Stress Confession

I’ve started grinding my teeth again. A lot. And knowing that makes me feel extremely guilty.

I grind my teeth when I’m stressed. I also hunch my shoulders and get lower back pain from being physically tense. I’m living a dream right now, and it seems extremely wrong and ungrateful to admit that I’m also very, very stressed.

I struggle with trying to pretend I’m not feeling emotions I don’t think I’m entitled to.

But I am stressed. So there.

I’m stressed because I’m behind in my work and getting caught up means letting people down. I’m stressed because I’m not doing or seeing as much as I should. I’m stressed because people keep asking if I’m going to write a book, and I don’t know. I want to write a magazine article first, and I haven’t managed to do that yet.

I haven’t written in our family journal. I haven’t written in my own journal. I haven’t exercised or gotten rid of the things we’ve realized we can live without that are taking up precious space in the RV. I haven’t put together a speaking proposal for BlogWorld in November, which I really wanted to do.

I have visited 11 cities in the last month.

I have met, photographed and interviewed dozens of strangers that have forever changed the way I see the United States of America. I set out on this journey to teach my kids what it means to be American, and already I’ve ended up expanding my own definition – or at least understanding better what I always thought I knew.

I have been doing the big, life altering, important things.

Isn’t that supposed to be the secret to a happy life?

And yet, I am stressed. I am stressed by the things that “shouldn’t” be important, but are. I am stressed because, once a gain, I find myself at a point where I can’t easily tell the difference between my priorities and the priorities of everyone around me.

A couple of years ago, my life was changed when I learned to distinguish my own voice from the constant hum of expectation that surrounds us, the chorus made up of society, family, friends, religion, tradition, and the all-knowing They. In that life I was finally able to recognize where They started and I began.

But the chorus has changed. In this life, the sounds and expectations are new and I can no longer recognize my own in the din.

I am blessed and learning and privileged and overwhelming amazed by what I am experiencing.

And I am stressed.

But I am now a tiny bit less stressed at having admitted it.

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  1. naomi says:

    Amen and ditto. I think when we as women embark on a new reality (it’s different for all of us), the life lessons that we once learned and thought had changed our lives forever for the better, don’t always get to be applied in the future. (does that make any sense?)

    Like, now that you have passed by LifeLesson#1 (how to distinguish your own voice from the din) from back in that reality at the time, doesn’t mean that it gets to automatically be applied to this current reality.

    I recently underwent a pretty transforming alteration with how I see life … and I’m now experiencing the same thing as you — frustration because I thought I had already figured out certain things, how to find balance, how to achieve sanity and contentedness … but it turns out, that I have to learn it all over … for THIS time and place … and I reckon it’s going to keep continuing like this.

    It has to be a good thing, right? This constant evolving and learning and growing and stretching?

    Sorry for the mini-novel … I just wanted you to know I understand. I’ve got no advice for you, but I understand.

  2. habanerogal says:

    Gotta give you props for all of these life altering changes you are making. Stress is a natural reaction to the situation. Kudos for recognizing and acknowledging it. It can amaze you what you are capable of

  3. Nanna says:

    Ah baby, I’m sorry you’re feeling stressed but I know and I know and I know that you will work through it. I love you, precious.

  4. cagey says:

    Don’t be so hard on yourself! You JUST started this new life, it will take a bit to figure out new routines!

    You will figure it out. And we will be here cheering you on and reading about it. :-)

  5. Momo Fali says:

    Me too. Oh boy, me too.

    But, we can get through this. We? Are the Volturi.

  6. Rachel says:

    I love this post for many reasons. First, it refutes that whole “grass is greener” idea that many of us have about your journey. Many people might think, “Look! They’re traveling around the country for a year! They’ve gotten rid of the superfluous stuff in life and held on to what matters! What a great stress-free trip!”. You are brave enough to share the reality of life on the road and that is important. I think it’s also great that you are trying to find balance between the stress of work (and life) and the wonderful lessons and experiences you have had in the last month. It’s all about balance. As in all new endeavors, there is a period of fumbling and growth. You will find your stride in this journey (perhaps before you finish the Eastern Seaboard?).

    Godspeed, my friend!

