11 June 2013


The Gulf Stream ~ Winslow Homer

It is said that stressors (situations which trigger a stress response) may emanate from a variety of sources ~

  • environmental stressors
  • daily stress events
  • life changes
  • workplace stressors
  • chemical stressors
  • social stressors
My environmental stressors derive from where I live ~ in an apartment complex which is located near the intersection of two major traffic arteries, near a railroad yard, and beneath the flight path to the local airport.  The constant background noise from vehicles, trains, aircraft, and apartment occupants on two sides and above, all combine to elicit an ongoing feeling of claustrophobia.  That feeling is compounded by the absence of trees, parks, or other natural landscape within walking distance.  Being in nature has always been important to me.  Being without it is like trying to breathe in smoky air.  Literally.

A subset of environmental stressors is deep concern about the environment itself ~ wildlife and wilderness, the need for clean renewable energy, the pollution of our water and air and soil, the effects on all of us when the wealthy few get to make decisions which impact everyone.  I'm active in social media, and sign a dozen or more e-mail petitions daily.  It never gets easier.

My daily stress events are more limited ~ dealing with traffic when I go out on errand runs 2-3 times per week, and being awakened in the wee hours when one of my cats decides that he's hungry.  Dude is loud.  But the sight of the water squirt bottle is usually enough to persuade him to postpone his complaints for a few precious additional moments of snoozing.

I've been through more than my share of life changes ~ marriage, divorce, changing jobs,  moving, grieving the death of a loved one.  So have most of us.

Workplace stressors?  No and yes.  No, because I'm retired and no longer have to arrange my life around a job (secret gloating).  Yes, because I'm retired and subsisting on a very meager Social Security check each month.  I've no pension, IRA, stock dividends, or other income.  Long story.  So money stress is huge.

There are no chemical stressors in my life, in the sense of dependency on licit or illicit drugs.  My various medications address my physical challenges ~ high blood pressure, high cholesterol, acid reflux, recurrent pre-cancerous skin growths, and the pain reliever and muscle relaxant which allow me to sleep (mostly) in spite of chronic pain from a herniated lumbar disk.  So I guess you could say that chemicals help me deal with the physical stressors inherent in having lived a long, active life.  Getting old isn't for sissies.

So we come to social stressors, which weigh heavily.  Because I'm limited physically and financially, I don't go out much.  My good friends are scattered far and wide, with only one locally.  Further, my family members are geographically or emotionally distant (or both), which is a source of deep sorrow.  

Most days, I manage by distracting myself with writing, reading, spending time online, or watching rental DVD movies, plus enjoying the symbiosis with my two cats.  I miss the physical and financial freedom of my youth ~ being in romantic relationships, traveling, attending plays and concerts, going out every weekend to a movie and dinner.  Realistically, I've moved on to another life stage, but I refuse to simply settle for mediocrity.

Hence my current search for another place to live ~ a house or duplex in a quiet neighborhood with trees and birds, with more interior space for my own need to breathe, and in which my cats can chase each other to their hearts' content, or lie sunning on a windowsill watching the birds.  You'd think this search would be a pleasure, like a kid in a candy store.  Not so much.  The quality of life I'm looking for is quite expensive here, more than it ought to be, and perhaps more than I can afford.  It's a lot like looking for work ~ finding the right fit can take a long time, and rejection wears you down.

Thankfully, due to experience and counseling, I understand how prone I am to depression, and have an arsenal of coping skills.  If I had Aladdin's lamp and its three wishes, I'd wish for wealth (which solves most material problems), better health, and better connections with friends and family.

For now, it's back to the housing ads online.  Wish me luck.

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