Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Best-Laid Plans

It’s amazing the havoc that stress and lack of sleep can wreak on your mind.

I’m what psychologists call a “highly sensitive person.”  No, that does not mean that I’m easily offended.  It does not mean that I fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. It means that my brain processes information differently – in greater detail.  It’s actually a relatively common trait – occurring in about one in five people – and it appears to be biological.

Sometimes, I love this about myself.  But sometimes, it exhausts me.  One of the drawbacks to having a brain that’s more sensitive to incoming information, is that it’s easily overloaded.  I hate crowds.  I hate loud noises.  I used to be absolutely inconsolable during the 4th of July fireworks.  They still scare me a little, if I’m too close to the source.  Combine the sensitivity with my natural introversion (the traits are not always concurrent, but in my case, they are), and if I’m around people for too long, I just want to scream.  It’s not the people – it’s just my brain.

I took a job last week house-sitting and dog-sitting for a family that was going on vacation.  They weren’t paying me nearly enough, but I was thrilled at the opportunity to have a house all to myself for a few days.  Plus, I love dogs, and they’d told me their dog was very easy-going.  If I took him for a run every morning, walked him every evening, and fed him twice a day, he would spend the rest of his time sleeping on the couch. I was expecting a few days of blissful quiet, where I could write, focus on my math homework, and just let my brain recharge a little in the quiet and solitude of this little house.

Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans…

When I arrived on Saturday, the house was a total mess (I am also a clean freak, so messes stress me out a little.  Fortunately, I also enjoy cleaning…).  The owners told me their cleaning lady would be by tomorrow to clean it, and from then on, I’d be on my own.  As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, that was just fine by me. 

I took their beagle, Joey, out for his evening walk a few hours later, which was when I discovered that their “easy-going pup” wasn’t quite so angelic after all.  He threw every one of his fifty pounds into dragging me after whatever scent or person or animal happened to be in his line of sight.  He tried to jump an old man walking with a cane.  Every time we passed the house with the mastiff in the yard, he nearly yanked my arms out of their sockets on his suicide mission.

But I’m just as stubborn as that darn beagle, so I threw all of my own weight into getting him under control, and while I’m sure it was a more than giggle-inducing image watching us make our way down the street, I managed to get him his exercise and return us both in one piece.

Sunday arrived, and so did the cleaning lady.  She was an absolute sweetheart and we had a delightful chat when she first arrived.  And then another one when I opened my math book to start studying.  And then another one when she wanted to know which toothbrush in the bathroom (they had about seven on the counter and in the bathtub) belonged to me. And then another one when she was on her way out.

I did two math problems of the twenty assigned.  Energy thoroughly depleted, I decided I would just go to bed and focus on my work in the morning, when I was bound to be refreshed.

Six o’clock in the morning. I wake to anxious beagle whining.  I drag myself out of bed, the sort of exhaustion that hangs in your throat and your head and your limbs making my trek to the living room much slower than usual.  I opened the back door to let Joey into the yard.  He looked at me like I was crazy, and stayed inside.  It was too early to feed him, and when I tried to play with him he just gave me that blank look and flopped onto the couch.

So, I went back to bed.  Moments later, he was by my bed, whining desperately.  This pattern repeated until I gave up and got up.  He didn’t want food.  He didn’t want to play.  He didn’t need to go outside and relieve himself.  He just didn’t want me to be asleep anymore, the little bugger.

I took him for his run (which, by the way, involved a lot of me getting clotheslined by his leash as he stopped suddenly to sniff something, chase a garbage truck, or pee).  And then I got a run in of my own, took some coffee out to the backyard with my math textbook, and started working.

And then the cleaning lady came by again.  We had some lovely discussions.  I tried to politely excuse myself to the room I was staying in to do some studying, but as luck would have it, she needed to clean something in there. So we had some more lovely discussions (I’m not actually being sarcastic – the conversation was fantastic – my brain was just screaming for silence).  I got another homework problem done.  And maybe half of another.

The cleaning lady told me she’d need to be back the next afternoon to finish the job (yes, the house really was that dirty).  I resigned myself to having my afternoon invaded again, but promised myself that I’d work hard in the morning to catch up on my homework.

Five thirty in the morning and Joey was whining.  This time, I just got up to take him for his run immediately, then showered and hopped right back into bed for a quick hour nap so I could be awake enough to do my math.  Thirty minutes into my nap, my phone rang.  It was the family, telling me that their plans had changed and they might need me to come back in a week.  I was groggily trying to wrap my head around the dates they were talking about when I heard the front door open.  Still fuzzy and blinking from sleep, I slipped out of the room, taser in hand - you know, just in case.

It was the cleaning lady.

Do I need to tell you I got no homework done?

So that’s how I found myself in class yesterday, taking a quiz in which the only question was an example the professor had done earlier in class, knowing full well what the answer was, but utterly unable to remember how to get to it.

This, my friends, is my brain without rest.

I’m back home now, and I had a blissfully quiet morning today.  And a raging headache.  But I took my tylenol, my cup of chamomile tea (my personal cure-all), and meditated in my cool, quiet, empty room.

And then, I motored through that homework like nobody’s business.  Amazing what a little battery-recharging will do for a person.

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