  7. I’m the type of person who is constantly judging her emotions – are they appropriate? are they warranted? So I feel like I understand where you are coming from, and understand the thought of not being “entitled” to an emotion (GREAT way to put that, by the way!), and I am guessing I would feel the SAME way you do in your situation. Being blessed and being stressed are not two mutually exclusive experiences – I’m glad you shared this post with us!

  8. susan says:

    You are living a dream that’s very true, but lest we forget…’s a dream that not everyone could manage. I personally would think that you were torturing me be putting me in a confined space with my 2 children. Lol! Are there any times of the day when you can decompress and refocus? I already know the answer….make time! When you were hone in a “normal” atmosphere, you mist likely were able to close a door, privacy was normal and there were other things to keep everyone going…it didn’t have to be you. I am enjoying you blog.

    Blessings from home.

  9. I find adapting to change a very slow process. I don’t realize how much of what I think is me being on top of things is really just because I have, consciously or unconsciously, structured my life so that many decisions are already made and my routines guide me.

    It takes me almost A YEAR to really feel like I’m getting the hang of things again after a move, a new baby, a job change, or even my husband going to work later or earlier if he’s part of the routine. So I would be a giant stress ball on a trip like yours. I don’t even think it sounds all that fun actually because I know just how much work it takes to makes it work. I would be freaking out is what I’m saying.

    I admire the way you can and have done this, and are dealing with things, and you are even having fun doing it. I have faith that you will eventually find your on the road routines, the unconscious transitions that make life easier, and you will be so good at life in an RV by the end that you’ll find the change back to a house another moment where the adaptation is more than expected.

    Blessings on your trip.

  10. Mel says:

    I grind my teeth when I’m stressed too, which seems to be the majority of the time. My stress leads me to anxiety and panic, which leads to shutting down physically and emotionally. I wish I had some amazing, life changing advice, but I pay my therapist for that weekly and I still don’t have answers. So instead, I’ll say that people are here for you, pulling for you, and want to help when things get rough. Thank you for sharing your incredible journey with us.

  11. Just as there are things you need to get rid of in the trailer that are taking up space, it sounds like there are things you need to ditch that are taking up space in your head. Clutter. Head and soul clutter that will in the end result in you being either a half-assed writer or having a half-assed experience with your travels. Our lives constantly need to be edited and reevaluated in light of new information. I think you are so living in the NOW and that is awesome. Something that is very, very special. Forget making a decision about the book or magazine article. Stay in the now. Forget the Blog conference this year. It will always be there. You will have so much more to say a year from November when your trip is done. Edit, edit, edit.

  12. Jana A says:

    I love the honesty here. And like another comment said, this is exactly the reason “the grass is greener” is usually BS. I’m guessing that now that you’ve spent a month on the road, have started getting into a groove, have said this openly here, you will start to destress and prioritize differently. And you’ll teach your kids about what should be a top priority AND teach US how to prioritize better.

  13. Nyt says:

    The teeth grinding, I has it. There was a period in time where I literally broke the fancy mouthpiece the dentist made for me 3 times in 2 months.

    One of the things that falls by the wayside in the whole “personal growth” thing is the fact that we are exactly who we are no matter what scenery changes. When we acknowledge that, we find the balance and the peace because we then have the ability to choose our reactions. For instance, I’m a “fixer” and in truth, I’m damn good at it but it costs me a lot in wear and tear. The trick for me is to acknowledge that and make the rational choice to not “fix” whatever I might see as broken. It’s taken me years to get to that, and I still fail from time to time. (Further proof that we never really “done” in life.)

    Tell your family exactly what you wrote here. I’m willing to bet that their reactions to your dilemma will help melt the stress away….

  14. Jodifur says:

    I’m sorry I’m on vacation while you are in dc. It would have been lovely to see you.

  15. i have faith in you. you will adjust. it has only been a month and all of us need an adjustment time. i mean dude, your entire way of living has changed, more drastically than moving from iowa to florida and how long did that adjustment take?

    it is my sincere hope that you come to the conclusion that you don’t have to do it all, that you don’t have to be super woman. although i am curious how getting caught up with work means letting people down.

    also, i think when school starts you will feel less like you are missing stuff since jared and the kids will have their jobs to tend to as well. probably will be less of a summer vacation feel to daily living.

    to sum up: i love you and have faith in you.

