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.

Shame Can Kill You (or make you wish you were dead)

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“Shame is worse than death.” Unknown

My uncle’s sexual abuse didn’t impact my life as much as Mom ignoring it, and there was one particular Sunday afternoon that left unshakable shame.

The family was all together and playing croquet in the backyard when my uncle slapped my behind. I started screaming and wouldn’t stop. Mom grabbed my arm and walked me inside and up the stairs out of earshot. When she asked why the outburst, all I could say through crying was, “He hurt me.”

I begged her not to make me pull down my pants, but she did anyway because she wanted to see if he’d left a mark. He hadn’t because my fit wasn’t about how hard he popped me, but about the abuse. I knew better than to explain because it was too painful for Mom to listen to. She and my uncle had been through it also, and worse, with their dad. Her ultimatum – return to the backyard and apologize to my uncle or stay in my room. I wish I’d chosen the second. At least I would have felt a little powerful.

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Because shame left me afraid to share how I felt and afraid of others’ punishment, I’ve felt shaky living through an election year that’s been similar to living with my family of origin.

I’ve snuck around Facebook trying to determine if my vote was okay

… just like I used to sit outside my parents’ bedroom door and eavesdrop on their conversations, trying to figure out if our family was okay.

I’ve kept my candidate’s name to myself even when others loudly announced voting for the opposite person, and attacked anyone who disagreed

… just like listening to my family judge people until I’d feel so uncomfortable I’d ask, “Aren’t we doing those same things?”

I offered up common ground the evening a friend brought up politics, “You know, neither candidate is an ideal choice for the presidency.” She said, “Really? I’m not so sure about that,” letting me know she believed her candidate was ideal

… just like sitting across the table from my dad and brother during one of their arrogant rants.

Out of nowhere (except maybe the election results), a friend stopped liking and commenting on my Facebook posts including grandparent ones, a commonality we’ve shared and “liked” for a couple of years now. On his page, instead of sharing his precious granddaughter, he’s posting offensive political posts, one after another. I’ve fluctuated between sad and maddened since, like Mom, he’s favoring retribution over relationships. I don’t understand, which I’ve said repeatedly this past 365 days.

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This election’s taught me more about dealing with shame than dealing with politics. I’ve had to choose between these …

Be silent and feel ashamed.

Speak out and be shamed.

This time around, I did choose the second and I do feel more powerful.

And …

 I’m choosing well in relationships too because I’m no longer 13, the age I was on the stairs with Mom, and there’s no longer anyone with power to shame me (or you). Committing to these may help both of us.

  • No longer giving into the uncertainty of self-doubt.
  • No longer standing by for hurt caused by judgment.
  • No longer heeding voices of the unreasonable and the arrogant.
  • No longer reacting to another’s punishment.
  • No longer letting shame silence us.

So …

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I’m proposing what my friend and fellow writer put forth. Jacqui said, “I have been working to ‘stay out in the open’ in the recent year or so, despite the palpable repercussions.”

No matter our own self-doubt and others’ judgment, arrogance, and punishment, it’s self-caring, and maybe even self-saving, to stay out in the open and not allow politics or anything else to shame us. As always, it’s easier to step into the open when we are …

In This Together,
Kim

 

 

I Can Throw A Tantrum Too (a long political post my daughter said I had to write if we want to sell our house)

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“If you don’t do politics, politics will do you.” Unknown

Although I’ve objected to adding additional political rhetoric to the pile, I also don’t want to die. I sound theatrical, I know, but almost dying is intense, painful, and terrifying. I came too close when I shut up and shut down a few years ago. I’m not going back there. #selfcaringin2017

While I admire friends who seem not to notice the turmoil while posting puppies and pansies, I don’t want to imitate other friends who post flowers I suspect have root rot. I’m sensitive, so I can almost feel through the screen their misery of having to keep up a pleasant image and people pleasing while pretty much hating half their friends. I especially don’t want the latter. I’d rather pile on the rhetoric.

So, I took some time and decided how to throw my own tantrum, convincing myself it’s okay since Jesus turned over tables in the temple. If He can get angry, so can I. As well, I tried making my tantrums as harmless as possible, not attacking individuals, and meaningful. I want to make a difference, not just a bunch of noise. My daughter heard a missionary say the opposite of cynicism is not what we’d think, which is being positive.

The opposite of cynicism is taking action.

