I think “stress” is one of our most overused words. The problem, as I see it, is that we use it to explain a lot of unpleasant moments that have less to do with stress, and more to do with things that get in the way of doing whatever we want. I’m not allowed stay awake all night playing my ukulele. I am so stressed out. My students are experts at stress. They live in it, bathe with it, take it to dinner, buy it flowers, kiss it goodnight. Stress is the boogeyman of their generation.
When it works, stress is a fabulous biological mechanism. It helps our bodies move fast enough to run away from tigers (sabertooth, to my mind), stops digestion, growth, and pain until the threat to our corporeal existence passes. Turns out (and I learned this from Radiolab so I am now an expert), our brains have become so great at stress that imaginary saberteeth lurk behind our desks at work, pace out in the hallways at school, jump out across the road as we shopping list our lives in our cars, and curl up at the feet of our beds as we lie awake in the dreadful four am.
Turns out, constantly feeling like we’re about to be dinner is making us very ill. “The silent killer”, consistently high stress levels are more dangerous than smoking. Smoking! The most wretched and dangerous thing! Ugh. What are we to do? What ARE we to do, when even scheduling the yoga makes us freakdance?
I write poems. What do you do? We use phrases like “combat stress” as though the shells were falling all ’round the trenches. I’d like to know what you do to ninja chop your sabertooth.
This one must come from stress, because I switched shifts with my husband tonight (we have the same jobs) so that he could watch the football, and I wasn’t quite ready to give up my weekend. When my colleagues stream football in the office, I hide in the back and write poems.
In this mountain home for wayward sooth
sayers, I would be the most benevolent tyrant.
Every month on the full moon, we who work with the Beautiful Larvae would be required to sip from the special potion of perspiration and desperation, and we’d be flung back
into a spinning vortex of awkward.
For perspective’s sake.
Because you are not impalas, dear ones hotfooting across the pampas with a sabertooth on your ass.
You know predators of unusual size. They have names like NLD, GAD, OCD, ADD, ADHD
and Drugs. Depression is your heavy tempest.
Plus your parents are black holes,
So you better get a good spell.
Every morning on the front lawn, grass or snow, we’d gather for the incantation.
Turn to the East and say, “Spirits of the East of the Rising Sun, I ask for your help. Help me get this prehistoric monkeyflunker off my back. There’s too much shine to catch this morning, and I’m not about to become breakfast.”
Turn to the North and say, “Spirits of the North of the Ice and Snow, I ask for your help. Help me bury this toothy bastard in a flurry of Knows for Certain.
I know the sky is up. Today it is gray. I know the Earth is down and around. Today the grass is brown. I know that bird is calling to his bird friend for date to soar. Absolutely I would like to be somewhere else. Certainly this is where I am.”
Turn to the West and say, “Spirits of the West of the Setting Sun, I ask for your help. Help me give over the imaginary slights and piddling trifles to the alpinglow,
as the sun moves on.
Help me to leave behind, as you do now, the thousand responses of the day. And help me to climb in the drunken boat, the SS Try Again Tomorrow, and let the pitching waves rock me to sleep.
This steam ship knows where it is going.”
Turn to the South and say, “Spirits of the South of the Red Dirt and Warmth, I ask for your help. Help me find the playtime in between the expectations. And help me to become my own passerine, my sweet own voice
will be my songbird. And I will sing to lull the beast.”
After incantation, we would go eat bagels. And under my Just and Great leadership, we would
keep them, grow them, give them back nearly whole.
So, something interesting happened while writing that. I wrote most of it at work, and on the drive home, real late, I decided it didn’t fit the feelings I was having at all, and felt too flip and silly, and I was going to scrap the whole poem as soon as I got home and start over. But, when I sat down here, I just kept writing the same poem. Because I can write another one tomorrow. I’m going to call this trick “The Drunken Boat”, just because it is my favorite phrase from tonight.
Also, if any WordPress vets can tell me why my pictures stopped showing up in my posts, I’d like that. Happy Sunday, Poemies.