Thursday, May 25, 2006

#132 - Passing the Stress Test

My dear sister Chris posted this comment regarding my "Ticker Trouble:"

I don't envy you the stress test, tho. Maybe they could just monitor a normal day at work instead?


It got me to thinking, though, about the stress I have in my life today, as opposed to what I used to have before I married Mrs. Woody.

It would be untruthful, of course, for me to state that I have less stress in my life than I did before. What I have now, though, is a different kind of stress. Let me try to illustrate:

I have led, basically, three different lives. The first was my childhood and youth. One might argue that this lasted approximately 45 years, but that defeats the purpose of categorizing my life in this manner. So for practical purposes, we will propose that my childhood/youth lasted until my first marriage at age 24. Stress during this period was measured in terms of wanting to already be grown up without having to deal with the responsibilities of being grown up. I have a son in this period of life right now. He ain't seen nothing yet.

Mrs. Woody likes to classify my first marriage as my "starter marriage." This is natural for second wives, I'm told, and I certainly have no argument with it. It is true, for example, that I learned a lot in that first marriage, and not just from the obvious mistakes, either. I have two children from that marriage, whom I love dearly, and each of whom have had their own trials and "issues" with which to deal over the years. We had experiences as foster parents that I would not trade for all the world, but that I have absolutely no desire to repeat in my life. Ever.

This period of life was stressful in ways that became somewhat destructive over time. We were married for nearly 12 years. In that amount of time I estimate I aged approximately 20 years based on the worries and physical challenges I endured in that timeframe. The physical stresses were primarily due to having to commute over 130 miles a day for 8 years, and not getting anywhere near enough sleep because my wife always wanted to have "deep" conversations precisely during those hours when I should have been dead to the world. Add to this mix the fact that my career was very nearly in the toilet during these years, and you have a recipe for a Molotov Stress Cocktail.

The actual reasons for our divorce are unimportant to this discussion, but suffice it to say that all those stresses contributed in one fashion or another to our demise.

The beginning of the third stage of my life, of course, is centered on getting reacquainted with my love and best friend, Mrs. Woody. (I don't ever call her this, by the way, but you are not allowed to know the mysterious yet deeply schlocky things that we use as endearments. Tough.) We are best friends in every sense of the term. We mesh so completely in our personalities that it sometimes is difficult to see where one ends and the other begins.

The stresses we have now are vastly different from the ones that nearly ruined me in my previous life.

The stresses of relationship are nearly non-existent. Whatever stress may arise is nearly always the result of my feeling a little selfish at some point. We just work too well together for that to ever be an issue. Neither is my career now the question mark that it once was. In fact, you might say I'm at the top of my game, career-wise. I certainly could stand to make more money, but in my current position one requires a formal degree from a reputable institution before one can ask for a promotion. I'm not sure if or when that might happen, even with company reimbursement available to me.

My new batch of children - the storied Woodyettes® - are still in their sweet ages and therefore the stress they cause is negligible.

So, what stresses does Woody deal with today?

Well, for one thing, even though I'm thriving in my career, the rules have changed. I work for a global company. I have internal customers that literally span the entire contiguous United States. They live and work in four time zones. I'm responsible for desktop applications that many of them use every day, and if anything goes wrong, I have to support. Last night was a good example; one of my programs had crashed (I actually fouled something up and had to fix it), and I was up until nearly 3:30 a.m. local time getting things back to normal. The beauty of the virtual office age. Even though I only work in the office for 8 or 9 hours a day, I work nearly that much at home now. So long as I have a wireless connection, I can work nearly anywhere. And, of course, my backlog automatically expands to fill my available time, whether in the office or at home.


At home the stress is less obvious, but there nonetheless. Mrs. Woody and I both have physical challenges of differing levels. Hers are more extreme, and make for required adjustments in our work-sharing arrangements. I do more physical things around the house, but Mrs. Woody makes up for it by doing the cerebral stuff so I don't have to. She takes care of the finances, manages our menu planning (I do most of the cooking and cleaning), and, most notably, teaches our girls every single day. Literally. She is a full-time teacher to our Woodyettes. Almost ironically, most of Mrs. Woody's stress is worrying that I have to do so much at home, while most of mine is worrying about Mrs. Woody's comfort levels, and burning my candle at both ends. Shades of O. Henry.


Oddly enough, it truly is one of those "hurts so good" things. Because we love each other so much, and because our perspectives are truly eternal in nature, we can endure whatever nonsense life chooses to throw our way. Sure we're stressed. Of course I don't get enough sleep. Who does these days? But every time I come home, even after running a short errand, I know I'm assured of a warm and loving reception from three special ladies in my life. I know that Mrs. Woody is truly as happy to see her "Bud" as she says she is. My small people make sure that "Daddy" knows just how much they love me by giving me great, big bear hugs as soon as I open the door.

Yep. It hurts. And it's a truly good kind of hurt.

Do I pass?

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