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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stress Relief and Pigeon Droppings

Over the past two weeks everything in all of the above ventured outside of my control. The challenge was high, the pressure was on, and by Sunday afternoon I completely broke. I spent some time lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling, feeling the stir of anxiety run from my stomach to my head until tears started to fall. I finally pulled myself together, and spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool listening to the local frat boys come up short on their attempt to wax philosophical after a few too many Paps Blue Ribbons (I didn't even know people actually drank that).

Having let the sun burn away the remainder of my tension, I fell asleep that night only to have one of the strangest dreams I've had in a while. I found myself standing beneath the shade of a giant tree. There were two hippies on either side of me, one man and one woman. I looked over at the woman with her arms outstretched as she said in a lilting voice, "Oh... look at all the beautiful birds in the tree! Aren't they lovely?" I looked over at the man who was also standing, arms outstretched, saying, "They're like a bunch of glorious angels!" But when I looked up, all I saw was a tree full of pigeons. And not only that, they were pooping on everything. The branches, the leaves, and the trunk of the tree were covered in pigeon poop. So I looked at the man and said, "Glorious? They're pigeons. There's nothing glorious about pigeons." The woman looked at me and said, "Just look at them!" And the man said, "They've made the tree white with their glory!" So I said, "They're pigeons, man! And the tree is white because of their shit! They're shitting on everything!" At which point droppings started to fall like rain, landing all over me and the two hippies. I stepped away from the two crazies and found myself walking down a street wondering how two people could be so caught up in a tree full of pigeons they didn't notice all of the crap that was falling on them.

When I woke the next morning, I woke with the intention to let all things outside of my control go. I woke telling myself that I'm only human, that I have my limitations, and that personal and professional boundaries are healthy. And because I claim to be a follower of God (as unorthodox as I may be at times), I reminded myself that walking with God means allowing God to work out the kinks in the system because, for whatever reason, He actually likes doing that for me. So I went about my day consciously making an effort to let one worry go after another until finally my stress levels fell to a normal and manageable state. And as this happened, that stupid dream above popped into the forefront of my mind.

I don't profess to be a dream analyst of any kind, but dreams, at least to this English Major, are like poems: symbols and metaphors just waiting for me to piece together into some sort of meaning (because, if for no other reason, it's fun). Given the circumstances of reality in the days prior, my subconscious was simply having a heyday and the dream actually makes perfect sense. The tree in any circumstance often symbolizes life and life forces, holding its own natural abilities with roots that draw nourishment for itself and allow it to grow and flourish, providing food and shade and life giving oxygen for others. Hippies are characterized by their diversion from "the norm." Pigeons denote a sort of gullibility, if you will; winged as they may be, glorious like eagles they are not. And their droppings... well... let's just call it "wasted production."

If all of these symbols that my subconscious so creatively put together are reflections of myself, then here is what we have. The tree represents all of the talents, skills, and natural abilities I would use to provide for myself and all who sit within the shade of my professional and social circle. The hippies represent my desire to divert from "the norm," which in this society, at least from my perspective, is often mediocrity. I'm always looking to exceed anyone's expectations and take pride in the fact that I often do. But the fact that the hippies have deceived themselves into thinking a tree full of pigeons is something glorious to behold, even as they're being shat upon, is where my ego gets put into check.

You see, in the days prior to this stupid dream, I had allowed myself to get all worked up and wound up tight over things that were ultimately not my issue. I had convinced myself that it was my job to pick up someone else's slack, that I was good enough to do exactly that, and if I didn't it would be a reflection on my performance. In my own perfectionist overly meticulous mind I bore a burden that didn't need be carried. I stayed up late working when I didn't need to, expended energy to the point of exhaustion, and at the end of it all the stress I created for myself leaked out into areas of my life where it didn't belong, affected people it didn't need to affect, and, given the fact that I still had to face "the problem" Monday morning, it equated to little more than mediocrity and wasted production, otherwise known as pigeon shit.

I am, by nature, an overachiever. And though I may not apply perfectionism to mundane tasks like laundry and dishes, I do apply it to those aspects of my life where I believe it truly counts: motherhood (because I only have one shot to nearly get it right), my job (because it pays me), writing (because I love it and people read it), and music (because I love it and people are listening). Obviously, as my subconscious so adeptly pointed out, I need to always remember that sometimes I seriously need to let go and let God. I need to remember that if I want this tree called my life to successfully flourish, I need to root myself in faith and trust, I need to stop and breathe, and I need to nourish myself with those things that feed my soul. Only then will my branches stretch farther into the sky and possibly house something glorious like an eagle or two, as opposed to besmirching myself with a flock of pooping pigeons.

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