Over the last several years I have developed some pretty bad TMJ. My jaw clicks every time I open it, and sometimes I can’t open wide enough to take a bite of a sandwich. During any sort of business lunch I have learned to order things I can eat with a fork, in case I go to take a bite of something and have to reset it down because my jaw has locked up.
I haven’t really made a big deal about the TMJ; it was just another part of my life that developed due to stress. Just like the tension in my shoulders, my sore neck, and the plantar fasciitis.
I used to assume all of this was because of the lifestyle I chose to live. Three kids, three different schools and schedules, a husband who often traveled, a growing business, and work travel of my own. This was simply the physical price to pay for living a high stress life.
Recently however I have had to face a difficult reality.
During these last several months, on top of the TMJ, I have developed such terrible muscle tension in my back and shoulders that it is physically painful. It shows up daily, towards the end of the afternoon and can be hard to bear.
The reality, though, is that I have virtually no stress here. While I don’t have childcare, I really don’t need it. The kids have very few outside school activities, competing games or matches, no homework, no tests to study for, and no school projects. We’re not rushing around in a constant state of chaos. And I have a good handle on my workload.
And yet, the tension is there. Why?
The truth, as I am learning, is that it wasn’t the lifestyle that was making me tense in D.C., it was how I chose to live my life. The problem was, and remains, my need for everything to be perfect. For things to be ‘just so’.
My need to get to everything, to make sure the house is in order, that my life is in order … it gets in my way of being able to relax, to enjoy myself, to have fun. And when things are not perfectly “just so,” I get tense. Even in New Zealand.
And so I have decided to try to check perfect at the door.
I have begun to understand the truth about the life that I had created for myself in D.C. And I am sorting out what I brought with me to NZ, and what I don’t want to hold on to anymore.
I have decided to say yes to more things – rolling down hills with the kids, playing with Julien when he asks, learning to play sports with them. I am trying to let go of perfect and trying to learn to manage my own stress and tension.
Because it was always me, not my environment, that let it in.