Ally Ally Oxen Free – On Stress and Finding Home Base


photo-11Did you play tag and hide and seek when you were a kid?  I did. I’m a baby boomer and my neighborhood was full of kids. On warm summer evenings after dinner, we would somehow all know where to “meet up” and fun would break out. Gangs of kids, some faster, some slower, big ones, little ones and many in-betweens, all together we would pick who was “it” and scatter, squealing and joyous, until we were found or tagged and had to “go home.”

For games of tag, we’d all touch home base taunted by “it” until we sortied out, running away from home and tempting fate (and the speed of “it”), quickly returning to safety unless caught. For hide and seek counting would start it, “Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty…..ninety five, hundred, ready or not here I come.” One by one, we’d be caught and captured, or dodging carefully behind bushes and peering around corners while another was chased, we’d run home, safe.

Best of all came the moment, late in the game, when if you were still uncaught you would hear, “Ally, Ally Oxen Free,” which meant you had avoided capture. You had won.

In my neighborhood, home base was often the side of a house, usually my house. We lived in the middle of the block. It was convenient, we had a big side yard,  and, I guess, in retrospect, me being me, maybe I organized it. So for me, home base, the place of safety, was my home.  That was true then for the game, and that is surely true now for my life.

Ok, nostalgic, but if you’re wondering why this is on my mind, it’s because work has been extremely stressful of late. Our funding is being cut. We laid off two teachers and I have to figure how to keep everything going with the existing resources (me, mostly) while the 25 hours I am paid for routinely expand to 30 or 35. And I am having a tough time falling to sleep and find myself waking up early, sleep deprived, but mulling over the problems I will face later in the day.

So, stress is driving me back to basics: to home and refuge with my husband and dog,  to plans for visits with my family; and to finding touch points of peace, church, prayer, music, walking near water, watching sunsets, meditation.

Maslow's HierarchyBasics. When life doesn’t make sense, go back to the basics. Maslow says there is a Hierarchy of Needs and it start with breathing, (those who teach meditation agree), then on to safety, and belonging. Those are the basic needs everyone shares.

Most important, when we are stressed, we need to remind ourselves that meeting our needs takes focus in the right areas. Put another way: We need to identify home base.

You see, you can’t just wait, hold your breath, and hope what you need just happens. In fact, especially in tough times, you need to breathe (slowly and calmly), drink lots of water, and eat good food (no junk, little or no caffeine) because when we’re stressed we are awash with stress hormones: adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol. We can’t afford a lot of other chemicals. Taking care of our body is critical since stress also reduces our immune system.

Then, if Maslow is right, we have to protect ourselves physically, psychologically, and spiritually. In my life that means drawing upon my husband,  friends and family, and, for me,  it also requires prayers, meditation, and some lashes from a long tongue attached to a wiggly furry body turning herself in circles with joy at the sight of me. (Maslow seems to have missed that last one.)

I am and will be ok. I can do the basics. And while stress is no stranger to me, and life has not always been easy, I am blessed nonetheless. I know where home base is and I know how to get there. And if this makes sense to you, you probably do, too.  We will be ok, “Ally, Ally, Oxen Free; Alley, Ally, Ally, Ally Oxen Free.”

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About joanneeddy

Writer living in North Carolina. Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace 'living deliberately' in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.
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