but easy to get to, around the edges of the front yard
      a great location on a quiet cul-de-sac
      the best school district in the county – not that we ever used it much
      brand new heating/AC system, the best
      and a very good township reputation right now.

      But the house itself is just a NJ suburban tract house. It was 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bath when we moved in, with a full framed fifth floor/attic which we turned into a fourth bedroom and another full bath. The split-level part I’ve never been enamored of, but it did give the live-in nanny we had for a few years when I was still working and the kids little privacy – her own BR/BTH at the top of the house. It could be used for that, or an inlaw.

      The roof is part new – and the problems all fixed.

      I have ideas, but the spouse has different ideas.

      I think once I find a place to move TO that I really want, it will be easier. But I’m it for that, too – and his role is currently saying “We can’t afford that!” when we can, but might choose not to.

      We’ll see – but working for me I have that he hates yard work, and I want out of here this year.

      You just reminded me to go check out the For Sale by Owner websites.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. joey

        There is something in here that piques my curiosity and I hope you’ll pardon me for being nosy. Some… friends of my … child also live in our township, but homeschool. They do it for religious purposes. That’s cool, I’m down with that. Given that one wishes to homeschool, why does one fork out the money to live in the best school district? Had you planned that originally, did your house just speak to you, did you think you would send them to the schools at a later time, or did you think about resale value even then? I really have thought about it.
        This strikes me as peculiar, because I cannot fathom spending the money, via real estate and taxes, unless I have my own kids’ interests in mind. If we didn’t care about schools, we’d live elsewhere in the city.
        I know you’re very educated and I don’t question your choice to homeschool, more, why buy the house and pay for the benefits you don’t use?

        The woman who sold us this house pretty much chose us because I was a gardener and she couldn’t bear to see it go to rot. (Three generations) I’d feel the same.
        Heating and cooling and roofs were super high on our lists.
        Quiet, oh yes. We live on a dead end street.

        I think your home sounds wonderful JUST on these bulletin points alone. Not a bad idea to check those sites and talk to a few realtors, simply to get an impression of a starting point.


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Ask all you like!

          We moved her in 1981, when I went to work for the Princeton U. Plasma Physics Lab. On the possibility of eventual children, and since husband took a job just outside of Philadelphia, we looked at the houses in between.

          Two things made us pick this particular house: it was the only one left in the only new development we had seen that had trees. I hate the way they plant houses like mushrooms in cornfields – and the owners, stretched by their new mortgages, often don’t plant anything much right away – and later don’t plant anything big.

          The other thing was that it was closer to Princeton than to Philadelphia, so, on the assumption that if we ever had kids, I would probably be the parent who picked them up when sick, took them to doctor’s appointments, etc., we selected this nice tract house.

          The few big trees the builder had not removed, he had already killed (if you pile soil up around a tree’s trunk, it rarely survives). Basically, they lied to us about this lot having trees, but the neighborhood had big trees (it used to be called Indian Woods), and I planted a lot of little ones right away, so we were soon making progress.

          The real estate agent who showed us houses did mention good school districts, so I tucked that away.

          Then I got sick, and two small children turned into three, and I noticed the first one was reading at three, so, on the theory (well developed) that all mothers think their kids are genii, I had eldest tested. Oops. Yes. Then, thinking I was probably a proud mamma type, I had the other two tested. Oops, again. Yikes. So, with me here, the PhD unused, and having extremely limited energy and time, we tried Kindergarten for the first – where he spent most of his days in the library because the others were learning their letters.

          And I found my precious energy was going to utterly useless things for my kid, such as getting him to the bus stop at the same time every day with a lunch and a bunch of papers. And repeating at the end of the ‘school day’ in reverse. It takes SO MUCH TIME to have kids in school. And then making him do utterly unnecessary ‘homework,’ which exhasted me. We didn’t consider public school, being a good Catholic family, and our parish had a good school with higher academic performance in the primary grades they covered.

