Monthly Archives: March 2017

Letting Go … what it looks like

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“Let go or be dragged.” Zen Proverb

In my last blog post, “Arguing and Bargaining with God … again,” I wrote about fighting with God about our son’s diagnosis and surgery versus doing what God asked, which was to let go.

A friend commented on my post, “I think I struggle most with the practical. I don’t know what ‘letting go’ looks like whereas I know what doing something, bargaining, worrying, etc. look like.”

I wondered if the reason I wrangled with letting go was the same as hers – I don’t know what letting go looks like. Busyness, bargaining, and worry had taken on lives of their own, but not letting go … even though I was genuine about wanting to do it.

Busying myself looked like starting laundry at noon, finishing at 4, and having little recollection of what I had done for four hours. I did, however, recollect a lot of pacing and very little writing because I wouldn’t sit still.

Bargaining looked like eating Reese’s Cups while telling myself, “No more chocolate.” I figured until God stepped up and gave me what I wanted, I’d binge on sugar instead of doing what he asked.

Worrying looked like scrolling Facebook for three hours to distract myself and, just to worry myself more, clicking on sites that updated unsettling news.

After this list, I have to admit I wanted “letting go” to look like a magic wand. In reality, though, it didn’t look like anything. I hadn’t practiced it enough to be able to picture it, not for stuff as emotional as this anyway.

As timing would have it, I had a month between our son’s diagnosis and his surgery, which meant I had to figure out how to handle 30 days of my life while not knowing how his life was going to turn out. Even though there’s always uncertainty, things like health scares heighten our senses.

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When my friend mentioned not knowing what letting go looked like, I knew I needed to find out and practice it. Here are the intentional actions I came up with that to me looked like letting go

  • I sat still. I wrote, read books, and talked to God.
  • I exercised and cleaned, in place of obsessing and talking non-stop, to release nervous energy that in turn helped release a little bit of the thing I wanted to let go. My husband knows I “rage clean” and to stay out of the way while I’m vacuuming like my life depends on it. Sometimes it does.
  • I asked myself, “If I take fear out of the equation, what would I do?” I journaled about what I’d let go of if I subtracted fear and what I’d put in its place if I wasn’t so afraid.
  • I lived my life. I looked around to see if there were things I put off because I was focusing on someone else. I tend to justify, “Of course I can’t focus on my own life. Who wouldn’t be distracted during a time like this?” Living my life – writing a blog post, taking a daytrip, and signing up for a watercolor class – is the solution.
  • I intentionally put space between the thing I was trying to let go of and me. I pictured our son’s surgery and its outcome with God. I stopped talking about it. Stopped trying to figure it out. Stopped making phone calls and lists about it. Stopped researching it. Instead of acting frantic, I took walks and baths.

My description of letting go sounds near perfect, doesn’t it? Be glad you weren’t here for the fall out. There were tears and ugly words and phone calls anyway and too much talking even though I said I stopped. I tore out the page from my journal and shredded it. I jumped up every five minutes even though I called it sitting still.

Although I have a ways to go, I’m happy to have a “face” for letting go. Writing down what I practiced helps put action to the adage. I hope it helps you too.

In This Together,
Kim

P.S. To everyone praying for our son and the rest of our family, there aren’t enough grateful words to express how we feel right now. He’s come through surgery and he and his wife are staying overnight at the hospital. We’re headed to their home tomorrow. Thank you! xoxox

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Arguing and Bargaining with God … again

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“When you argue against Him, you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Two weeks ago, I heard the word “cancer.” I wouldn’t be anymore wound up about it than if I had set out to find a cure singlehandedly. The diagnosis is not mine, but belongs to someone I care about a lot.

#whilelovingthepeopleinit

Ever since then, I’ve woken up more tired than I go to bed, and I go to bed exhausted. I ache all over. I’m either irritable or on the verge of tears. So, when I heard from God, “Let go,” I gave him a list of things I expected to happen first. You know, before I let go, you do X, Y, and Z.

This round with God brought to mind my final year of teaching, and I have to tell you, I didn’t handle quitting well, which doesn’t look good for letting go …

Except there was a happy ending.

Near the end of my career, teaching felt suffocating. I’d feel sick on Sunday nights and shake on Monday mornings when I’d try to put the key in the doorknob to unlock my classroom. I dreaded every faculty meeting and felt overwhelmed by every extra duty. I knew my resignation was overdue, but I wouldn’t quit.

