STRESSED OUT: The Gift of What Just Might Kill Us

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Clara Bow — Silent Film and Talkies Star –1920s — She was the inspiration for Betty Boop.  She also suffered with mental health issues due to stress.

 

Stress. We all carry it. Like interest on a credit card, it compounds. Quickly.

We are living in extreme days.  Our country is polarized, and some of us, perhaps many of us feel like we are hanging on by a thread.

Our daily responsibilities exceed the available time to accomplish them. I’m talking only about the things on our “MUST DO” list. Forget totally about our “HOPE TO DO” and “WANT TO DO” list.

Then, predictably so, like a promise that arrives early, a CRISIS OF EPIC PROPORTIONS lands in your lap exactly as your energy levels drop below zero. Couple this with your due date for everything urgent was expected yesterday and before, and your list of what you have to post pone due to emergency, is stretched to indefinite, if not infinity and beyond.   Generally, this will happen when you don’t have the following to cope:

  • money to pay for it
  • time to absorb it
  • energy/resources to fix it

Everything from demanding jobs, to family crisis, to health crisis, to a death in the family, or news that feels like a “sentence” feel like they are going to pull us under the waves.  Up to now we were at least managing our overwhelm, however precariously, as we bobbed between the waves of life’s stormy seas.

Here’s the hardest truth of our lives: Sometimes it sucks. I mean that literally. The challenge of just getting to the next day seems near impossible, because TODAY feels like it is vacuuming every last ounce of our energy, time, and resources to simply deal.

We can’t take ONE. MORE. THING. And then…..

BOOM!

The unthinkable. The unimaginable. The unbearable.

Like it or not. It’s here. How now will you get through it?

I’m not a doctor or scientist or even theologian who claims to know. I’m just a girl who’s been around the block a few times. And each successive lap does get harder, but……

it’s true—that which does NOT kill us, really does make us stronger.

My Christian faith has comforted my heart, and my mind knows many of God’s promises. But that never negates the reality of what is, and the pain/frustration/fear one goes through when one is on overload. The feelings are real, even if our analysis of what’s happening doesn’t agree with others’ perspectives. The truth is: We feel what we feel.

So, how to deal?

Something I learned a long time ago at church. Our wise pastor told us:

You are going to suffer in life. That you don’t get to choose.

The only thing you get to choose is HOW YOU SUFFER.

Will you waste your suffering?

Or will it be redemptive?

I have never forgotten that lesson. I mean I have in terms of application sometimes:

  • I get negative ( I whine to others.)
  • I forget to pray. I forget to be still.  (I’m SO busy!)
  • I complain. (As if stating the problem a dozen different ways will somehow change it.)
  • I avoid reality, or at least dream of it. (I think I will hide under my blankets and pet the cats and just listen to music all day. Yeah right.  )

And then: I remember another profound truth:

IT IS WHAT IT IS

 Seriously, reality always wins.

 I pause.

 I remember.

I get to choose my suffering.   I. Me. No one else.   Other people or life situations—they may overwhelm, even slay me. But I CHOOSE how I deal. Or die. Or live. That is my power. And no one and nothing can take THAT away from me! No one can take the power that I believe God has already put in me, unless I give it to them.

There’s a lot of anger out there these days. The election comes to mind. I get the disappointment and anger. I really do. But seriously, how much power are YOU going to allow someone else to have over your lives?   What changes can you make?  More importantly, WHO will you CHOOSE to be?

We don’t get to change our circumstances much of the time. The only thing available for us to change is: OUR PERSPECTIVE

Stress can BE our friend.   We can “reframe” our situation.

These things I’ve learned for sure, especially in crisis mode:

We can only solve one problem at a time. Tackle your tasks and finish them one by one. It may mean going off-line, off-grid, turning your phone off. That’s okay.   People will live without you for a few days. But you won’t live without you.

If other people can’t understand your limitations sometimes, that is their problem, not yours. Is it good to care what other’s think of us?  Sure.  But our health, our life comes first.

“No” is a complete sentence. This is a biggie, especially for women. We want to give and help so much, we can give ourselves away sometimes. But say no sometimes. Even if it’s just to practice for a real emergency. It’s so freeing. The relief that comes from knowing you don’t have to be responsible for everything just because someone thought you were the most capable to do it.

Get enough rest. No matter what. No good decision is ever decided when running on fumes.   Which brings me to: Delay big decisions until you have had at least one good night’s sleep.

Ask for help. And then don’t be ashamed. Be it tasks or an understanding ear, reach out to others. Please. Other friends don’t always know when we struggle. They are stressed too.

Daily Quiet Time. (DQT) Prayer. Meditation.   Simple solitude where you simply empty your mind of all thoughts, if only for ten minutes. This is absolutely essential if you are on overload. Practice this now. Make this your habit, so you won’t forget in emergencies.

Breathe. Just breathe. Slowly. Take it all in, understanding you don’t have all the answers. Remember? You can’t control it all.

Consciously choose to accept with grace, to the extent that you are able, what is happening now. I recently read a wonderful quote by Corrie Ten Boom:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow
It only empties today of it’s strength.