          I tell people we homeschooled accidentally. If I’d been well, I’m sure we would have just done what most parents do, enriched like crazy after school – and never seen each other. But hubby let me (and we were literally at that stage: I asked his permission, because giving up a K slot in our parochial school from the list he’d been put on at birth was like giving the lottery money back), and K teacher, dear Mrs. Holub – who’d been sending him to the library – gave us her blessing, and we took it a year at a time. So that’s how we started, and I won’t go into all the detail of why they tried school (hubby had heart attack – I thought I might need to be available – turned out I didn’t), and somehow or other, there we were at the last graduation, for my daughter and three of her long-time co-homeschoolers. And, after FAFSAs for three, and a lot of paperwork, they were all launched to the college of their choice – and I had more time for writing.

          But all that time this area has kept its reasonable/best living statistics, and the public high school is still the most desirable one… And I’ve enjoyed the house and the neighborhood, church and Scouts, and our NJ/PA homeschooling group and… Lotta memories.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. joey

          Wonderful, and informative.
          I would have done it if I’d had your math aptitude. I knew I could only take them so far. I did keep eldest daughter home for kindergarten, and I consider that a wise decision.
          Shame about the trees. Glad yours made it! 🙂
          Sounds like you picked the right spot for you and yours and the trees! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Widdershins

    I was doing fine until this bit …’CONJURING AN ENTIRE UNIVERSE INSIDE YOUR MIND’ …. and I broke down and howled … there’s nothing like a good cry and a chuck Wendig post to get a gal back in the groove.
    Thanks Chuck. 😀


      1. Widdershins

        Oops. 😀 … yep, it was one for Chucky! I have absolutely no idea how that happened. I’m blaming it on the interwebz. 🙂 … and very impressed at your tracking skills!


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I have SKILLZ! You gave me a phrase which I used; I figured it would be a recent post of Chuck’s and voilà.

          Wish I had skills in the advertising side of writing, but I’m working on them.

          I’d read more of him but he makes my head hurt, and it isn’t just the swearing. It’s probably me.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Widdershins

    Yep, ‘chipping away’ here too … I remind myself regularly that once all the bits were chipped away inside that old block of marble was Michelangelo’s David. 🙂


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Someone else would have found a pile of marble chips. It is in knowing WHICH bits of marble to remove that we find genius. It’s not that easy, whether you’re adding to the pile or taking away.

      But it certainly was, for him.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jennifer

    Working on it is all we can do, sensibly. But it’s difficult to accept limitations that once didn’t exist. You can only do your best, and accepting that your best is now limited and variable must be difficult. I’m sending hugs, and would send virtual strength if that is possible. I’ll be away for the next 8 days (holidaying in tropical Queensland) but I’ll check in when I return.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Have a wonderful time!

      Don’t worry – I keep pulling away at the edge of the sewing, pulling strings out, trying new things – and reminding myself that I can organize on paper or page, even if the brain insists on trying to do things in head, the way we used to be able to.

      When I can no longer try that… I hope I am not aware. Meanwhile, we fight doggedly. Don’t seem to be able to stop, nor do I want to stop. Struggle is life.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Circe

    Apparently time for bed. I retract that last tiny glass of wine. Husband snoring on the floor. And I cannot now recall my heloful comment. A former Realtor, now unemployed sociologist, I suggest you find an amazibgly organized nd helpful Realtor, not the superstar in town, but an earnest, kind, knowledgeable person. She will help. Yes, that is sexist, but I can only envision a woman helping you with the psinful decisions about moving on and forward. Yoye home will sell for market value. It’s like specific gravity.


      1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

        I don’t care at all how you spell – what a treat to see you here, Circe. It has been literally AGES. How are you?

        I used to visit your blog periodically – then realized it had not been updated in a very long time. Still no – hope you’re okay and doing well yourself. Chat sometime – I miss our little talks. If you have a moment, drop a line.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. marianallen

    “I’m working on it.” YES. Maybe we’d like to swim to a safe, restful shore, where we can loll about and do as we please, but sometimes the best we can do is tread water. We work on it.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Sorry you’re having a stressful week! There’s a lot of that going around.

      If anything I say helps, great.

      I’m not unique. Stress is everywhere. I just have a far smaller capacity to deal with it (it takes energy to do things and to deal with stress).

      So it gets me, often.

      I do have good CBT skills – talking back to stress and depression and everything else – but also have to employ them often, because I don’t tolerate anti-depressants.

      This can become a vicious circle. I work on that daily, and some days the only thing I accomplish is not giving in to despair.

      Liked by 1 person


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