There once was a guy named Newton, who discovered a truth he might have thought was just about physics but that applies equally well to life in general:
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
To me, this theory correlates with one from the field of psychology called opponent process theory, which originally was created to explain why your eyes often see an “afterimage” in an opposing color after staring at a colored circle for a long time (like if you stare intensely at a red dot and then blink, your eyes will briefly flash a green dot of the same size to your brain). Later, a psychologist took this theory and applied it to emotions, stating that there are certain emotions that are dual opposites and that after intensely feeling one, we will have an “afterimage” where we then experience the contradictory one.
What does this all have to do with my weekend?
So glad you asked.
If asked to state my dominant feeling over the past couple of weeks, it would be RELIEF–
Relief at not having to go back to teaching and return to full-time work.
Relief that I’m finally finished with my half marathon and that I performed in such a way that I could be proud of my efforts.
Relief that the weather has finally cooled down enough that long walks outside are now a tantalizing possibility again.
Relief that we’ve proved now that we really can live on one income (since the end of August marked the first time we didn’t receive mine in addition to Matt’s).
And for these last few weeks, I’ve been basking in that relief, in that sweet feeling of not having quite so much pressure on my shoulders as before, of not having quite as many outer responsibilities and demands on my time and energy.
And then, sometime in the past five or six days or so, I’ve been feeling an intense but vague anxiety—it’s not that it stemmed from anything in particular, but it was definitely there all week.
All of a sudden, that equilibrium in my emotions that I typically feel (a nice mellow “better-than-fine-but-not-crazy-giddy”) had been thrown off-balance, and after such a triumphant high of emotions that I’d been riding for weeks, I was then unsure of myself and full of doubts and afraid to do things that I’d been doing for years (like playing the piano in public and working a photo shoot).
I couldn’t put my finger on it.
But then, all my psychology training (have I ever mentioned that that’s what my minor is in?) magically burst free from the dark recesses of the lesser-used parts of my mind, and I remembered that opponent process theory that I haven’t thought about in years and years. (Truth: I actually had to look up the name of the theory because I couldn’t quite remember, it had been so long since I’d studied it.)
Anyway, what I’m trying to say (and being rather long-winded about it, too) is that I guess it’s only to be expected. After such an intense high, there’s bound to be an opposing force that comes up, and so I just need to ride out this odd wave of anxiety and uncertainty and low energy as long as it lasts.
This last weekend helped a little, though.
It helped because it got me out of the house and talking to other adults, which I haven’t had much opportunity to do lately. (Side bar: I normally don’t need as much social interaction as other people being such an introvert, so you know it’s bad when even I get to that point where I feel like I’ll go insane unless I get out and socialize a bit.) Because I spend so much time in the presence of one who can’t tell me much other than what she wants at that time, it can get lonely around here. And when it starts to get lonely, the self-doubt can start to creep in. So getting out of my head and conversing with other people who can talk me down off of my self-made ledges is a much-needed thing right now.
It helped me because I was forced to do the very things that were making me fearful (play the piano in public, conduct the meeting in church, do a photo shoot), and although I didn’t perform perfectly at any of those things, I still didn’t totally crash and burn, either.
It helped me because after the relief of knowing that I get to stay at home rather than go back to teaching, I felt an equally intense sense of loneliness and uncertainty and like I wasn’t doing nearly enough worthwhile things with my time, talents, and energy. And the trouble was, I didn’t have my usual energy to try and counter all that with keeping busy and pursuing new projects and goals. So the weekend helped me to just not focus on any of that and just get out of the house, get out of my head, and do some totally spontaneous outings–none of which had anything to do with any of my goals or aspirations or such, which provided a nice break from thinking about it all.
So, in summation, we went home to Bountiful this weekend. I did a photo shoot. We went to an art and music festival there. We saw my mother-in-law creating one of her masterpieces on location, following it up with lunch at a place we’d never tried before. We watched Raven drink in all the love from grandparents. We made it back here to Logan in time to go to a neighborhood get-together. I substituted on the piano for ward choir. We had friends over for games on Sunday night for the first time in ages. We almost finished burning through the rest of How I Met Your Mother, which we got sucked into back on our Island Park trip in July.
And it all helped. It really did.
The anxiety isn’t gone; I’ll be honest with you there.
But I think this is just part of the regular ride known as life—when you experience such an insane high, anything bringing you back to reality is going to feel a bit crushing.
But at least I have weekends like these to help me try and claw my way back up again.