Under Pressure

Photo Credit: DeWitt Clinton

“Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”
― J.M. Barrie

I took my car in for a routine oil change this week. And I left feeling incredibly thankful to be alive.

I won’t get into the details of it, but as it turns out, my car’s tire pressure – which should ideally be about 35 psi – was an astonishing 110 psi. At a pressure that high, the mechanic told me, it is truly a miracle that a tire didn’t blow out while I was driving or, even worse, explode under the pressure while I was filling it with air.

As I was reminded this week, being under too much pressure  can cause serious damage. Pressure can break you.

Everywhere I look it seems like pressure is building and pushing and forcing people into almost unbearable situations. Work pressures, to varying degrees, are fairly universal. The all-too-recent economic downturn left many of us shaky and uncertain, in a constant state of job insecurity regardless of performance and abilities.

Then there are the family and relationship strains that so many people are dealing with. I have one friend struggling with the untimely death of a close family member, others who are dealing with relationship struggles, and others still who are separated from loved ones for various reasons.

There are the health scares and illnesses, lives turned upside down by cancer diagnoses and depression and bodies that are incapable of doing what the mind wants.

Not to mention the countless daily pressures that are so constant and crushing that the air starts to taste like lead and it becomes hard to breathe. The pressures that we put on ourselves, fueled by society’s expectations – pressures to be thinner or better looking, to have more money and a better car, to be happier and more optimistic. The counterproductive pressure to find peace and balance, to rid ourselves of the pressure.

And, as I look around and see so many people under pressure, and as I feel the weight of my own burdens (both external and self-imposed), I have to wonder: What can I do to keep the pressure in check? What can any of us do to keep it from breaking us? How can we keep it from causing serious damage?

I don’t ask these questions expecting to find an answer because, honestly, I’m not sure that there is an answer. Sometimes I think that it might just be the perfect mix of grit and good luck that gets us through without breaking.

But maybe there doesn’t need to be a magical answer. Maybe it is enough to simply ask the questions. Maybe it is enough to want to lighten someone’s load, to take a little of the pressure off, to shoulder the burden for a little while. Maybe it is enough to want to let go of some of our own heavy weights for a while.

As corny and idealistic and unsophisticated as it might sound, maybe all we can do is try to keep the pressure from breaking us with a little love, kindness, and empathy – for others and for ourselves. Because, really, aren’t we all just trying to manage our burdens as best we can? Aren’t we all fighting our own battles, hoping to survive?

Maybe all we can ask for is trust that things will get better and a hand to hold on to while we wait.

That and a good tire gauge, of course.


I think David Bowie says it best though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YywMn1Fwck

Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love give love give love?
Give love give love give love give love give love

Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care
For the people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way
Of caring about ourselves

This is our last dance
This is ourselves under pressure
Under pressure 


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