STRESSED OUT: The Gift of What Just Might Kill Us

clara-bow

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?
Advertisements

Scrolling Past It All: Intentionally Choosing To Be Missing Out

It’s 2016 and time to make those resolutions. Hmmm….which ones should I commit to this year? Which ones will I realistically keep? Don’t think too hard about the ones I might just fail miserably at.   Or just maybe—I may succeed?

I made a list of a few things I hope to accomplish this year, but all of them can be summed up by one desire:

To better live each day and moment with intentionality, purpose, and organization.

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed in 2015 and have been dealing with some anxieties. The problem with anxiety is this; it’s like interest -– it compounds. The more you think about all that makes you anxious, the more your anxiety exponentially increases. Meanwhile, the law of entropy continues to thrive: Things fall apart—continually.  Everything decays as time passes.   Anxiety plus entropy is hard enough, but if you add procrastination to the mix?

Aye yi-yi. The triple threat of the unproductive life has arrived.

Because with each passing moment, our internal time clock knows we have one less minute to sort thru the complexities of life than we had a minute ago.

Are you stressed yet? If you’re still reading this, you’ve already lost one minute of your busy day.   You could’ve plowed thru an email or two, perhaps deleted 8 or 10 junk ones, but for whatever reason you’re still here. So I’ll try to cut to the chase.

I like to write. I’m also kinda-sorta trying to grow a photography business—I think. Or put it this way, my hobby is trying to stretch me in new directions that I’m trying to decide if I wish to pursue. While still homeschooling full-time. And working part-time, minimally, but responsibilities still beckon. Oh, and be available for a mom who is getting older. There’s also time allotted for church, scouts, sports, clubs, groups, and time invested still with grown children by attempting to know their busy schedules and still have time to hear their plans and dreams for the future.   There are chores, emails, voicemails, texts, bills, and requests. Then there are gadgets galore with menus, parts, batteries, and well….issues. It’s all too much.

I’ve been feeling this epiphany brewing in me for some time now:

I actually already know what I need to do. You probably know too.

We have to do less, in order to do more, or at least do better.

       But what to give up?

For me, I know that I know that I know: I absolutely am going to have to get off social media a lot more in 2016. I know people don’t really want, need or care to know my every whimsical thought, opinion about, or plans for “x”.   And though I love sharing so many photos, or even my writing, I have to brace myself with this fact:

       I’m overwhelmed with all that’s out there, you probably are too.

       So here we are. Three minutes gone for you, thirty for me. We have some decisions to make this year don’t we?   How now, do we spend this moment, this day that we’ve been given?

Sometimes we have to just scroll on by it all.   So much information is out there. But we have to just turn away and keep going, if we’re going to get anything done at all.   We have to not look sometimes, and do it fast.

A little less Facebook, Instagram, and Tweets? Oh well.

It’s okay if we don’t know it all. It’s not like we can fix it all anyway. It’s okay if we don’t respond to what all seems urgent. No comment does not equate to doesn’t care. It’s okay if we choose to “miss out” on the people’s news sometimes. The world isn’t going anywhere. And honestly, on some days I’d rather not know the news, be it world news or social news. I just want to live in the solitude of my cocoon for a day or so.

Call it weird. Call it antisocial. Call it worrisome. Call it intelligent. Call it rebellious.   I just call it the Liberation of Liz.

May 2016 find you at peace. Be well as you navigate your life this year and all its complex priorities.

Eggy Peggy and the Japan Man

Steampunk kids bd1d76518e2b7cf52bd1f63eefddc064

PHOTO CREDIT:  PINTEREST SITE

 

It happened at IHOP the other day. I hadn’t had my morning cup of coffee yet. And I needed one. Like ALWAYS, I had a zillion things on my mind I was hoping to accomplish, knowing about 92% of them would actually be completed around the twelfth of never.

So I’m sitting there with my clever, sweet 8 year old son and our neighbor’s daughter, a smart, loveable 9 year old girl. They’ve been bus buddies for four years.

However, this Monday, we decided to change it up, trick the bus driver, play hooky from our stop and just have some pancakes. Or chicken and waffles, if you want to be precise. OK, that’s what she ordered. My son ordered the super-soaked chocolate chip pancake slathered in HFCS-laden pancake syrup, complete with a big whip cream smiley face and red-dyed maraschino cherry nose.

I was half listening to their simultaneous conversations happening, as I was mentally strategizing how I was going to get thru another impossible day.