For those of you suffering severe stress right now, I encourage you to watch this amazing TED talk by Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend. I found just taking the time, all precious 15 minutes or so, recharged me. It reminded me why we are gifted with our present. We have this beautiful opportunity to be brave as we rise to the occasion of our challenges.

You WILL suffer.

You WILL have to make a choice (even not choosing is still a choice).

Be brave.  And may you choose well.

 

 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Close your eyes. Just listen to some pop pscyhology. There. Did your demons float away if only for a few minutes?

Unprecedented: Voting for THIS President — November 8, 2016

Hooray! It’s here! It’s Election Day and the day we’ve been wanting to be over, is:

Almost Over

First, a disclaimer: I DON’T have a horse in this race. My person was out months ago. My heart still hurts, but like Rose on the sinking Titanic, it will simply go on, despite the uncertainty principal that awaits all of us come 2017.

This has been a hard year for me as I’ve watched the politics delve deep down from the gutter to the sewer then the swam, perhaps even Hell itself.

So it’s with no guilt or shame I tell you this: I took my 11-year old son to both a Trump and a Clinton rally yesterday. There are several reasons why:

  1. We are homeschoolers. This is Civics 101, American History, Sociology, and perhaps even Psychology at it’s very finest as far being a teachable moment.
  1. I am a shutterbug. Photography is my hobby. I wanted to see if I could capture some American history and personal history.

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(Liz obsesses more over lenses then candidates!!)

  1. I am an adventurer. I will drop just about anything, to go anywhere, if I think there will be interesting people, concerned people, beautiful scenery, unusual things/people, natural things, historic moments. I saw a lot of this yesterday.
  1. I have my personal biases, yes. So do you. But I am also open-minded! Did you know you can retain your principals and core beliefs but still mingle with other people that believe, behave, and vote differently than you? In fact, sometimes you can even love them anyway.  I plan to teach my child this, otherwise our country really is doomed.

I’ve spent a lot of time this year studying, web-surfing, worrying, fretting, whining, discussing, and then accepting and denying the choices that confront us. In the end, I too have to deal with the ultimate Sophie’s Choice that will forever alter our country. That’s an enormous responsibility to shoulder. You have the same burden. Our main choices seem so fundamentally flawed to me, and the smaller choices seem hopeless.

I’ve conversed and debated this year with everyone from personal to church to online friends, neighbors, as well as immediate and extended family. I’ve talked with a range of folks, from procrastinators to prognosticators. And I’ve come to a few conclusions.

There are a multitude of reasons we vote. All are valid, in the hearts and minds of those who cast them.   These are some of the reasons I’ve seen and heard this year, as to why we vote:

Principals: Certainly our principals guide us more than just about any other factor as to why we vote. The issues we care so deeply about are what drive our very lives. We are so divided because our principals our at war with other. Think about your “core” principals that are deal-breakers as far as the opposing candidates. How is our country going to mend, IF we can’t even listen to those that believe the polar opposite?

Even the word compromise is politically charged because some people believe you should always compromise, and others think you never should. Yikes, how does a country survive with that? How do you run your own family? Are other view points allowed?   If your “person” wins, are you willing to respect, even defend the other side’s right to believe differently?   I’ll say it again, we can never reconcile opposing principals if we totally lose our ability to listen.

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God bless our Secret Service

Pragmatism: One thing I’ve heard a lot this year. Well, I can’t vote for him/her (because of ssues A,B,C,D, etc), so I’m going to HAVE to vote for her/him.   It’s the “lesser of two evils” argument. This one is a challenge for me. At least with family members, and a few close friends, I have asked how to do they comfortably vote for Clinton despite the email scandals (being above the law), lying to the public (Ben-Ghazi), the pay-for-play schemes related to the Clinton Foundation etc. And much more, but that’s enough for this paragraph.

I have also asked my Republican friends how in the world do you vote for Trump? Someone who is so hot-headed, insults women, other ethnicities, the handicapped, the flat-chested, the “ugly”, the list goes on.   How do you say you vote “principals” over name-calling, insulting, temper tantrums, and often an inconsistent core principals on every single issue. If you vote principals first, than how in the world do you throw out character?

And because I have taken these heated discussions to many over the past few months, I have received heat that often feels like a beating from BOTH sides. But I did this not to berate, condemn, or alienate those I love from me. I did this because I HAD to understand from a different viewpoint other then my own, how they came to their conclusion as I struggled mightily with my own decision.

 Protest: I think this would kind of fall in the category: Pragmatism-taken-to-an-extreme. Or perhaps principal. When one candidate seems so detestable, that you do everything in your power to send a message to the other person, and/or party. Or perhaps you dislike both candidates, so you pick the he or she that have an infinitesimal chance of winning, but you’ll sleep good with your own soul at least.

Believe me, I totally get that!

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We didn’t quite make it in Reynolds Colliseum last night, but we did huddle outside at 1 am with several hundred other happy excited Clinton supporters.

Earlier that day, we saw the kindest people, both the longest lenses, buses, and neckties I’ve ever seen, and we found a quarter and a nickelon the ground as we walked out.