    • Miss Britt says:

      “although i am curious how getting caught up with work means letting people down.”

      I feel like I’m letting Jared and the kids down when I have to work. I know, it’s dumb.

  16. Momma says:

    What Sue Richardson said, and what Hello haha narf said! Such wise young women. Had I been so wise at their age.

    On a totally different subject, and like anyone but me would care, it’s Poppa’s and my 47th anniversary. Woohoo! My husbands a hunk!

    • DeannaBanana says:

      I care very much. Happy 47th Anniversary two two of my very favorite people on the planet, my Mom and Dad. I love you more than life and thank you for showing me what being married is all about.

      (Thanks for the platform, Britt!)

      And Britt? Don’t forget to breathe. Take it all in and allow yourself the time to figure it out. You will be just fine.

  17. Lorie says:

    I hope you are feeling a little less stressed after a good night sleep. (Assuming you got a good night sleep!)

    Head out for a walk alone. It will help cross the exercise off your list and will hopefully give you some peace to find your own voice!

    • Heather Schiavo says:

      This is great advice. Get out on a walk for exercise with the excuse to “explore” the area some more. You may be able to meditate on your walk or find a great area to take a meditation rest each day. Even 15-30 minutes will help you regroup and refresh. Now, if only I could start taking my own advice!

  18. Megan says:

    You have some very wise ladies reading you. So wise that they’ve already said everything I would say to you. You’ll find your balance again, this I know.

    FYI, you are not responsible for everything. Especially other people’s expectations. You know what? Fuck expectations, even your own. Just experience what is. xoxo

    I guess I did find something say — surprise, surprise. ;)

  19. Pushing out those external expectations is hard, but stay as focused as you can. No one is expecting you to be perfect. We expect challenges. It’s how we overcome them that makes us interesting.

    Much love and many hugs.

  20. martymankins says:

    I used to grind my teeth when I was stressed about things in life. I have learned to let go a lot because letting the stress get to me, caused me to no do the things I really wanted to. I love making my silly videos, but I didn’t do them due to how much stress i was carrying on me. You would think I wanted an espace like doing something I love, but that level of stress took over most aspects. Since letting go, it makes life that much better (and I’m back to doing the things I love).

    Hoping your stress doesn’t interrupt your life on the road. While I know it can bring all sorts of new challenges, it can be liberating to manage it all on less hectic levels.

  21. muskrat says:

    I’d be the same way, given your situation. But isn’t this stress better that the stress of a job you may not like, living in a house you may not like, and a life of no adventure?

  22. Maybe stress doesn’t mean that something is wrong? Maybe it just means that something is different.

    And boy, are things different in your world these days!

    I grind, too. The answer is usually stillness and meditation. Haven’t found the willingness for those things this go ’round but maybe I will soon. ;)

  23. Cort says:

    Please please PLEASE live for the moment. You are living a dream. You are taking notes and posting them here – and maybe a scratch pad…keep these. Keep that. Rough notes. Don’t delete less-than-perfect pictures. Next year, you can go back through and fill in the blanks and write your book or magazine articles out the wazoo. Right now, it’s about living in the moment. Get your work done, but the rest is to be IN THE MOMENT! Not what you might write about or what the next chapter might be. It’s not about disappointing people – it’s not about THEM. It’s about you and your family. It’s about the steps along the road – not the stops!! Take a day – maybe two. Take the time to check the stress off your list: accomplish tasks for work (check), discard unnecessary things (check), rethink the route keeping in mind the destinations you WANT and not what you think others want you to want (check)…and get a massage (check, check)

    • Heather Schiavo says:

      Exactly! I love this advice. These drafts of notes will serve as reminders and it will all come together. Also, are the kids keeping journals? Let them do a little writing about their experiences each day. They’ll have some great memories to add to the scrapbook pages later and you’ll have some perspectives that you can fit into your writing that might make it all the more unique.

