Not to bring it up, but the dynamics of my unique family arrangement can render some stressful moments.
Since it’s been brought up, we shall proceed: Mom and Dad – or “Grandma” and “Grandpa” – live three tiny blocks away from Kalista and me.
I have the following factors working against my bid to never, ever be mad:
- I am a single parent. The obvious stressors (scheduling, finances, house maintenance, etc.) have teamed up against me.
- My child is the gender I’m not. There are attributes and priorities I may never comprehend or even recognize to begin with.
- Mom and Dad live three tiny blocks away from Kalista and me. There’s no need to elaborate. Whatever clashes might be expected from this geographic arrangement take place according to cycle.
While stress comes from all three factors, only the third of these inspires me to dip my toes into the unwanted pool of anger. Occasionally I belly flop into this pool.
So about.com’s section on stress management offers five ways to calm down when “feeling overwhelmed.” Here they are:
- Take a walk
- Take a breath
- Take a mental break
- Reframe your situation
- Try a progressive muscle relaxation
None of these pointers would work for me. The walk thing usually turns into a 20-minute run. Also, I still don’t see how it would help to “reframe your situation” after reading about.com’s ellaboration, and trying a progressive muscle relaxation sounds stupid and potentially unmasculine.
What works like a charm, though, has always been driving. It’s outstanding because it does not require someone to watch Kalista while I do it. (A case could be made I should not have my daughter in the car while I’m driving to “blow off steam,” but I contend I’ve never had so much steam to blow off that I cannot safely operate a vehicle. I’m not a psychopath.)
Most of the time, it amounts simply to getting the opportunity to hear my music without interruption. And since statistics show the majority of my moments of anger occur at night, Kalista falls asleep within 10 minutes of the ride, giving her father an abundance of minutes to be with his thoughts.
These drives cannot happen in town to be effective, as other vehicles on the road are distracting and can generate stress, if there are enough of them, by being merely present. It’s soothing, however, to see the headlights of my own car illuminate the road. It’s comforting to see where we’re headed.
I find interesting the way this ritual has changed as my life’s progressed. During my teenage years, I would always make a loop, driving to another town on one road before applying my abundant knowledge of the lesser-known back roads to the return trip. I rarely saw the same site twice on the same trip, although I frequently made the same trip on different occasions of anger (or love or stress or general uncertainty). These days I drive one way and simply turn around once the steam has been blown off.
While it takes less time for me to not be angry today, I also have less desire to stray too far from home than as a teenager. Anger would conjure a desire to flee in my teenage mind, reflective of my choice to drive farther away from home and never see the same places twice, creating an illusion I covered even more ground than I actually had.
Today, I’m exactly where I want to be – three tiny blocks away from Grandma and Grandpa.