Pardon Me, Have You Seen My Mind?

Alethea MermaidGrace Under Pressure.

I wish this is how I could describe myself. But my parents named me “Truth” — “Grace” is my cousin. (Technically I have a couple of cousins named Grace, one of whom worked on the Hubble Space Telescope.)

The “Pressure” part, though? Shoot. I’ve got that down pat.

i was that kid who did all her school work at the last minute, even though my parents offered to help me do anything I needed. I was the author who promised to write a book in four months when the first one took me five years. I was the nerd who ran the light board and memorized everyone’s part in the play, qualifying me to understudy for anyone at the drop of a hat.

Even now, looking back, I’m not entirely sure I could chalk all that up to laziness or procrastination. Yes, I put things off…but in doing so I turned that last minute into a powder keg. That fire under my butt forced me to come up with new, fresh ideas in a short amount of time and execute them to the best of my abilities. Some of the results were pretty amazing, too.

I would have totally rocked on a Reality Show.

The up side to all of this? I am incredibly flexible and open-minded, and I am enthusiastic (aka: “stupid”) enough to say Yes to just about anything.

The down side to all of this? Anxiety. Oh my GOSH, the anxiety.

It fuels me…but it sometimes makes me feel like I’ve lost my ever-loving mind. I even have all sorts of fun anxiety dreams to go with this pressure…only they happen after the event is over. Hey, if I can keep it together when I need it, I’ll take it.

It’s also amazing to see what happens when I’m on what I call “Manic Autopilot.” A perfect example happened this past Monday: I was in the middle of packing up my apartment to move to Florida. I was getting phone calls from my mom to discuss new options for places to rent, and phone calls from my agent to discuss brainstorming new story ideas with a new publisher. It was all GREAT AND GOOD STUFF, but it was all happening at once.

Oh, and did I mention that we’re leaving for Niagara Falls on Thursday? Yeah, that too.

In the middle of all of that an email came through, and I misread it. Manic Autopilot took over and I wrote an essay, posted it to this blog, and shared it on social media all in what felt like 3.5 minutes. I dusted off my hands, made some coffee, and moved on to the next thing.

Only…the email wasn’t about posting a blog. The Mermaids don’t even POST on Mondays anymore. *sigh* At least I wasn’t stepping on anyone’s toes…I was just performing on an empty stage.

Part of me thinks it’s hilarious that my default stress reaction is to do MORE work. Part of me wonders if I should be worried about this.

What about you? Do you guys have any interesting reactions to stress or anxiety?

19 thoughts on “Pardon Me, Have You Seen My Mind?

  1. Love this post, Alethea! I do my best NOT to procrastinate, but two things are undoubtedly true (for me): 1) I do some of my best work under pressure; 2) it is really difficult for anything to get done when you are doing it in a leisurely manner. So, yeah, pressure and deadlines are my friends; I just wish I didn’t have to deal with the icky anxiety part. Best of luck getting everything done!!!

    1. EXACTLY! You did that crazy scholarly track…you know EXACTLY where this is coming from. We are so awesome…and would totally win a reality show. 🙂 xox

  2. I’m an odd ducky (on many levels). If I have twenty things I HAVE to get done in a day, I will do all twenty, plus three more. But if I only have one thing I need to do, chances are that I will not get it done.

    Sooo, I guess I’m saying I work well under pressure with lots of stuff to do. 😉

    1. HA! Do you ever do that thing where you have so much to do that you don’t know where to start…so you don’t do ANYTHING?

  3. I’m a natural born procrastinator. I’ve always thought I was lazy. Not sure I enjoy the rush, but I do get a lot more done if I’m under pressure. 🙂

  4. I have always worked best under pressure. Always. Until now. haha. I think you hit the nail on the head. If I have twenty things to do that are all relatively different (volunteering at the school, getting kids to events on time, writing a blog post, editing a friend’s book and revising my own) then chances are it all gets done. BUT, when the things are too similar (like trying to revise THREE books–yes THREE–at the same time), nothing gets done. That’s me right now. Getting.Nothing.Done.
    I guess I have to just start with one and get the sucker done. Then move on…
    It’s so much harder to DO than to SAY though.
    Great post, Alethea! At least I know I’m not alone. 🙂

  5. My reaction depends on the stress. Small stress, sing tunes from Camelot, Company, A Little Night Music, or Eurythmics. Medium stress calls for chocolate or caffeinated, carbonated, sugar-water. But when I’m stressed out and need to sleep, it’s either techno-dancing (“I’ll Bet That You Look Good on the Dance Floor”), or breaking out the compass and constructing geometric patterns.