  24. Kristin says:

    Goodness, so nice to hear you’re human like me. I’m so behind on my photo editing. I’ll open up photoshop, realize I never blogged about the boys’ birthdays, which were in October, so should I honestly be editing photos from two weeks ago, and there’s a crapload of photos just mocking me, plus my blog is mocking me, plus all the people who ask why haven’t I blogged about my kids recently and well, I shut the photoshop down and walk away. Momentary relief. Stupid stress.

  25. Allyson says:

    How important is the timeline of the trip? I noted that for some of your engagements you were to fly from wherever you were to wherever the event was… is that how it is? Or do you have some places that were planned as part of the tour map? Because if the tour and the events are separate, then slow down, spend an extra few days (or weeks if necessary) in the places you feel like you can’t get enough of, and feel comfortable passing more quickly through places that are maybe disappointing. Also, regardless of whether you feel “entitled” to your emotions, it is ALWAYS better to acknowledge them, and to talk to your husband about them. Maybe he’s hiding some stress too, and you guys can help each other through it. And I think Jared is probably perceptive enough to see that you’re faking it anyway, so you may as well just fess up and help everyone from feeling like they have to walk on eggshells around you. Which is worse? Admitting that maybe you’re overwhelmed in a situation you created, or making yourself and your family crazy for a year? AND – change is stressful. EVEN when it’s good.

  26. Thank you for being so honest and real in revealing that you’re stressed. I think the majority of us are all stressed, at one time or another. When I look back at a stressed-out time, I can realize, in hindsight of course, what I could have done to make it better. But lately I’ve been allowing myself to just have whatever emotion I have at the time (it took a 50th birthday to allow me this!) and I’m much happier.

    Love your pursuit of happiness vibe – don’t we all need a bit more of that?

  27. JC says:

    I felt very enlightened last week when I was speaking to a new acquaintance about travelling. I’m not sure where it came from, but she was saying how she’d never left her home town and was jealous of those who had. As a new immigrant to the US and having lived in a variety of different surroundings, I said that things really don’t change. You can never escape your mind, your drama and even though your surroundings will be different, the “template” of life will remain the same because the template is a reflection of yourself. So even if your surroundings are new, the grass will never be greener until you change the template, aka yourself and your mind.

    I think this year will be a journey for mind as well as for your self. Best of luck!

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  29. Robina says:

    A lot of stress comes from worry and guilt. For me, looking on the bright side of every thing helps tremendously. ONE example of late; my 15 year old got caught shop lifting. Bright side? No drugs, cause she gets tested. My furniture is 9 years old and looks like crap, but at least I HAVE furniture. Sometimes my job totally sucks, but at least I HAVE a job.
    Not great examples. But you get the point.

  30. I am behind with my work all the time,sometimes that stresses me were I could scream,othertimes I take it in stride.

  31. Vikki says:

    Stressed? Why would you be stressed? You’ve only uprooted your family, left everyone/everything you know behind and have set out in an RV for the unknown. What could be stressful about that? I am kidding, of course! I’m glad you are letting yourself off the hook a little by admitting it. If it’s any consolation, I would probably have ditched my family and be shut up in a backwoods shed all by myself rocking back and forth. Okay maybe that’s extremem but…

  32. Britt,
    Thank you so much for being transparent for us. I can understand you feeling confused because your life is going awesome and yet you still feel stressed. Like mnay others have said, stress can occur even if things are good. You have a lot of change going on right now, good changes, but it will take time to settle in to your “routine”. And like you said, you feel a little bit better just by admitting it. And that is a big key. If we keep our feelings bottled up inside it just makes them worse. SHaring is much better!
    Hugs to you!
    As go your days, so goes your life

  33. Ann says:

    Both are true and opposite sides of the same puzzle piece. You are living your dream, and navigating that dream is stressful.

    I have a teeny tiny book recommendation–especially if you are contemplating meditation. I have “The Pocket Pema Chodron” by my bedside (of Shambala Buddhist meditation) and her short readings explain how sadness/vulnerability is at our core and what enables us to be compassionate–among other things. She writes about letting go of resistance to pain and becoming a warrior by leaning into this vulnerable core instead of resisting it. The readings help me to see all the shades of grey along my path that might feel or look at first like black and white/opposite choices I have to make.

    And yes, yoga can make you skinny if you are sweating and working.

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