For want of some decent medical knowledge, let me ask you something: have you ever had a tiny heartbeat or fluttery tic visit your eyelid for a few seconds every now and then? Kind of like an angry ant throwing a full on-the-floor tantrum with every fibre of his little bolshy bug body?
Well, for the past two weeks my lower right eyelid has been pinging away with this irritating insect's ire every two minutes or so. Either that or my body had held a conference when I wasn't paying attention and decided to turn itself inside out just for a laugh, hoping that the sight of my bladder hanging below my tracksuit waistband cord would add that certain joi-de-vivre to my everyday look.
Whatever the reason, it is now getting to the stage when it is visibly noticeable and extremely distracting. Holding a conversation when the upper right section of my face is doing a decent version of the gaoler from 'The Life of Brian' is not only off-putting for the person I'm with, but also for me as well. Therefore, on Saturday morning I went to see the doctor about it.
"Hmmmm," he said thoughtfully, as only doctors who have no idea but want to seem introspective do. "Well, you can rest assured that you're not having a mini-epileptic fit or suffering from a stroke. Quite the opposite really."
"Oh? So why is my eye...." - I had to stop what I was saying and slap the side of my face for the infernal flickering to cease - "......driving me crazy like this if I'm in top health?"
Doc didn't reply straight away, but sat there, grinning at me.
I think it's high time I share a bit of my past with you. Doc has seen me in my previous lifetimes as the Medical Manager at WorkCover where, amongst treating my scratched eyeball, swollen runner's foot, flu and various stress-related symptoms (insomnia, irritable bowel, increased occurrence of migraine, teeth grinding and depression), we've also had some lively discussions about how doctors need to cooperate with WorkCover to get injured workers out of the system quicker.
He's seen me through a gruelling physical breakdown thanks to the pressure of WorkCover and my own silly need to perform harder, better, stronger and gooder than anyone else, and accepted my total shame and puzzlement that someone as 'sensible' as me couldn't cope. He helped ease me through a recovery process that saw a cgradual hange from utter exhaustion and despair towards acceptance and confidence.
He applauded my step down the career ladder to a lowly admin-lackey, placing a much larger focus on my family, friends and interests, genuinely happy to see that my decisions were being made for the right reasons. He saw me again later as he sat behind his desk and raised his eyebrows when I crawled back in, bruised, stressed and genuinely hurt by the egomaniacal actions of my boss. He helped me learn that reducing responsibility does not necessarily make me less of a target for overwork, jealousy or bullying. With his help, I fought Bulldog back and won.
The 'winnings' (half a year's salary) have allowed me to take 2008 as my personal 'Year of Yes' - seeking, accepting and enjoying any opportunities that drift in my direction, without being cooped up in a cubicle or trying to convince a Ministerial advisor as to why my staff still need to keep their jobs. I can wear ugg boots and 15 year old concert t-shirts as a legitimate working uniform and give myself permission to hang out a load of washing, walk with Milly to the park or help Sapphire make a batch of peanut butter biscuits after school without looking nervously over my shoulder.
"Er herrmmm," Doc cleared this throat, hinting that I should climb back out of my own arse and pay attention to what he was about to say. "You're under stress and you're actually too stimulated and too happy right now."
Well lather my face in chocolate paste and shove me down an ant hole - I'm too happy?!
Apparently so. There's such a thing as eustress, which is ironic, because I wrote about it in my book. 'Eu' means 'good' in ancient Greek and it is the type of energy that helps you work to a deadline and achieve things due to the adrenaline rush, urgency and thrill of it all. This can include stuff like winning a competition, ad-libbing, being on stage, playing sport, getting married*, buying a house or just losing your loose change/lunch during a roller coaster ride.
"Too right you are," he grinned. "For starters, repeat again what's currently in your diary and on your agenda."
So I did - earning the orange belt at karate with Sapphire the night before; writing book, CD, theatre and movie reviews; researching potential ideas for books two and three; developing two children's book ideas; studying editing & proofreading for publishing; off-the-cuff radio work; creative writing; interviewing local people for a column idea; chocolate eating and reviewing; running; knitting blankets for the homeless shelter; entering a 'serious' writing competition; making homemade cards for this week's school fundraiser; being the 'helper' Mum at school excursions, adopting and settling in a rabbit called Skipper; having friends over......
I finished, laughing at myself and with the doctor. "But it's all stuff I love - I'm having the best time of my adult life right now and finally feel as though I'm nearly there. As though being my true self might actually work out for me and----"
He held up his hand to interrupt my excited and inane chatter. "Do your cheeks sometimes ache?"
"Well yeah, but remember I'm still wearing my mouthguard at night to protect my crowns from cracking due to the clenching and grinding and---"
His hand was up again. "Yes, yes, that's good but have you also realised how much you smile and laugh?"
Er, no. Not really.
"You have such a broad grin on your face that your cheeks are worn out. Your eye is probably flicking because you're extremely tired and 'on' all the time. What you need is some really good nights sleep and...."
And so it goes. No Yin without Yang. No free joy without a loopy eyelid. No orange karate belt without farting in front of the visiting Sensei. No chocolate without pimples. No cuddly Love Chunks, Sapphire, Milly and Skipper without housework, vacuuming and weeding. No hearing your two most favourite people in the world playing 'My little baby loves shortnin' bread' together on the piano and guitar without tearing up by the sink.
All bloody worth it though. *flick flick flick*
* Yes, marriage is also a form of negative stress. But if you're still happy to have that warm lump you call your loved one lying in bed next to you at night and always make sure that you kiss them goodbye every morning 'just in case something happens', then 'eu' is still your kind of stress.