I have always performed well under pressure. I have always done my best work when I’m under a deadline. But something has changed

When I was younger, stress didn’t affect me the same way it has lately. When I was a teenager, pressure would grow inside me. It would bubble to the surface in small displays of rebellion, attitude, and self destruction. Other times it would come pouring out in acts of aggression.

My mother reminded me the other day of a fencepost that stood unused in out yard. When I couldn’t contain my adolescent fury, I would take my old t-ball bat and strike the post as hard as I could. The impact would send shockwaves up the handle and sting my palms, shuddering the bones in my arms. I would masochistically relish the pain. I worked over that 4×4 so much before we moved that the sides had become concave and the dimensions of the section where my bat struck the most were reduced by a few inches. Afterwards I would feel better. I had, as they say, let off steam.

More recently I have felt the pressure gathering externally. Instead of building up inside me until I’m in danger of exploding, the pressure builds above me, around me. I begin to feel the weight of it on my shoulders. As it builds, I am enveloped by this sense of density. The air around me is replaced with a heavy blanket similar to what you wear at the dentist’s office to protect your body from X-rays.

The pressure builds until I feel in danger of the fate of the can in the video above. If I were to be similarly crushed, it would be fitting. Like the can, am pre-heated. I seem to get my self into situations that cause stress. It’s as if I am unable to be comfortable and I must get myself into some hot water before I am happy. Like the can, it is the lack of pressure inside that causes the implosion.

I realize this from time to time. I stand up straighter. I shake off the heavy blanket and feel better about myself. If I can keep myself out of the heat, if I can maintain a balance between internal and external pressures, I stand a chance at staying intact. .