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“Give me another job and I’ll quit teaching,” I prayed every single night.

“Quit teaching and I’ll give you another job,” said God every single time I prayed.

When I say I heard from God, I didn’t audibly hear His voice although I guess that could happen. I’m not hallucinating. I’m not making up this stuff. He talks to me (and to you) in all sorts of ways like through people and quotes and movies and an emotion, to name a few.

I didn’t hear God’s voice, but the night I sat in a spiritual meeting and heard a woman share about fighting with God and bargaining over quitting her job, I knew she was talking to me and I believed it was a message from Him. She argued with God for a year before she did it His way.

While I was convinced her lesson was mine too, instead of following what God suggested, which was to quit, I waited just like the woman waited. I didn’t quit my job for an entire year even though I was miserable and wanted to bolt.

A couple of months after I finally left teaching, God did what He promised. He presented me with an extraordinary opportunity – a position I hadn’t applied for and at a place to which I’d never turned in an application. Plus, the job fit me to a T with work in the field instead of being stuck in one place and a flexible schedule. I supervised interns who were practice teaching. Other than writing, supervising for the university has been my longest running and most fulfilling labor of love.

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So, when I heard “let go,” which sounds akin to “quit,” I researched the diagnosis and bargained with God for the kind of healing I wanted to happen.

I made a list of things I needed to discuss with my loved one, the patient, and argued with God about why He wasn’t making communication easier.

I spent hours overthinking and analyzing and trying to be a fortune teller. At least, I think that’s what I was bargaining for since I seem to think God should let me in on the future.

How’s that for letting go? I tell you, I’m not good at this stuff.

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A friend (who has no idea what’s happening here) sent a quote that is now written on a card and sitting on my desk. She wrote, “Stop chasing the healing. Much happens in the fallow moment.”

I’m not sure, but I think it means “let go.” I needed it to mean let go.

Later in the evening, I heard from God, “Read September 25th.” The page is from an inspirational book I haven’t opened in a year. Here’s its essence:

Today’s reminder: Is there an area of my life that I treat as though it were too important to turn over to God? Are my efforts to control it making my life better and more manageable? Are they doing any good at all? I can hold on to my will until the situation becomes so painful that I am forced to submit, or I can put my energy where it can do me some good right now, and surrender to God’s care.

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” Martin Luther

The anonymous writer who wrote this excerpt is telling my story, and God’s trying to help me rewrite it. And me? I’m still bargaining. I’m arguing with God about whether I should let go now or wait until my demands are met, or, the more likely scenario, until I have to give up to tiredness.

The problem with arguing and bargaining is the only one held hostage by not quitting and by not letting go is me.

What about you? What’s too important to turn over? Dear Jesus, help us quit. Help us let go. It turns out easier and best when we do.

In This Together,
Kim

Hurting Ourselves For Others (living their expectations instead of our lives)

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“It wasn’t until I began to love myself that I was willing to let others down.” Lucille Zimmerman

When my cowgirl friend told me a story about Bob, I related to her horse like we were old buddies. Bob’s trainer said, “You have to be careful pushing him because he’s a pleaser. He’ll hurt himself for you.”

Unfortunately, people don’t think much about this when it comes to each other, so we push.

Like the church worker who “pushed” – she knew I taught school and had two young children at home, but still asked if I’d help with the youth program. When I turned her down because I was burnt out by late afternoon, she said, “If everyone felt like you, we wouldn’t have a youth program.”

“If everyone felt like me, we shouldn’t have one,” I said. My atypical response even surprised me. 

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Self-care like this, even though the church-worker never did “get it,” would have helped when my family balked at my idea to eat out on Thanksgiving. They pushed for the same meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas, which took days of preparation. I felt overwhelmed locking myself into traditions I didn’t want to keep. Sometimes I’d have to throw out food from the first holiday so I’d have a dish to put the same food in for the second holiday. I wondered if I could get by at Christmas on Thanksgiving’s leftovers.

It would have been a relief to know about self-care when my husband, John, pushed to buy a fishing boat, two jet skis, a Triumph TR6, and two motorcycles. I wanted him to be happy whether I was or not. Spending money on big toys caused a lot of tension I didn’t talk about.

I wish I’d known about self-care when I kept teaching even though the stress of the job contributed to my anxiety and high blood pressure. Plus, I didn’t enjoy a lot of what went along with teaching like scrutiny, endless meetings, and duties outside the classroom. John didn’t mean to push, but he did, when he sat silent while I talked about quitting every August before school restarted. His silence, instead of a discussion about changing careers, made me think I had to go back again and again and again.

