Friday, December 09, 2005

Stress and the City

Its Friday and a photoshoot we had planned just got cancelled, so I am HAPPY and feeling more relaxed than I did this morning when I first woke up.

2 kids + move + work + city noise = lots of heart-thumping anxiety for Mama Jens. So here's what I did a couple of weeks ago in response: threw my back out. I was just taking out the trash, twisted my arm a funny way, and voila! my back has been hurting since. It is getting much better, but still feels very stiff in weird places.

Anyways, I have this awesome physical therapist who does physiotherapie and heileurtythmie. I went to him a couple of years ago too when I hurt my back. He's actually much more of a psychotherapist than anything, and I always leave feeling very calm and determined to do things for myself like take long baths and go on wellness retreats. He's excellent. He also does some pushing around on my spine and massage and these sort of esoteric exercises, but the kinds of questions he asks makes me realize that the pain in my back has everything to do with my level of stress. Physiologically, there is nothing wrong...I am just wound very tightly...

There is no wonder why when you consider that just getting across Prenzlauer Allee goes something like this: First come to bike lane, stop for high-speed bicyclists, then stop again for two lanes of speeding traffic coming from the left, then stop again for tram coming from left, then stop for tram coming from right, then cross two more lanes of car traffic coming from the right, stop, look again for bikers, cross bike lane...Whew! Made it to other side. Just doing this with a child in a stroller and a child on a bike is enough to give the clearest mind the feeling that they need to check into the nuthouse.

Then there is the noise. Both of my children have grown up so far hearing the clangs and bangs and drillings of the post-wall rebuilding in East Berlin. They have both danced to the rhymical sounds of jackhammers, bouncing up and down like their little musical souls tell them too. My little one falls asleep in her stroller the minute we hit the cold, fresh air. Then we pass a construction site and I clench my teeth. Then, I hold my breath and hope the whole dang thing doesn't fall down on my head (=paranoid). When we moved to this apartment, I made the realtor swear up and down that she didn't know anything about the old building next door and any plans for renovation. She swore she didn't. Well, a few months later, those scaffolding trucks rolled in, and for the next six months, everytime I was taking a shower, I half expected to be joined by a dusty man with a drill. We seriously thought our bathroom would cave in on us. I once asked our pediatrician what he thought about city living vs countryside living with regards to allergies and eczema. He said that in the countryside there is more to be allergic to in the way of trees, but the city is much worse because of the stress from the noise level.

I think moving to a much smaller city (well, I don't think I could actually call Chapel Hill a city with a straight face) will have wonderous effects on our stress levels. There will be no busy streets to cross with all these kids, because...well, people don't cross streets, they drive. The general pace and noise level will of course be totally different. I am looking forward to ice tea and porches swings. I wonder if we will really be able to slow down there, or if we will still find a way to be totally stressed and neurotic. The physiotherapist votes for the former. He always says he doesn't know how someone with my "constitution" can survive in this city.

Have a lovely, stress-free Friday. Get a massage! Go to the sauna! Look at a white wall for 20 minutes! Avoid busy streets and traffic jams! Breathe deeply.


Blogger Elemmaciltur said...

Ooooh, a massage would be lovely. I look at our white wall 24/7 anyway. *g*

11:17 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Oh man I drove my daughter to kita this morning. I still feel guilty and it does nothing for my stress level. Whereas packing her in the trailer and speeding down the bike path relaxes me followed by the soul massage of my iPod on the ride home.

Also, I'll keep an eye out for a black Bugaboo since we apparently live very near one another.

11:30 AM  
Blogger mama jens said...

Elemmaciltur - nice new pic!

Andrew - Thanks. I check every black bugaboo I see, problem is there are about 20,000 of them in this neighborhood. Mine had a broken bag string on the bottom. If you see it, beat the guy (or gal) up for me, would ya? And yeah, those bike trailers look pretty cool. Packing all the kids in there and speeding around town (esp. with an ipod) sounds perfect. If we weren't moving I'd invest in one.

1:02 PM  
Blogger christina said...

Your poor back! A friend of mine did that when she was emptying the dishwasher and turned away slightly to sneeze. On the couch for weeks.

Yeah, it will be great for the kids (and the adults!) to get away from the city noise and pollution. That can't be doing anybody any good.

A wellness retreat sounds like and excellent idea.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

You're moving to Chapel Hill? Could you have found any spot on the planet less like Berlin? I don't think so... My family is from Columbia, South Carolina ... I know a little about Chapel Hill ... It's lovely and collegiate and southern!

Anyway, I've been away from the blog for technical reasons lately and just popped in to check up ...

Hope all is well up there in Berlin ... things are swell here in Koln ...


8:18 PM  

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