  6. Um, panic attacks? Not a very interesting reaction to stress and anxiety but that’s what I’m going with. Maybe it’s leftover stuff from a past life, but crazy thunder and lightning storms really freak me out. Add to that hot humid air that makes it hard to breathe and yeah, I’ll admit to a panic attack here and there during Virginia summers. Last Fourth of July, the family and I drove up to Niagara Falls. Immediately, all that heaviness and tingly scalp stuff and difficulty catching your breath disappeared.

    The Falls are magical, Alethea. I know you know this, but I CANNOT wait for you to experience that. What does it say when your vacation gives me the goose bumps? It says you’re going to one very special place. Here’s to you getting lost there and hopefully finding a few things too.


  7. Hey Alethea, I don’t know if I talked about it much before but I have seriously issues with anxiety and always has. As well as the difficulties that come with being trans, I’m autistic and borderline and have ADHD to boot. I have some crazy and quite frightening breakdowns which I’ve taken to calling “River outs” to make them sound cuter but I’ve been told they are quite difficult to watch.

    I mostly got over them a while back when I felt like my life was finally going in the right direction. It’s complicated for me I guess since it’s not just anxiety but I also have fits of paranoia and mild schizophrenic symptoms, or start being unable to communicate normally(again, River outs) but straight anxiety has proven itself to be the root of many or even most of my issues time and time again. I also agree with Mamma Kontis that some people need pressure to work – and this applies to me too – I made an awful lot of my music for one hour music compos that I then later polished. I often need some sort of motivation, but too much pressure kills me! Finding a balance is really hard, don’t mistake stress for motivation! I’m a very floaty chaotic type though so I often do work best being unregulated, but sometimes that means risking getting nothing at all, so I’m slowly learning to set myself loose limits and structures that work for me, which is probably the key.

    It sounds like you might have issues over-extending yourself, trying to do everything you can which has also been an issue for me. I currently don’t work because of my illness(and crappy economy) but I keep busy. Right now what’s causing my anxiety to flare up is the lack of direction in my life; I’m trying to be many things, a singer, a dancer a writer and try and pull these things together. I’m also trying to consume more media – I’m trying to read more(it was largely thanks to you – though YA novels are a good bridge towards reading meatier books in general), been catching up on TV shows etc. and also work on my ballet solo.

    I’ve noticed this happens with a lot of my circle of friends too, they get involved in big projects and big promises and being let down as a result of them not keeping those commitments hurt me a lot and added to my own anxiety.For me it’s difficult, since I NEED to dance, I NEED to make music and I NEED to write. It’s not an option to completely de-prioritise something, but I have gotten a little better recently at taking it easier and giving myself for free time to at least think about what I’m going to do. So I’d recommend identifying the things you actually NEED to do and take a period of a couple of weeks where you only do those.

    I saw music recommendations; personally If I’m writing or doodling characters or anything I always do that to music. I sent you a bunch of great fairytale friendly artists a while back though I’m not sure you had time to go through them(check out – Miranda Sex Garden/Medieval Baebes, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Faith & the Muse/Monica Richards, Omnia, Moon and the Nightspirit, Arcana – also I find Shoegaze stuff like Lush or Curve’s Cuckoo to be great for magical soundscapes and chilling out!) and I also find that ambient electronica and minimalist stuff works best, though often when I’m in a more sci-fi-ish or modern mood(Carbon Based Life Forms, Solar Fields, Wendy Carlos, Brian Eno, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twins’ Ambient Works), Trip Hop like Lamb, Mandalay, Massive Attack, Portishead is lovely too, I found an act on Bandcamp called “Aether” which I really recommend for chillaxing!

    I find that music can help give you a flow to what you’re doing, motivate you to keep going and often inspire new ideas; and also lock down all the floaty fractured bit of my rather messed up brain(I generally need to be doing two things at once! Though maybe that’s just being a woman :>). For me I have to find the right balance between calming and motivating, though. I tend to listen to more active music walking around and calming music at home – but that often means I end up feeling a little sleepy and to getting things done!

    Also, dancing is great. It just really is great to move and flow and let it go. It’s one thing that really helped me start to turn my life around.

    ~Dance all your worries away~

  8. Also I forgot to add some minimalist artists – you’ll probably remember Steve Reich from the piece he had during “That” scene in the Hunger Games, I really like his music for 18 Musicians. Philip Glass is another good one. There’s an online list called “The 25 most influential Ambient Albums of all time” I’d recommend picking up some suggestions from it!

    1. Thanks for all the great advice, sweetness!
      I am a HUGE music fan, as you can imagine, and I look forward to checking out all the bands on this list that I don’t know! (Your “Trip Hop” category is one of my Pandora playlists…)
      And you’re also very right about overextending myself. But life is so short and there’s SO MUCH TO LEARN…

      Big Hugs to You…enough to hold our scattered selves together!

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