Seeking inner peace is stressing me out

Jonna Jerome

There’s an undercurrent that’s been rippling through the collective consciousness that encourages us to learn how to find gratitude in any situation, joy in the moment, and evolve our higher selves. This is supposed to better enable us to cope with uncertainty and anxiety. 

These well-intended messages are everywhere, whether they come through health and wellness experts, Deepak Chopra, or the baristas at your favorite coffee bar. Especially the baristas, as they’re seeking fulfillment while highly caffeinated.

The pursuit of happiness?

In my attempt to resign as the Queen of Chaos, I embraced this journey with gusto. Not only would I seek gratitude, I stacked on lofty goals such as achieving inner peace, mindfulness, and threw in self-care for good measure. I was determined to find that elusive calm in the eye of the storm. My type A personality shouted “I can do this!”

As you might guess, the very activities designed to offer coping skills and relief grew into another obligation I couldn’t keep up with – like balancing the work/life equation, or simply the growing laundry pile on my bed.

It began like this…


I decided to see a therapist to work through my fears so I wouldn’t drive away all my friends. I took a deep dive to find one that I could relate to. This proved more difficult than I anticipated, especially when they don’t have kids and are a decade (or more) younger than I. How can they relate? The ultimate letdown came after the third, hearing my experiences, said, “I don’t know how you get out of bed in the morning.” I wish I was kidding. It was very unhelpful.

Needless to say, a big gigantic awakening didn’t present itself in those sessions. The expectation that it should made me feel like I’m doing it wrong – and I know performance anxiety should not be the result of a therapy session. I was given the advice to meditate, which left me with a terrible urge to punch the doctor.

It’s just that I’ve tried so hard to meditate – only to discover I’m phenomenally bad at it. And, somehow it seems to be negatively and transcendentally attached to my cell phone use.


The first time I attempted to meditate, I shut the door, settled onto my new cushion, lit a scented candle, muted my phone, and got down to it. Twenty minutes later, frustrated I couldn’t stay focused, I returned to the real world – which unfortunately I hadn’t really left. I found I missed a call from a loved one in treatment. It was her only call for the entire week!

The second time, I did all the above rituals and listened to a guided meditation for assistance. This time I missed a phone call from an elusive physician to go over lab work. Apparently I’m allergic to both my beloved cat and dog, and had a severe reaction to black pepper. It just so happens most of my backyard haven consists of pepper trees. So, the three things that bring me joy can also apparently kill me. Epipen: Check.

The third time, I attended a group meditation designed to help people tap into their intuition. I felt like a fraud, not having the “breakthroughs” everyone else seemed to be experiencing. Honestly, how can these people be so upbeat? It was annoying. And – you guessed it – I missed another phone call from a stranger reporting my son had fainted while running. I rushed to my car only to find it had been demolished from a hit and run. Clearly, I have no intuition at all, or I would have foreseen all this and stayed home.

The full-body soak

My girlfriend suggested an experience of complete pampering and surrender to help me relax. It didn’t take much persuasion, because why wouldn’t soaking in a natural hot spring and getting a massage be anything but blissful? We traveled to a serene desert wellness spa. Without going into too much detail, the healing waters brought out a rash in my most sensitive places, the deep tissue massage resulted in yet another tear in my rotator cuff, and my bank account took a big hit.

The Kitchen Sink

I can’t help but think the universe is telling me that meditation and hot tubs aren’t my gateway. So, I turned to other tactics. I did yoga until my body screamed “Uncle!”, listened to podcasts and read books from wellness experts, took classes, did a diet cleanse, worked in the garden (sans pepper trees), cleaned the house until I scrubbed the finish off the floors, and walked the dog until I had to pick him up and carry him. Because I didn’t want to kill my dog, I made an acupuncture appointment.


I dutifully lay on the cushy table and listened to soothing music and a tinkling fountain. I didn’t punch anybody when getting needles stuck in my body. I’m not going to lie, there was some blood.

What followed resembled a battle scene from a Lord of the Rings movie. My muscles were so tense, they contracted in a way that shot the needles out like arrows at a velocity strong enough to fly across the room! The doctor took refuge behind a decorative screen until the barrage was over. Her following words were as unhelpful as the therapist’s. “Stress much?” Maybe a vodka martini would have worked better. It would certainly have been less expensive.

The Takeaway

My tired psyche at last realized the quest itself was stressing me out, and engaging in cathartic practices won’t improve my mindset if I’m expecting miracles or something external to fix me. Maybe squeezing all these activities and expectations onto an already crowded “to do” list isn’t as therapeutic as it should be.

I surrendered to the idea that I need to be okay even when things aren’t okay. This may not sound like a huge epiphany to you, but for me it’s seismic.

Whatever tools you apply to cope with hard times, be it meditation, prayer, health coaches or chocolate – not all of us are going to find grace in the heat of the moment. If it were simple, we’d all be as evolved as Deepak. Sometimes knowing you’re trying has to be enough, and the barista can put in a good word for you with the powers that be.

Guess when I figured all this out? While trying to meditate during complete chaos. Hmmm. Despite some unexpected outcomes, I did learn something on this journey, and so can you. For now, I’m going out to carry my dog.

One last bit of advice: If you meditate, maybe meet the universe halfway by not muting your cell phone.


This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Lynda Galins

    Love this message!!!

  2. craig cynowa

    You have a real “Irma Bombeck” take on life. I love it! Took me right out of myself and my challenges of the moment.

  3. Jessica

    I can’t believe that you said being OK with not being OK, that has been my new motto! Love this article and its so refreshing to hear that I’m not alone. I’ll be thinking of you in the morning when I’m drinking my coffee 🙂 truly words of encouragement.

  4. Carollynn

    Being okay with not being okay is the epiphany of meditation, at least Buddhist stuff. It sounds like you were perfectly mindful, and it got you there. Or here. Because it’s still here.

    I’m so glad you’re writing and putting this out there!

  5. donna burke

    This was great!

  6. Roberta Shanman

    Jonna – you are a really good writer! I both cringed & laughed at how you described your experiences, and I totally agree with your conclusion. I think having a sense of humor & the ability to laugh at ourselves is so important to get us all through whatever life throws at us – and you really have that talent.
    Thanks so much for sharing this!

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