Have you ever experienced stress so mind-blowingly busy that your higher cognitive functions shut down and all you want to do is curl up in a fetal position, suck your thumb, and occasionally wail "Mommy!" in pathos and defeat?
Yes. I'm melodramatic. Surprised? If so, you must be new here.
However much you want to curl up and wail, you're not allowed, and neither am I. This is one of the most unfair things about adulthood and wifehood and motherhood and service to humanity in the name of the Holy Spirit or whatever it is you choose to call your guilty conscience: too many other people are depending on you to help THEM not curl up and wail.
So what keeps you from having a complete mental breakdown when life points a hundred tennis ball throwing machines* at you and expects you keep your eyes on all the balls at once?
Prayer and awareness that God loves me certainly get me through most days upright and wail-free (or at least merely whiny), but I think God made people curious and this world entertaining for a reason. Guilty pleasures (at least, innocent ones) can give us the little freshing breaks throughout our hectic, stressful days, reset our perspective, and keep us going.
If you're not giving a bit of rein to your oxymoronic innocent guilty pleasures, one of three things is wrong.
First, you may have bought into the current cultural trend of believing that there's a prize for whoever is busiest. People, there is no prize, unless you count exhaustion as a prize, which I don't. Sometimes life gets busy, but we should stay alert for ways to slow it down, take breathers, rest. Learning to say no helps enormously.
Second, you may enjoy being a martyr. We all enjoy indulging in a bit of self-pity every now and then, wishing others would do for us like we do for them, but for some people martyrdom becomes an Olympic sport. Snap out of it! Remember that you can't help others put on their oxygen masks if you are passing out yourself.
Third, you may have a serious mental illness and need to see a licenced medical professional. I'm not joking here, not even one tiny little bit, because I've been there. When people can no longer muster the energy to do something just for fun, become so obsessed with work that they can't stop and smell the roses, or start having physical symptoms of stress (panic attacks, racing heartbeat, weight loss or gain, insomnia, etc.), professional medical help is absolutely critical.
For those of us with fairly normal brain chemistry (stop laughing, George), a little indulgence in guilty pleasures can keep us happy and coping with life's tennis ball throwing machines. Here are a few of my guilty pleasures from the past two crazy-stressful months.
1. The Big Bang Theory. Television has been giving us guilty pleasures since its invention in the late 1920s, though I imagine there really was not much worth watching in those really early days when not even the big three networks were around. Our family hardly ever watches network television in these days of National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, History Channel, and Light Jazz Music. Yes, we're geeks, so when a friend encouraged me to check out The Big Bang Theory, a sitcom about geeks, I started watching reruns on cable channels. After watching my first show, I enthusiastically informed George, who was out of town, that we needed to start watching it ALL THE TIME. He asked why. I told him a character named Sheldon went to a Halloween party dressed as the Doppler Effect. George's response: "That is so COOL!" Sheldon is our new favorite person in the whole wide world.
2. Pinterest. The Internet provides lifetimes of guilty pleasures, and at least indulging in a little Pinterest won't require you to go to confession and say a hundred Hail, Marys, as other websites might. Oh, and if you get your significant other indulging in Pinterest, as I have done, then it's a couple's activity. (Just don't let the kids on it as content isn't always appropriate for young eyes and you just never know what will pop up on the screen as you scroll down.)
3. Rereading novels I've read before. Picking up a well-loved novel and rereading my favorite parts is like visiting old friends. Very comforting.
4. Reading magazines. Since so many of my neural circuits are taken up with move-related details, my attention span is gnat-like. So magazines, which I've always loved, give me the quick fix of distraction I need.
5. Coffee. Until two months ago, I drank two cups every morning. I've now moved to three, but recognize that this guilty pleasure needs to be scaled back a bit. Coffee jitters are not a guilty pleasure.
Guilty pleasures, like everything else in life, are only good in moderation. Too much indulgence in them keeps us from carrying out our responsibilities. But truly, we need a little guilty pleasure in our life.
What are your innocent guilty pleasures?
*Shouldn't tennis ball throwing machines have a cooler name, something less clunky and more marketable? And shouldn't tennis ball be hyphenated? I googled them to find out a cooler name and they don't appear to have one, though some brands have tried to get creative. My favorite was the LOB-STER. But no one would know what you were talking about unless, well, they played tennis. Which I don't. So why am I digressing like this? Guilty word-nerd pleasure, I suspect.