Little Ball of Stress

I wake up pretty much every morning so weighed down by stress and worry and dread, it’s no wonder I have trouble getting out of bed.

Lately, the conglomeration of things in my life that cause me tension include my worries about the upcoming elevation of my home and trying to come up with alternative living arrangements.  The greatest stumbling block has been finding a nearby apartment in my price range that will accept my menagerie.  My realtor – a very nice woman named Bonnie who was recommended to me by my contractor – told me about three high-rise buildings managed by her office right on the beach block in the East End of Long Beach, reasonably priced, plain vanilla, and pets are just fine.

I felt a little like Goldilocks when she took me to see the available units:  There was a 2-bedroom, which was too big, and then a studio, which was too small.  She promised to tell me as soon as a 1-bedroom came on the market, and sure enough we were able to see one the very next day.  It ticked all the boxes – roomy, plenty of storage, price was right, primo location – although it wasn’t the most attractive of places.  I handed in all my application paperwork and the fee, and waited for the call to come in and sign the lease and pick up the keys.  But, according to Bonnie, evidently there was a “conundrum” with the apartment and I would have to wait for the next one.  That was over a week ago and I’m starting to get nervous.  In actuality, any deadline I have is self-imposed, so there is really very little need for the anxiety I impose on myself.  It was just that I had told the contractor that we could get started in April, so I worried that if I had to delay until May, I might get bumped off the calendar and would have to wait even longer to begin the whole agonizing process.

It turned out that was a needless concern.  I spoke to the contractor and he assured me I could get on the house-lifting calendar for May.  Now if my realtor can just come through with an apartment in the next week or so, I’ll have enough time to put my seemingly endless ducks in a row before the anticipated May start date.  If not, well – to quote Alfred E. Neuman, “What, me worry?“

Rest assured (or not, as the case may be), there is no shortage of other sources of stress in my life these days.  My daughter is having some real estate issues of her own.  She wants to leave her 2-bedroom apartment (which – long story short – has been a source of disappointment ever since she arrived last August because her roommate was a disaster and ended up skipping out halfway through the year, leaving her with a full electric bill) but she unknowingly obligated herself to stay in the place for another year in order to lock in a big $5 discount on her next year’s rent.  So now Mom has to put on her lawyer hat and see if I can get her out of the situation by the letter of the lease or, if not, to plead the case that she was an unsophisticated renter who didn’t know what she was doing and it’s unreasonable and unfair to make her stay there and/or force her to sublet half an apartment on her own.

There’s the daily work annoyances, of course, but the overarching stressor is money – or, more accurately, the lack thereof – and my endless expenses, which I have no idea how I’m going to meet given my limited income:  another year of college tuition, my semi-annual car insurance payment, getting a tooth pulled with no dental insurance, Darian’s summer internship in South Africa, security deposits for two separate apartments, and possibly having to pay three rents AND a mortgage installment for the month of May, combined with a less-busy-than-usual month of billable hours – it ain’t pretty.  A small tax refund will help but, in layman’s parlance, I’m financially screwed.  Only the lottery can save me now.

So how do I manage to combat the stress?  Not very well, I must admit, but there are a few things that help.  I saw a great quote the other day from famed scientist and philanthropist Albert Schweitzer:  “There are two means of refuge from the misery of life:  music and cats.”  (And to that I would add a chicken souvlaki platter with Israeli salad from Abe’s Pitaria.)

Music – most assuredly, yes.  I asked Darian today what the first thing is that comes to mind when she thinks of growing up with me as her mother, and she said:  “Traveling, and music.  Oh, and hockey.”  Except when the TV is on, there is always music playing:  music in the car, music on my headphones on the train, music in the background during the day while I’m sitting at the computer, music blasting while I’m feeding or playing with the animals or cleaning the house.  I’m also a collector of music, in vinyl, CD and MP3 form (I used to have cassette tapes, too, but lost them in the flood).  I have thousands of individual songs, hundreds of CDs.  As far as I am concerned, I will never have too much music.  My latest favorite is the new Cage the Elephant album, Tell Me I’m Pretty.  I’ve liked other songs of theirs, but this is the first time I’ve wanted to purchase an entire album of their music, and I’m extremely glad I did.  It’s been a while since I’ve found a record where I like every song, start to finish.  With the same Amazon gift card (earned as a credit card “reward” – I can’t afford to actually spend money on music), I also bought Badfinger’s Timeless . . . The Musical Legacy.  Now I finally own two of my favorite songs of all time, “No Matter What” and “Baby Blue” – classic nuggets of pop perfection.

