When Life Is Stressful… Or, When a Chair is Not a Chair


(Originally posted at The Blue Room.)

We’re experiencing some moderate upheaval in the Dana house.

My husband’s company was recently acquired by a firm in California. This has meant some exciting opportunities in the works, but also a lot of a travel.

Like, Monday-Friday travel.

Like, every week travel.

Like, ten days in Bangalore this spring travel.

We know that things will settle down once the initial process of merging two corporate cultures is complete. There will still be business trips, just not every single week. In the meantime, it’s something we have to make it through as best we can.

I do a fair amount of travel myself, often to lead conferences and retreats and things, and while I absolutely love it, it can be hard to practice self-care while on the road. It’s hard to eat well, find time to exercise, and get good sleep (especially in a different time zone). Then you come home to various chores and responsibilities that have piled up. Over the last few weeks, the home projects (and there are many that need to happen around here) have ground to an utter halt. Not to mention the needs of children who missed you and held it together in your absence but who now want to spend every moment with you. And/or who let loose with all kinds of unpleasant behaviors now that there are two parents to absorb the very big feelings.

It’s a stressful time in general… and then I worry about Robert’s stress level on top of my own. Yes, I feel sympathy stress.

But there’s this funny thing that I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that calms my worries and tells me that everything’s going to be OK. You see, Robert recently got a fish tank, after many years of wanting one. He was smart about it—he knows that our life isn’t set up for a fiddly hobby, so he stocked it with fish that are easy to care for, bought a couple of automatic feeders, and so forth. I’ve always been pretty ‘meh’ about fish, but we’ve all enjoyed having these little creatures in our family room/kitchen. Frederica is a pearl gourami and is the queen of the fish tank. We think she’s brilliant. The rasboras have distinct personalities; the scrappy guy is named Joe Pesci and enjoys bugging the other fish. The cory cats are determined to breed, but someone keeps eating the eggs.

Anyway, the image that cheers and comforts me is not the fish tank, exactly. It’s one of the kitchen chairs, pulled out from under the table and sitting facing the fish tank. I will come down in the morning, after Robert’s gone to work or left for an early-morning flight, and I will see that chair facing the fish tank. It makes me smile. The chair means that, before heading out in the morning (or sometimes before coming upstairs to bed), he sat down for a few minutes and watched the fish.

A fish tank is like an organic lava lamp. It’s hard to feel stress when watching fish.

The thing is, I have no idea whether he sat there for ten seconds or ten minutes. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the intention. What matters is taking the time to pull the chair around to the aquarium, to sit, and to watch.

Your life may be stressful right now. Time for rest and recreation may be hard to come by. But I hope you’ve got something like a chair and a fish tank. It can make a big difference.


Oh hey… a Blue Room email is going out soon! Are you signed up?

Image: Fish and family room.

About MaryAnn

pastor, writer, haphazard knitter
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to When Life Is Stressful… Or, When a Chair is Not a Chair

  1. I wonder if this would work with an empty fish tank or a tank filled with glitter (…as I’m afraid of fish!) Even just picturing a lit up tank swirling with glitter is calming. Thanks for writing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s