I don’t care where you live, if you are breathing, you have moments of stress. When those moments mount up on you it’s time to take action. Living abroad has it’s own measure of stress, I’m sure. I haven’t experienced much of it though.
Of course there are inconveniences from time-to-time. Like when the bus recently changed its route. They decided one day they were no longer coming to my neighborhood. I got on the bus fully expecting to travel up the hill to the stop in front of my apartment. The kind ticket taker said something to me and I showed him my bus pass and sat down. Another woman got on as well. Others were standing on the sidewalk arguing with the bus driver. Hmm…that’s strange. I sat there wondering what was going on. The ticket taker said something else to me and the other woman, shrugged his shoulders and closed the doors. We did a U-turn in the street, came to a stop on the other side of the road, and the doors opened for us to exit.
That could be an inconvenience leading to stress, but I’ve learned that living in a new country is peppered with those sorts of experiences and I simply can’t let them bother me. By the way, there must have been a lot of complaining, because the next day the route was reinstated.
No, my stress came by way of work. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. Teaching fourth graders in an international school is exhilarating. I’m also the principal for the elementary school. I was feeling a little under the weather, so this past week the demands of those jobs and enough cold weather to merit indoor recess came together to form a perfect storm. I had a meeting every day after school, a report to get out, and fifteen little fold out books to make for my students.
I like to stay busy so this should have been an energizing week for me. It wasn’t. I was frustrated with one of the reports, the fold out books looked like a nest of white origami birds ready to take flight in my living room, and I was tired. Bone tired.
So what did I do? First, I took the advice of my friend Jon who always says everyone should watch Patton at least once a year. I checked it out of the library and sure enough, I entered school the next day with my combat boots on ready for service.
By the end of the week, though, I was still tired. No. Exhausted.
When I left her house to come to Kosovo, my daughter, Danielle, tucked a stack of envelopes in my luggage. They were marked on the front “For the first day of school,” “On Thanksgiving,” and so forth. I opened them as each event or holiday arrived. Sweet cards with endearing messages of love and encouragement from my daughter were in each envelope.
At the bottom of the stack she had placed a few random cards:
“For when you feel sick”
“For when you’re lonely”
“For when you’re tired”
There it was. I hope I bring the “sick” and “lonely” cards home with me unopened, but I tore into the one for when I felt tired. Here’s what she wrote:
Relax! The world will not stop if you take a needed break! Use wisdom, of course, and don’t be lazy, but I give you permission to rest and catch up on your physical, mental, and spiritual health! (Not that my permission means much, but maybe it will free you from condemnation!)
She’s right…I don’t need her permission, but it certainly felt good to have it! I stretched and made a plan whereby I could finish one item on my list and move on. I read my Bible and found a great sense of peace.