Stretched Out of Shape

Stretched Out of Shape

The other day, a friend and I were sharing with one another how stressed we’ve felt lately. My go-to phrase this year has been that I am “stretched too thin.” She also expressed frustration that she was being “pulled in too many directions.”

While the levels of stress we are both feeling are nothing to laugh at, I chuckled when an image of Stretch Armstrong popped into my head. The toy was designed to be stretched, pulled, and twisted, with a promise that it would regain its original shape in just a short time, but anyone who actually had a Stretch Armstrong knows it wasn’t actually indestructible. The toys could be stretched too far, at which point they would develop small tears that would ooze out the interior gel. If you didn’t let it fully regain its original shape before stretching it out again, it would take longer and longer to regain its original shape. And if you ever found an old Stretch Armstrong in your childhood toybox, you’d have discovered that it had turned rock hard, permanently contorted into whatever the last shape it had been twisted into.

I couldn’t help but find a metaphor in the image. People can be stretched thin by stress and demands every now and then and still regain their equilibrium; often, those moments of being pulled and twisted can even make them stronger.  But when they are repeatedly stretched over and over without being given the opportunity to shrink back into normalcy,  it becomes more and more difficult for them to find their stasis. Some part of them always feels overextended, and as they continue to be stretched, they start to tear, losing the ability to feel completely whole again.

That’s where I feel I am right now. I’ve been pulled thin by so much this year -work responsibilities, family responsibilities, unexpected emergencies, and health issues – that it’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever return to a state where I feel normal and fully able to take on the usual strains of life. I feel defeated, and every time things start to feel a little more balanced, I get yanked out of shape again. Often, I feel like I should break or snap, but some internal elasticity still holds me together. I long to be allowed to shrink back into my natural state, even if I’m ultimately a little worse for the wear, but I keep getting pulled and twisted in every direction.

Still, as overwhelming and draining as these experiences have been, I hope I never become so firm and bent from these experiences that I can no longer grow.

Kelly Vollmer
Kelly first moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, from which she earned a B.S. in Psychology and English and an M.A. in English. She quickly discovered New Orleans was the place where she had always belonged, and her high school sweetheart, Jeff, soon followed her here. They have now been married for 16 years and have two beautiful girls, Emma Jane (11) and Hannah (6), and 4 year-old pup named Ember. Kelly is a lover of all things nerdy, a proud fangirl, and she is a passionate high school English teacher.


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