It’s not that life is actually impossible. It just seems like it is. Our endless tasks, jobs, home and family responsibilities, volunteer commitments, bills, appointments, projects, and people to communicate with via email, texts, Facebook, Skype, blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, and heck, even telepathically if you’re as busy as I am tend to make our brain tired. To the point, it’s sometimes hard to actually concentrate on what our children are saying.

Suddenly, I miraculously decided to turn down the volume on my own mental noise. I decided to PAY ATTENTION to what these two precious children, who are strangely almost preteens, were saying. It seems like they were waddling around in diapers only a few weeks ago, yet here they were– lips moving, full of words, thoughts, ideas, and chock full of randomness!

Both were talking at the same time. My son was saying something about Macon Bacon and Eggy Peggy. They were characters on a paper search-and-find placemat. Our friend-like-a-daughter was saying how when she grows up, she wants to marry a Japan man, have two kids, and 3 cats. She was going to name them Messiah, Shiloh, and Little Tokyo.  

Both children continued to talk at the same time about these most random thoughts that had instantaneously occurred to them. Neither topic was related to the other. Neither seemed to care that I had but one set of ears, exactly one to hear half of what each mouth was saying, until the waitress came, asked us what we wanted, and harshed that mellow!

I had no clue what I wanted to eat. I was simultaneously visualizing a grown woman in Japan with two kids and three cats in the yard while my son was running around saying “Where is Eggy Peggy?!?!”

“He’s with the Japan Man!”

“Huh?” said the waitress. Oh. My overloaded brain.

“One coffee straight up please!”

And then it hit me. THIS IS WHAT CHILDHOOD IS ALL ABOUT!

Finding Eggy Peggy and Macon Bacon and living in the now. Dreaming of a perfect future; nothing wrong with dreaming that a Japanese husband just may be the ideal guy, as long as he likes felines. Randomness as opposed to every second of our day micromanaged to obey multiple agendas simultaneously.

I don’t think either one was all stressed out about how they were going to get through the day. I know neither one cared how much the food cost as a ratio in proportion to GDP of the family’s earned income like we adults stress over. They were unaware if bills were caught up at home, and I seriously doubt they were thinking about what will they be when they grow up.  

Suddenly, I found myself just wanting to inhale this exuberance of youth. The infinite time that still seemed to lay before them. The lack of hard core responsibilities and tough decisions.

Right now, deciding what to order was all that mattered. I got out my phone. We watched YouTube videos of Okinawa.   For a quick three minutes, I was somewhere else if only in my mind:

I’m running down the white sands of an Okinawa beach beside a translucent blue ocean. Three adorable exotic cats are running beside me.   I’m in hot pursuit of Eggy Peggy and the Japan Man. And they are running–fast!  As fast as they can, chasing two shadows in the wind–shadows of two precious children, growing up faster than all the ones that preceded them as small voices trail behind them, “Run, run, fast as you can. You’ll never catch us!”

Laughing at me and my tired spectacled eyes, and so many true stories under my belt, sadly, I know they are right.

Bury My Digital Remains in a Yurt in Big Sur

   Mix Tape 1Sometimes I miss my old life.   For some of us, born before the millennium, we miss the old way:

The Analog Way

     It’s true. I miss buttons that lock into position, volume dials that go from silent to ear-splitting loud. I miss big beast cars with loud hemis and stick shifts and without a trace of a menu screen anywhere. I miss TVs in wood cabinets with rabbit ears and UHF and VHF possibilities.   I even almost miss the days when I had an 8-track cassette player and Charlie Rich used to sing “And when we get behind”…..and then it would choke and gurgle, only to finish up with “closed doors” once the song changed in the middle of the track.

Billy Sprague, owner of Sanity Muffin in Oakland, CA says cassette tapes are poised to make a comeback! The hiss and flat tones are part of the “auditory experience” that makes cassettes a superior source of acoustical sound. Well A to the Men brother!

Yes, those of us over 40 remember the thrill of “just push PLAY”, a delightful little analog button with its accompanying crisp click-lock when pressed.   We didn’t just hear music; we felt it with our fingers. Sometimes we even untangled it with our pencils and our fingers, as if vengeful car stereos could scold us for our choice in boyfriends. If and when the music sucked, well we obliviously chucked it out into the pristine environment from our stick shift cars allowing some other sucker the possibility of finding an abandoned treasure.

