Rushing to Relax

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I had a mild hump-day/Park Slope co-op induced anxiety attack this evening, following my third day back in New York. After a long month of pure relaxation on consecutive vacations in Israel and California, I don’t think my body (or psyche) was able to adjust to such a rapid change in pace of life.

I flew from San Francisco to New York Sunday at the crack of dawn, stayed up all night unpacking and moving rooms, and started work at the Jewish Disaster Response Corps Monday morning. So far, I love the job– Adina, the executive director, is wonderful and welcoming. She’s organized and motivated, and I think we’re going to make a great team. I’m playing the role of program director, which means coordinating all logistics, curriculum, and communication for the service-learning trips we’ll be running in Oklahoma in January and March. Those trips will focus on helping rebuild from the massive tornadoes that struck the state in May, but the JDRC also mobilizes volunteers for Hurricane Sandy relief, and any other major natural disasters that might hit the US throughout the year.

In any case, between switching time zones, starting a new job,  and trying to get back in the swing of things at Moishe House all in the same week– grocery shopping, joining a gym, oh, right… and the High Holidays… things have been a bit hectic. I finished work and rushed home, trying to make it back in time to join an interfaith walk for 9/11 remembrance day in Brooklyn. I think I bit off a bit more than I can chew, given that I spent the past two evenings out catching up with friends and needed desperately to make phone calls and answer emails. So I decided to drop my stuff off and head to the Park Slope co-op to do some grocery shopping for the next few days.

The co-op, God bless it, is a bit disorganized when it comes to keeping track of memberships. I’ve had issues with them in the past, but always written it off as a lovable quirk that comes along with belonging to a super funky, hip and healthy alternative to big box grocery chains. You trade in your pesticides and jacked-up prices for a bit of kookiness & the occasional accidental suspension of your account thanks to some colossal error in the membership office.

Tonight, though, I didn’t have the patience. I had an hour to shop and get home with groceries before a yoga class I desperately wanted to get to in order to blow off some steam, but the co-op had other plans for my evening. After being told I was suspended for being on leave, I navigated through several clerical SNAFUs with the friendly yet discombobulated membership coordinator, and finally thought I had my account all squared away aside from several phone calls I’d have to make later to clear up several errors he wasn’t authorized to fix and switching a shift I already knew I had to miss. Whew. As the coordinator so cheerfully informed me, “You’re good to shop!”

Wrong. I got through my quick run of the store and handed the cashier my membership card. “You’re not authorized to shop right now because you’re suspended. I can’t override,” he told me apologetically. “You’re gonna have to go settle this with the membership office.”

I fumed. “It’s getting to be more work to shop here than not!” I told him, knowing it wasn’t his fault. He looked sympathetic. All co-op members have been through the whole rigamarole at one point or another… most of them numerous times… and he could relate. I left my purse and cart with the confused looking line manager and dashed through the co-op and up the flight of stairs back to the membership office, waited with waning patience as the membership coordinator explained the seemingly never-ending list of ways one can prove his or her residence to a prospective new member, and then begged him to kindly update my account status so I could go back down and pay for my groceries.

By the time I got back down, waited in line again, and paid, I was going to have to make a mad dash to get home and unpack the frozen items before jetting over to yoga. Breathless and heart racing wildly, I thought to myself, “Oof, what a ridiculous hump-day co-op induced anxiety attack,” shortly followed by, “I need an Ativan,” … and “Hey, that’s good, I should tweet that!” Of course I couldn’t reach my smart-phone while balancing my box of groceries and speed-walking down 5th avenue, so I decided it could wait ’til I got home. Still though, the oh-so-clever line stuck in my head on repeat, as I simultaneously thought of the massage I wanted to book, the dinner I wanted to make, the email I had to send, and the yoga class I now needed to sprint to in order to be there the necessary fifteen minutes early to get a spot in the eternally jam-packed studio. My heart rate spiked and sweat ran down my forehead in bullets.

The sad part, I have to admit, is how common this type of experience is. We pop xanax and valium as we rush to yoga, facebook message furiously as we walk the 10 feet from work to the subway, and make mental note of the tweets/emails/facebook messages we want to send the second we get out of the subway and back into wi-fi. Even as I type this, I’m panicking about how I have to confirm my soccer team roster, write a blurb for a poetry workshop, pick a day to volunteer with my ESL student, and somehow make time to say hello to my roommates who have also just returned from various parts of the world. Not to mention ten billion other enjoyable activities I’d love to plan and meals I’d love to cook if I could just make space in my brain to make it all happen!

If scheduling a massage, joining a peace march, writing a blog post, and making it to a yoga class have turned into stressful events, then what on earth CAN we turn to when we need to take the pressure off? I realized things today have gotten a bit ridiculous when I looked down at my to-do list and saw “Map out free time,” jotted down just underneath “Lie on floor and stretch,” “Call Dad for his birthday,” “Go Outside to sit in the backyard” and “Decorate Room” as if those were stressful chores that need to be in my google calendar with plentiful reminders if they’re ever going to happen. How sad is that??!!

The state of affairs in our modern day life, especially in fast-paced cities like New York lived out by overachiever, neurotic Jewish- joiner types like myself, has the potential to really screw up our priorities. As I take a breath now to breathe, letting my fingers slow down just a tad from their typing, I wonder what I can cut out to make my life a little more sane. It’s a new year on the Jewish calendar, and some reflection is in order.

The truth is, I don’t know what I can cut out. But I better figure it out soon. As soon as I post this blog post on facebook so all my friends can like it.

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