Last Tuesday I had a client spend a good part of her session talking about, none other than, mashed potatoes. She had been rushing all morning preparing for her Thanksgiving meal; she created a schedule down to the minute which allowed for one hour to slip into a therapy appointment. These in-laws are coming, those siblings are bringing this and that and she was trying to get things in order. She had a faint memory of her mother telling her that one type of potato was better than another for the perfect mash, but she didn't remember which was that "right" potato. She had boiled them, drained them and begun to mash them as her husband entered the kitchen to see why she was uttering profanity at the potatoes.
As we dissected the stress, the emotions, and the mashed potatoes it became clear that the whirlwind of anxiety was not really about the potatoes, but about her relationship with her mother, perceptions of family expectations and feelings of inadequacy. As she finished the session, my client's parting words were "I am so glad I didn't skip this week. I didn't think I'd have time to come in, but this was a well-spent hour."
So often we project our inner inadequacies and stress onto the minutiae of our day. I can't imagine that road rage during the 5:00 rush hour doesn't have something to do with a lousy day at the office or a nasty boss. I think about all the craziness at the mall over the next few weeks and wonder about people searching for the perfect gift to heal a relationship or calm a turbulent family situation.
The holidays have arrived. The Salvation Army folks have been ringing their bells for weeks at the Giant, wreaths are up and the endless soundtrack of Christmas music is on every radio station. Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Years are upon us. If you are feeling overly stressed; pause. Take a deep breath. Think about your last interaction or thought. Was it the phone call from your spouse or the nastygram from you teenager? We are so accustomed to swallowing our emotions and having them erupt at the dinner table or the pot of mashed potatoes that we often don't even realize we are upset until it is too late.
As my client said "it was an hour well spent". If you are thinking that your own potatoes are about to boil over, consider giving yourself the gift of "an hour well spent". I don't think you will regret it.