And cats?  Also a big yes.  I love spending time in the cat rooms at the shelter on the weekends, making my way from cat to cat, chucking them under their chins and rubbing their cheeks, head butting and ear scruffling and slowly letting the layers of stress fall away.  I find scooping litter boxes to be a very zen activity, like working on a little sand and stone garden with the miniature rake.  I get the same relaxing feeling at home, sitting on the couch with Mimi on my right and Savannah on my left, two chubby lady cats luxuriating in being stroked by the chubby cat lady.  They’re so soft and sleek to the touch, like velvet and mink.  And they both purr so loudly I can literally feel the purring as well as hear it.  (Not to overlook the pooches:  While they are generally less affectionate, sometimes it’s Gizmo parked up on my left thigh, soaking in the mutually beneficial massage of his silky soft coat and his fat little body.)  Nothing gives me more joy and calms my soul more than those moments on the couch with my creatures.

And what about the thing that occupies the bulk of my evening hours from October to May (and hopefully into June), New York Rangers hockey?  Does watching hockey give me relief from my daily vexations?  Seriously??  Their performance of late, combined with the success of the surging and obnoxious Penguins (coached since mid-season by former Ranger assistant coach Mike Sullivan), has proven to be an addition to my sources of stress rather than a respite from them.  After a decent February, March’s alternating wins and losses are threatening to not only deprive them of home ice advantage after they were pretty solidly in second place (behind the juggernaut that is the 2015-16 Washington Capitals) all season long, but they might even get bumped out of the playoffs entirely.  With eight teams vying for seven spots, one squad is getting left in the dust.  Judging by the way the pundits poop on the Rangers (especially poor old Dan Girardi), I’m sure many of them think the Rangers will be the team to fall out, and certainly none of them holds out much hope about their chances in the post-season.  [An aside:  I think back to 2014 when the Rangers basically had to choose between keeping Ryan “Captain Cally“ Callahan or defenseman Dan Girardi.  The two were up for contract renewal at the same time and, given the limited salary cap space, one of them would have to go.  Cally ended up being traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for Martin St. Louis (now since retired), and Girardi got a hefty new contract (which many said at the time was a little TOO hefty).  Girardi had been a dependable stalwart for years, coming in undrafted but establishing himself as the bedrock of the Rangers’ top shut-down pair for a number of years.  But that kind of devotion takes its toll on a body.  Now that he is 31, all those hours defending hard-fought ice and blocking shots have clearly had a detrimental effect.  An already slow-ish skater, he’s become practically glacial, and his mental acumen isn’t what it used to be, either.  It’s unclear how the two tie together; maybe because things are physically more difficult for him, he has to think about them more, and getting too into his own head is preventing him from making the instinctive plays he’s made for years, so he overthinks and overpasses (which, truth be told, is a malady ALL of the Rangers suffer from) instead of just bulling his way out of the corner with the puck or shoving an opponent’s big body away from in front of Henrik Lundqvist.  Yes, Dan, it sucks to get old.]

I very clearly see their problems, watching from the eye in the sky while sitting on my living room couch.  This is what’s wrong with the Rangers:  They have all the pieces but they lack the urgency and intensity – that drive, that fortitude, whatever you want to call it; that extra SOMETHING that all champions seem to possess  – to take advantage of their opportunities, to capitalize on the other team’s mistakes.  They need to have a single-mindedness of purpose to FINISH.  They get plenty of opportunities, but they consistently waste them, to my great frustration and consternation.  My daughter and I frequently text during Ranger games, and I can’t tell you how many times I use the words “BLOWN CHANCE!!”.  It’s no longer even mildly amusing; it’s beginning to be pathetic.  They also need to be QUICKER – quicker with their decisions and puck movement, especially in the offensive zone and especially at this stage of the season, when they’ve had a whole year to sharpen up their timing and familiarity with one another (with some leeway for Eric Staal, who just came into the mix, and Rick Nash, who has just returned to the lineup after missing 20 games).

Who knows?  I keep hoping that the team, having made it as far as the Conference Finals twice and the Stanley Cup Finals once in the past three years, is saving their best for the post-season, now that they know what it takes.  Only time will tell.

Mats Zuccarello was telling everyone on the bench before last night’s game against the Florida Panthers (which, much to my relief, they won) to “Have fun out there”, and it’s so true:  When the boys are playing well, it’s way more enjoyable for them, and the same goes for the fans.  A good Rangers win, savored from my couch surrounded by purring kitties, is the best remedy by far for a stressful day.

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