Stress is sneaky. I have tried to be mindful, to keep an eye on my stress meter. But disguised as crankiness, it has slipped up on me.

My fuse has become short, my patience an endangered species. And that’s not like me. I swear it isn’t. Or it didn’t used to be.

At a business appointment yesterday, I have to confess, a customer was getting on my nerves in a big way. She was an older lady, a bit eccentric, and someone who, if met while in a better time, might be entertaining in small doses. But her self-absorption, her obliviousness to her impact on the people she was with, seemed to suck all the oxygen out of the room.


I excused myself, I stepped away, and I sat outside, alone, surprised by the strength of my reaction, wondering what on earth was going on with me. And that’s when I realized my jangly nerves were a reaction to stress.

Uncertainty, discord, anger and anxiety get into my head through all of my daily absorption not only of news, but other people’s reactions to that news. We don’t just read the paper or watch the news. We now see how everyone feels about that news.

There is an anxiety spiral affecting everyone, no matter what side of the American divide we are on. We are all facing what we are concerned with is a do-or-die battle for the future of our society. And we are all stressed.

I honestly don’t know the answer. But I know if I unplugged, if I looked away, I’d feel better. But I also know that if I look away, if I make myself feel temporarily better, there will be one less voice raised in opposition when trial balloons are launched for things I believe are morally wrong.

Public uproar has been an effective weapon. I do not have the right to ask others to stand up for me when I won’t stand up with them.

One friend suggested, the answer may be metering. I took that to mean allowing in only so much, and then stepping back.

That would require knowing how much is enough, and how much is too much.  I’m going to have to figure that one out.


Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.