Settings and Sensory Overload

The last few weeks have been stressful, dealing with moving, a new job, two pet cats with issues, and all the little complications along the way. Yet, with what is probably more actual stress than I was experiencing only a few months ago, I tend to feel much better about where I am and where we are going as a family.

Why do I feel better?

My simple answer is because I'm not in an urban setting. The most extreme anxiety I've experienced in PA was not when the basement flooded. It was not even waiting to see how JC did during cancer surgery. It was while driving in Pittsburgh. I hated the drive — intensely. I disliked downtown even more than the driving.

Don't misunderstand, I was plenty worried about J.C. Kitty during his surgery exactly a week ago. It was a lousy feeling to be wondering if I should be with him at the vet hospital, just in case something happened. But it wasn't the sort of stress that causes me to freeze and hide away. In fact, I wanted to do whatever I could for J.C.

But, sitting in traffic on Liberty in downtown Pittsburgh? I wanted to scream. I wanted to stop the car, get out, and run away to anywhere else. I felt claustrophobic; I was trapped and it seemed as though the buildings had me surrounded.

Pittsburgh is actually worse than Minneapolis. It's an older city, a city that wasn't planned or organized. I dislike the disorder. The crowded, random, messy city is overwhelming.

I can't explain it to someone who hasn't lived or worked in West, but L.A. is organized. Phoenix is organized. Heck, I found my own way around Dallas and its suburbs without any problem. I actually loved Dallas. It was so easy to navigate that I felt relaxed, even in traffic.

There's something different about Pittsburgh or Minneapolis. I'm sure I'd collapse in cities like Boston or New York.

It's hard to explain, but I love Los Angeles. I also can't live there and be healthy. I get exhausted by the sounds, the smells, the general noise and hubbub of cities. Sirens, large diesel engines, exhaust smells, and all the rest are too much for me after a few hours. When I went to school in Los Angeles, I escaped often by driving to the beach or to the local mountains. I needed to get out of the city to decompress. I was out of the city almost every weekend. Not one or two weekends a month, but every weekend.

Our new home is quiet. It is calming. It reminds me of the places I would seek out when I had to decompress years ago. It is like the foothills of California.

Maybe I've found home. That would be nice. It will be even more like home when we all here, together. Then, I'll be even more at ease.


  1. Christopher, have you ever experienced Chicago and its grid? I think you would appreciate it. Daniel Burnham rocks! (He's the guy who created the grid concept in Chicago)

  2. Driving through the Chicago area was tense. The roads weren't in very good shape and traffic was horrible. I also really dislike tall buildings, which are part of Chicago's character. I'm fine inside buildings, I hate to be outside in the "canyons" they create.


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