Monday, September 19, 2011
Hard times, Soft Heart
This post is for all those that I am praying for and thinking about as we start yet another busy week.
My friends that lost their 4th son in his final year of college...
My friend, a newly single mother of four, the youngest 3 weeks old...
My friend dealing with a major family crisis and a sister in pain...
My friend facing her late thirties and a "mid life crisis"...
My friend moving from the beautiful home they built to a tiny "cottage", facing economic stress and hardship...
My friend at a high point in life but realizing there may be "friends" in her life that may need to be "let go"...
My friend struggling with a toddler that was formerly a sleeping champ to one that will not fall or stay asleep...
My friend suffering terrible pain and facing an equally scary diagnosis...
Each of these people are going through very real and very painful times. It's usually somewhat soothing to say/hear "it can always be worse...there are people out there dealing with more serious shtuff." May be it's true but in the end, however, the pain you are facing is still very real and no less disappointing, to say the least.
Life feels heavy right now...maybe it's the season, maybe it's a sign of our times and our choices, maybe it's because people I love are experiencing some of the heaviest of heavy right now, maybe I'm getting even more sensitive in my "age" (yikes...and I thought I cried a lot before). but I need to get some things off my chest and I want to give a message to those that I love and think about everyday...no matter how near or how far I am. It's a little off the usual theme of cute bare bums, darling dimples, and heart melting smiles...nevertheless, it's a part of our chronicles, of everyone's life chronicles.
I grew the most during the most difficult, the most painful, the most challenging of times...does that mean that I looked at "fate" and said "is that all you got? cmon, bring it." Sometimes I cried, sometimes I felt sorry for myself, but mostly I wished time away...wanting to get out of where I was, to somewhere more peaceful, somewhere less painful...anywhere but there. Sometimes the only reason I got out of bed at all was a sense of responsibility to my patients and to my dogs. Time does heal all wounds, all things...maybe never 100% but it certainly allows it to scab over, to decrease in raw reality. In a moment, we can remember and once again, feel the pain of that memory...but is it as sharp as it was on day one? Maybe...but most of the time, not.
A few things helped me: rest, saying NO, good nutrition, laughter, friends (in my case, my sisters), supportive parents, and a plan. I had plans for each day and for what I wanted to see happen in 1 month, in 1 year, in 5 years...And I worked towards those plans with dogged determination. One step at at time. One shovel scoop at a time. One thing I know for sure? That living well, being "well" takes practice and it is an ongoing practice...every day!! And you have to incorporate each of these pieces into your daily life...living well doesn't come EASY to anyone.
If it looks easy, it's because it's been practiced often and very.
Another thing I know for sure? Stress kills.
It isn't just something to say..."boy, I need to decrease my stress levels". Then scream out the window at the jackass that just cuts you off in traffic. And we don't have to move to the perfect climate, become independantly wealthy, have the perfect (or no) spouse, and listen to the waves from our hammock. We NEED a certain amount of stress in order to live, to thrive. Each of us has our own threshold and it is up to US to find our "edge". It is also up to US and ONLY us to maintain that level and to discover HOW to avoid "red lining", OR equally as dangerous, how to stop living in fear: of failure, of what if, of never, always, and I should...And maybe it does mean a move, ending relationships, a change in diet or exercise routine (or having one period), turning off your phone, Facebook...maybe a change in career, or surrounding yourself with loved ones. There is no handbook and no one else can tell us...
Who do we allow into our lives? Who do we allow to stay?
What changes can I make? What must I accept and LET GO of?
How do I need to push myself? How do I avoid self sabotage?
Who AM I?
What do I really want?
How do I get there?
How do I get through this?
What makes this life worth living?
When in doubt, just "Breathe in and Breathe out".
Breathing is underrated as a health practice (as is water and movement). But the art of deep and regular breathing bring life giving oxygen to all the cells of our body. Breath is life and if you stop breathing, you die. If you stop breathing well, you can not live well. Now, I'm not talking your normal "tidal volume" breathing (aka shallow panting to keep from turning blue) just to survive. I mean taking deep breaths, 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out..in the nose out the mouth, completely relaxed, beginning your day or closing your day.
And then remember that living the good life does NOT mean that everything is exactly how we would want it to be...the best life is one in which we make the most of everything that comes our way. Pain, loss, and sadness are a part of what we will face. That knowledge alone certainly does not make it any easier to bear the stress of any number of situations.
Every once in awhile, we are victims of chance. An accident, a gene mutation, a faltering economy, a medical mystery... Often we become victims because of things that happen out of our control. BUT it is always your choice in how to react, how to respond, how to NOT be a victim. It is too easy to get a pill that promises to "fix" what is going 'wrong' in our body. Stress will kill, unless and until you develop tools to manage stress and whatever else life throws at you. Only you can find your 'edge'. No pill will be able to undo the damage that stress can do within the body. No religion will save you. No amount of healthy drinks, vitamins, and workout sessions can either. People are desparate to find something to get them on track and are occasionally willing to do whatever it takes. More often than not, I see people being victimized by the events in their life. "There is no cure" and I am doomed. This attitude becomes an albatross around your neck and it is very difficult to disentangle oneself from this destructive pattern. My "firm" (maybe harsh) words here may be helpful to some but for others, they will be too much. They want to be told what they want to hear and not face the occasionally awful reality that they are responsible for all their choices, including allowing yourself to be the victim. Even then, there is help:
Perhaps knowing you are not alone in all of this will give you the courage to press on.
It is my firm belief that we were all created by God for a specific purpose, with specific strengths and gifts. Whether you are a bible believer or think that God is in the ocean waves, our mission in life should be to recognize the power that gave us these gifts, or in the very least recognize the gift of this one breath, this moment and LIVE for a purpose bigger than yourself. It is bigger than this moment of pain, this moment of despair, this moment of annoyance and irritability. But in the end, you can always pray. Whether you believe that your prayers are being heard by an almighty loving God or if you are just breathing affirmations into the "universe", Prayer is powerful.
I've gone to church all my life and have "prayed" through life at various times and at varying commitment levels. It is just in the recent past that I've begun praying every day and it is nothing short of miraculous. I'm honestly not able to articluate exactly what has changed...except my heart. I'm no longer trying to do this on my own. I'm no longer trying to "fix" myself and all my weaknesses/screw ups on my own. I can choose to LET GO of people and things out of my control without feeling like I have to bear that load too. And that alone is quite the miracle. There are times that I "forget" and grasp for the reins, clenching my teeth and hunching my shoulders, snapping at my husband "I AM RELAXED"...and that makes me human. So I return to prayer, nothing fancy, maybe it's just to breathe, to let go. I get up and move my body. I say no to the chocolate donut, chocolate covered almonds, chocolate period..most times. I hug instead of hit. I choose to ignore the voices in my head reminding me of all that needs to be done, all that's going wrong, all that's not as I would like it to be...
I choose to let go and live.
I want my heart to be soft, my mind to be firm, and I want to live a life worth living.
May each of you be blessed today.
May you know peace in the midst of your pain.
May you choose to let go and live well...in spite of the pain.
This too shall pass.
Posted by Mary Beth Melendez at 6:34 PM