Protection: Fear of terror attacks.   Fear of gun violence. Fear of losing the freedom to defend one’s self/family. Fear of government overreach. Black lives. Blue lives. Keeping our own money.   Not losing our benefits. Our borders. Our national security.   Veterans. Syrian refugees. The autonomy of one’s body. The lives of the unborn.   These too are just a sampling of hot-button issues that we are passionate about protecting. And as you can see, even that which we should protect also divides us. Because sadly, in our flawed human nature, we are divided as to which kind of person do we protect. In our defective humanity, we assign a hierarchical value to people, swayed by our beliefs.   For some of us, we compromise, even sacrifice a lot of principal, and even lay down our pragmatism, and vote simply who will best protect my family, myself, my country, and the issues I care about?

 Popularity: We also grow passionate because politicians tickle our burning ears with that which we want to hear. They justify our inner anger and teach us it’s acceptable to let it out. Or is it? Perhaps we decry racism and then vote solely on race, or sexism and vote solely on gender. It happens in both parties to all genders. Popularity comes with perks. Maybe it’s getting to see Beyonce or or Lady Gaga or Bon Jovi for free. Free concerts, free college? Hey, that’s cool! Or perhaps it’s “We’re mad as hell, and we are DEFINITELY not going to take it anymore. We are Taxed Enough Already!” The corruption stops here.   But will it? Is either side capable of being totally transparent? Is either side truly honest?   And will either side deliver on their promises? Or are we simply voting, knowing they won’t, but it sure sounds good!

The hardest part of this election for me is that I truly want to vote FOR someone, and FOR something I believe in, not AGAINST someone else, and things I oppose. I want a person of integrity that truly believes the values they espouse, not just say they do. I haven’t found that candidate this year.

I finally had to vote on one core belief, and one belief only:

Prayerfully: There’s a melody I keep hearing in my head today. It’s from the U2 song “Ultraviolet”:

Oh– Sometimes I feel like I don’t know

Sometimes I feel like checkin’ out

I want to get it wrong

I can’t always be strong,

and love—it won’t be long……

So today–I’m praying as I settle my soul with the vote I cast.   I don’t want to actually get it wrong (but somehow feel I will). I want to be wrong about whoever wins. Because I want our country to heal more than I want to be right. I just do. Call me a mostly-conservative pacifist who just crazy loves her compassionate liberal friends as much she loves her loving evangelical conservative friends. I don’t know. I just want to have peace in my heart. And I want our country to just be okay. This peace! It’s the very thing that has soooo eluded me this election.

Perhaps some of you feel the same way.   I’ve never cared so much and felt like I had so little to choose from. You see, I love America so much.   Every day of my life, even the worst horrible days have still been slightly awesome days. Because the next day I always woke up with the freedom to choose differently. Above all, I don’t want to lose that.

And I want all those I’ve debated with, talked with, argued with this year—well, I need you to know something.   I saw this gem of wisdom on a bumper sticker. It’s been my favorite of the entire campaign season:

I love you. And I vote.

Today is our day America. This is the day WE decide. I pray you will consider this one question above all others. By tomorrow (most likely), like it or not, we WILL have a new President. Either “She” or “He” will win. So in light of that:

Will you still be the same person tomorrow, that you are today?

I know I will. I already know I’ll wake up a bit disappointed because I feel we are a nation in decline, we’ve lost our compass on how to deal with each other. I feel we have become selfish. We want what WE WANT, and we don’t want the other side to have what they want because they are wrong! We see our lives only through the prism of what the “bad guys” have done to us.

People are truly frustrated and angry over political decisions that have impacted our lives. Real people are hurting financially, facing employment challenges, have retirement concerns, or worry that they can even safely live due to their geography or skin color. Though much of our frustration is indeed justified, the way we treat one another is not.

This blog contains no answers. Only observations. But it is written in the utmost hope that you WILL vote. That you will consider things from all the perspectives you possibly possess. And I pray that you too will pray for both candidates and our nation as one seeks our confidence in their ability to lead us. Know this: we are not electing a king or queen. I believe we serve a higher power, we answer to a higher law, and we ought to respond to all who are around us with a higher love.  

Come hell or high-water, him or her, we already have the authority, the power, and the potential to live as good, kind, compassionate, citizens who have the opportunity, daresay I, the responsibility to serve our great country!

We CAN be the hope and light for others to see. We can be the catalysts in our communities and families that truly change our world for the better. These are not platitudes, these are promises for those that choose to live a life of self-sacrificing love.

When you go to the polls today (if you haven’t already voted), I PRAY you see the faces of those around you. Pray for them. Send them good mental vibes. Be neighborly.   May you be gentle with yourself and gracious in your interactions with others.

And despite America’s problems and divisions, we are still great, specifically because so many of us truly are good.   Let’s keep it that way, okay?

It’s Election Day. Vote and may it be well with your soul.

God bless America!!!!

 

Liz’s Favorite Candidate in 2016

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Liz and NC Governor Pat McCrory — December 19,  2015

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My son met Governor McCrory December 10, 2015

For those who care about HB2, this is worth pondering:

https://governor.nc.gov/press-release/governor-mccrory-takes-action-protect-privacy-and-equality