March 2, 2020
I just returned to the conference, after taking a bit of a time to myself. Even more than my body, my brain is exhausted, stressed and on edge — as was evident by a challenging moment this afternoon. My phone died at the end of general session earlier, which despite having 18,000 people gathered in one massive hall, is not high-stress at all; we simply sit in relative darkness and listen to brilliant speakers. While in search of a charging station, I ran into two people I know loosely through an organization with which I do work, and seek to collaborate with at deeper levels moving forward. As we sat to give my phone new juice, a friend of one started conversating, whose work is fascinating and closely aligned with mine, though I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to give it proper attention. Then a student came over, who had been inspired by a speech I gave and brought me to his college campus a couple of years ago and wanted to touch base, as well as share incredibly kind words. And when my phone powered back up, a time-sensitive email came in, as well as the flood of reply-alls and related texts. While on the phone seeking to resolve the issue in the email and simultaneously trying to flag down my friend from afar, a frequent collaborator at another organization approached with her husband to inquire about sharing photos, as she had their HQ on the phone in her other hand.
I felt stress mounting and my anxiety levels rising. None of this “should” be stressful, none of this is anyone’s “fault,” no one else could “fix” it; this was simply my response to the situation. And so I (hopefully) politely responded and excused myself from all, walking away with the friend who finally found me. We call each other “conference spouses” because we always do this annual event together and flow so effortlessly. His presence by my side immediately made me feel more calm and grounded. I gathered myself and then proceeded to a meaningful session, but still wasn’t able to shake the uneasy, anxious overwhelm — so I decided to take some time away. I did the same yesterday for a few hours, thanks to a friend who loaned me his hotel room upstairs. So
I relaxed, processed, wrote, breathed and let go, giving myself that window until I felt mentally ready with the energy if I needed to return with happiness, comfort and strength.
Momentary overload need not be anything more than momentary overload. It’s something we all experience to varying degrees and my stressors today are negligible compared to most I have faced throughout harrowing recovery, and pale in comparison to those of many others. And I was able to recognize that, therefore continuing my day without much ado or negative consequence — just a deliberate pause. I don’t need stress, I can’t handle stress, and I’m getting better at not only avoiding stressful situations, but also pushing through those that inevitably arise.
So here I am, back at the conference. Sitting in the dim big room. Breathing deeply. Taking in the energy of the room. Listening to inspiring words. Feeling settled. And smiling solo. Momentary overload is no more. And while I’m sure it will be again, when that moment arrives, I will remember it is just that: momentary overload.