When I talked over self-care with a friend whose personality tends to be more like my husband’s than mine, she admitted she wishes she’d encouraged her husband to change jobs sooner.

However, like John, she’s not the caretaker in the family; her husband is. Instead of offering support, she ignored how miserable he was at work for fear he’d quit and put an end to the family’s substantial income. They could live on a lesser budget, but she didn’t want to. It wasn’t because she didn’t care about him, although I’ve thought this of my family and friends when they’ve pushed their agendas that hurt. She pushed because she liked staying home with their babies and being able to spend what she wanted. Her husband’s now working a different job and happier, and they are fine financially.

I admire my friend for piping up about the topic of someone else’s self-care because it’s rare for the person who wants what they want to stop the one who is providing it.

The person in the most pain typically is the one who has to change, but it’s hard because we’re also the ones most caught up in the “push.” We want others to have what they want, and they want that too. We end up pressuring ourselves and so do they. We have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable when others don’t like how we change.

I learned about self-care because of a health scare and depression, because one of my kids urged me to figure it out, and because a doctor warned me if I didn’t pay attention to my physical and emotional health, I wouldn’t be around to see my son and daughter graduate from high school.

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Not overnight, but gradually I’ve pushed myself to change, making strides toward self-care …

The Thanksgiving after I suggested eating out, we did. I made reservations for whoever wanted to join me because I wasn’t cooking. It’s been an annual tradition ever since to try a different restaurant unless our grown children volunteer to make the meal.

I encouraged John to sell everything on wheels in the garage and driveway except his truck and to swap it all for something we both liked riding, a golf cart.

Almost two decades ago, I quit my teaching job a week before school started. I tried to talk Larry, a fellow teacher, into doing the same. He and I talked for an hour about self-care while I sorted through teaching supplies to leave behind for the teacher taking my place. Larry had been offered a job as full-time music minister at a church, but convinced himself he had to teach two more years until his son graduated. He had a heart attack a couple of months later (during a faculty meeting) and died. Sadly, he was the one who didn’t see his child graduate. His death had a big impact on my continued self-care.

Change isn’t easy. Our caring people – parents, spouses, children, friends, bosses – care most about us staying the same because that’s most convenient for them. In the psychology books, this is called homeostasis, which is the tendency to keep things as they are.

Homeostasis is promoted by negative feedback loops like pulling back from something because it hurts.

Change, on the other hand, is promoted by positive feedback loops like noticing exercise makes you feel better so you walk more often. Both loops are necessary.

(The info about homeostasis is from an article by Alison Bonds Shapiro M.B.A., and I’ve shared the link below if you’d like to read more. Also below is a story I heard during one of my counseling classes about homeostasis, and its power to trap us into hurting ourselves for others.)

It’s important to recognize, however, that homeostasis, a necessary state of maintaining sameness, is easier than creative change, a necessary state of constantly transforming.

In other words, it’s a push and pull that keeps life balanced and beautiful. However, few people advocate change when they can’t yet see the beauty. They’re thinking about the change and how it may negatively impact them like giving up the household’s second income.

So, our pain (that may be contributed to by someone else wanting us to stay the same) ends up being ours to fix.

We can let others know what’s going on with us. If they support us, this is a plus. Support makes it easier to implement the change to eliminate our pain. However, when the people we wish were our support group turn away or sit silent because they know our change is going to cost them something too, we have to change anyway. A lot of times, our lives depend on it.

Is there something you need to change because it’s causing you pain? Is there someone who doesn’t want you to change? I hope you’ll care for yourself enough to change anyway.

#selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

In This Together,
Kim

“Getting Out of the Way: The Balance Between Homeostasis and Growth” by Alison Bonds Shapiro M.B.A.

Here’s an extreme example of how we hurt ourselves for others, told by one of my professors during a lesson on homeostasis.

A young girl (of a mother who needed to be needed) became confined to a wheelchair almost overnight. She was taken to dozens of doctors, but not one of them came up with a diagnosis. Nothing was wrong, yet nothing gave them any hope she’d walk again. Not physical therapy. Not medication. Not experimental interventions. She stayed in a wheelchair for years until her mother died, and then miraculously got up and walked. She agreed to counseling and being part of a study that verified what doctors suspected – she’d become disabled because she recognized and took responsibility for how desperately her mom needed someone to care for.