Another musician just released a demo cassette that his band recorded in a yurt in Big Sur. With that revelation, I immediately Google Image-searched “Big Sur Yurts”.   If you don’t know what a yurt is, well Google it now, because this is where we will all live, if America really does become a Socialist “utopia” or when we all have a collective “nervy B” from all this technology, but I digress.

I’m almost 50; I’m in the middle of the road, in the middle of my life. I use all things digital and it eats up more of my time than I actually even possess. Which actually begs the question, well how does she even do it? I don’t know. Same way everyone else does it. Only everyone else it seems, does even more, even faster than I do.

Why nearly everyone knows how to use Macs, PCs, IPAD, IPODS, laptops, smartphones, DVRs, GPS, programmable appliances, and a variety of even more devices they can control, all from apps on their smartphones. We can secure our home, monitor our dog at day camp, balance our stock portfolios, digitally enhance our pictures via Instagram to make it look Polaroid Retro, blog our opinions, post endless selfies, and stack our digital lives in neat little terabytes both in the cloud and on terra firma here on earth.

But something is missing. We communicate our every thought, opinion, and question with our fingers– tap tap tap– a million times a day. We’re too busy and too shy to talk in person now. We digitize our experience, but do we remember it? And what about the contents of our digital lives? What’s going to happen when we die?

If you think you’ve got it bad because you have yet to organize your parents’ shoe boxes full of Polaroid pictures and yellow-green fading pictures of your childhood, how much more complex will it be for our kids who will receive…..

What exactly? Our 19th and 20th generation phones? Memory cards? DVDs? Thumb drives? Hard drives? Our last used laptop? Our Facebook account? Ancient VHS tapes chock full of family memories?

What if their current operating system is incompatible?

What if our video tapes and DVDs have a close encounter with magnets, or extreme thermal instability?

What if our password changes 456 times since originally revealing it to your children, if you even did at all.

What if an EMP blows up our entire digital existence before we get a chance to get digitally organized?

Ah! The joys of too many choices.   If only our lives resembled the sleek, crisp, minimalist organization of a Macbook Pro. If our homes could actually look like an Apple store. If only we had a time capsule in our own life, where we could just go back to any moment in time, freeze it, and leave it there.   But no, as Steve Miller so adequately prophesied to the mellow stoners of the 1970s, “time keeps on slipping into the future.”

In an attempt to streamline, we’re given more choices than we have time to implement.

Something has to give. We’re not going to be able to learn it all, do it all, save it all, and organize it all. If all we leave are digital remains and memories, then we’re not leaving much at all. We may as well leave nothing. And besides, one little glitch, well, that’s what we’ll be leaving anyway.

As for me? Perhaps I’ll leave my digital remains in a yurt in Big Sur for a really smart future geek to discover and decode.

I think the Sanity Muffin dude and his friends have it right. We need to cozy up in our yurts with our groovy loved ones, pop in a favorite cassette, turn on the lava lamp, light some incense, and just be with each other. No pictures. No phones.  Just two people staring up on a starry starry night, thoughts lost in a semi-ignorant haze, as we dream about, but skip the obsessing part about our unknown futures.

For info. on cassette comebacks see:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9TccPAgvU0

For info. on Billy Sprague of Sanity Muffin:  http://www.sanitymuffin.com/

For info. on Yurts of Big Sur:  http://www.treebonesresort.com/

BREAKING NEWS FLASH: Liz Won the Lottery!!

Photo by Liz Gray

Go and wake up your luck.  Persian Saying

        Life is so beautiful.   I should easily be able to think of at least a thousand memories from the 17,184* days I’ve lived so far,  but for sake of the preciousness of your life, allow me to account for just one day.

Yesterday was such a very happy day.  I woke up;  as is my custom, God willing, and that right there is something major to be grateful for.  This was followed by a series of multiple media message checking from cell phone, to email, to facebook to home phone—all before I had a chance for my morning coffee.     Make the beds, make a plan for the day, change the litter box; change the plans for the day after consulting all the other family members and their plans.

Thankfully, it was Saturday, so we didn’t have the usual workday/school day stress of all trying to get out the door.   As words were exchanged and plans revised and rearranged, I first felt the twinges of stress creeping in from an “overstuffed” day, but for once I was able to pause  and remember something:

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)

See I wanted to go to a dear friend’s daughter’s high school graduation.  I also already had plans to go see my daughter’s dance recital at a studio about two hours away, two hours from when the graduation ceremony started.  I had not seen my friend in over a year or her family.  Not only was her youngest daughter graduating, her oldest daughter was coming into town with a brand new baby, only a few weeks old.  I could not skip my daughter’s recital, yet how could I miss the graduation of someone so dear to our family?

What to do, what to do?  We’ve all been here.  How do you either A: Stop Time or   B: Be in two places at one time?

Well, if you figure that one out, please be sure and let me know, because it seems every day I live, there is more that either NEEDS to be done, or that I WANT to do, and sadly it’s just not possible to do it all.

So I prayed.  I rushed, but I prayed five simple words:  Lord, please order my day.  BOOM!  No sooner, than this simplest of prayers get lifted up, a possibility floated into my consciousness.   It was as if God let me know a visit with a friend delights and warms our heart no matter how brief.  I decided I would meet my friends, and hug her beautiful daughter if only for a few moments outside the church shortly before graduation started.  We spent about thirty true quality moments.  I did not get to see her graduate.  But I did get to see her.

I got to admire the serene beauty of a mom who raised four amazing children who have grown into Godly, well-adjusted, kind, compassionate young adults who will make this world a better place because of their purpose in it.  I got to see her two beautiful boys, one with a family of his own,  and her lovely oldest daughter, a mom of three with her newest gorgeous baby boy.  Hugs were exchanged and plans were made for a future visit.

Kiss, kiss, and off I went.  I drove the two hours west where the foothills, turn into what I guess I would call sledding hills.  Not quite the mountains, but there is a hint you’re getting closer.  Along the way to the dance recital, I kept stopping because I am the kind of person who gets distracted by Kodak Moments.  Rural America has a hundred snapshots a mile.  I could write into eternity, and I’m not even sure that would be enough time to capture all the beauty I see all around me.  Old wells, broken down cars,  wheel wagon mailboxes, giant ten-foot neon signs decades old, purple houses with pink petunias everywhere, and even the unique, humorous, and downright weird billboards I saw were all “signs”  from a higher power to:  SEE!  ENJOY!  WHAT BOUNTY AND ABUNDANCE I HAVE PLACED BEFORE YOU!

My favorite pic of the day was a sweepstakes building.  There was only one car there; I assume it was the owner or employee. There was not another car in sight.  They were open for business.  But no one came.  Maybe it’s because this small town felt like I did; I already won the lottery!!   Who needs a windfall, which often is accompanied by curses and broken promises, when beauty and memory is to be found everywhere.

I ultimately made it to the dance recital where my daughter sat in the front along with the other teachers, as opposed to dancing on the stage like all the recitals of the last ten years.    Her choreography was amazing and loud applause warmed my heart, because God continues to water the seeds of her gifts too.

I thought of all the unwritten chapters yesterday.  Not just what I want to write about, but what God wants to write about.  He truly has written eternity into the hearts of man.  Who will this new graduate become as she starts her voyage from this day forward as an adult?  Who will this new baby be?  What new adventures await my lovely friend who has successfully raised four amazing children and now after nearly thirty years will have the joy of time to do more of what she loves?  What lies ahead for all the talented dancers I saw yesterday? Their possibilities of choices, colleges, and careers are endless.

See I didn’t have to go inside and play the lottery.  For I have a secret to tell you.  I already won!!

It’s not about what we have or haven’t gotten yet.  It’s not about the career we have or don’t have that defines us.  Life is about  enjoying the gifts God puts all around you and within you.    It’s not about  stuff or status; it’s about purpose and perspective.  Ah yes, definitely perspective.

Yesterday I hugged three beautiful moms and one beautiful graduate!  I kissed a new baby.  I met a new toddler.  I saw dancers that could soar so high and dance so magnificently it made me cry that even that much talent can be squeezed into one person’s body, and even that was repeated in multiple dancers.   I hugged and kissed a beautiful teacher–my daughter.   Throughout the day I listened to music that inspires my soul and saw scenery that leaves me with only one thought.  Thank you!    Thank you God for letting me win life’s lottery.  It’s not free from struggle, by any means, but it’s days like yesterday, that make me realize, I’m infinitely rich beyond measure.

Today I even got to wake up for the 17, 185th time.  Seriously, how SWEET is that???

The soul, like the body, lives by what it feeds on.  ~Josiah Gilbert Holland

  How long have you been blessed?  http://www.beatcanvas.com/daysalive.asp