I contacted Nordstrom’s to remove my name from their email list, to let them know to keep their reward points, and to count on me to participate in the “grab your wallet” campaign at their competitors’ stores since the movement swings both ways. I sent a second email with a link to an article about Target’s faltering sales the company blames on online shopping. I, on the other hand, credit Target’s decline to getting involved unnecessarily in politics.

I left three messages on Belk’s Facebook page telling them they’d made a mistake joining the political movement, cancelled my Belk credit card, and searched for stores that carry lines like Clinique and department stores that steer clear of offending shoppers who’d prefer not to hear about their politics. I didn’t like that I got snippy with the fellow who cancelled my card, but he kept on (a little) reasoning why I should stay signed up. I overly thanked him at the end to make up for it.

I continue to limit my trips to Target, down from my usual three to four a week to a couple of times a month. I spend a quarter of what I used to in their stores, and not because they’re attentive to transgender people, but because they’re not attentive to conservative customers as well. Target had their chance to be sensitive without being offensive. The company had an opportunity to set an example, to offer a solution as simple as adding unisex restrooms to their stores that don’t already have them. My cousin recently took a corporate job with Wal-Mart, so I’m considering ditching Target altogether.

I left a message thanking Steinmart for staying out of politics, which shows respect for us all.

For me, this isn’t about a brand of clothing I’ve never tried on or where the clothes were manufactured. My issue is with respect and showing it for the silent majority that voted in a drastically different administration for the next four to eight years. At least half of our country either agreed enough with policies to vote Republican, opposed the opponent enough to throw up a roadblock, or felt disregarded, scared, or angry enough to allow into the White House what some see as a bizarre choice. However it came about, I, for one, breathed a sigh of relief for the first time in at least four years – I’d been given back the right to be conservative. The next day, though, I got scared again because of raging and riots. I wondered for a second, “Can I change my vote, please? You know, so they’ll be nice again.”

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I’m not naïve about tantrums. I’ve wanted to throw my own, but, like I said, I’m conservative, so I’ve kept how I felt under wraps. I, and others too, pandered to loose beliefs so we wouldn’t be called judgmental, racist, and uncaring. However, when you blatantly fly in the face of what I believe strongly enough and ignore me long enough, I’ll either get so afraid, so angry, or both, that I’ll finally throw my own version of a tantrum … quietly.

On my blog.

At the polls.

At the register.

It dazes crowds when quiet people start grunting and groaning. It’s like, “Where’s that noise coming from?” And then it’s, “Wait a minute. You have no right because you’re supposed to be quiet.” Finally it’s, “I’ll shame you back into being quiet.”

This explains, in part, why November’s election results were shocking. Half the country busied themselves either with complacency, talking up one person and talking down another, or shaming the group that planned to vote differently while the other half waited our turn to speak up … at the polls. Not that we weren’t bashing too, but we just couldn’t gain enough momentum to be heard until there was a hush over the country when the unexpected candidate won. A hush, and then a hedonistic uprising that looks destructive instead of purposeful. I hate being divided like this. I’ve read friends’ posts, some of the same ones posting pansies, who say let’s not talk about our country this way, but I can’t deny it and die.

I had a friend say, “I like you, we get along well, and I think you’re smart, so it’s hard to believe how you vote.” We no longer get together, and it’s not because of how either of us votes. Her arrogance is loud, and it permeates everything. It flies in the face of everything I believe in and everything I like. I’m not wholly humble, but I want to be more that way. I also want to sit across from someone who agrees that neither one of us has the right answers, but we know how we feel, so we talk about that.

Since my emotions are all over the place, I’ve taken drastic-for-me actions and cancelled a credit card, left messages with businesses that have stepped into the political arena, and written about it here because that’s what I do to heal and move on. I’ve put aside wanting to rise above talking about politics. I’m talking about it.

That way, I’m less scared and now maybe we’ll sell our house. I’ve convinced my grown kids that if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, you stay stuck. We’re showing the house tomorrow, which is why I’m posting back-to-back blog posts. I think this is what I’m supposed to be writing, and so does my daughter, so maybe we’ll get an offer. #unstuck #lecturedbymychild

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It’s unfortunate retailers like Belk (ranked the number one department store where conservatives shop), that claimed to be listening to customers, can’t discern that they’re only hearing the screamers. This is unfortunate everywhere. I’d like people to understand that not everyone who has an opinion is talking about it. The election proved that.

Too, it’s trending these days to be liberal and loose. I’ve had short jaunts in it myself. The candidate I said I believed in, spoke up because of, and spent hours campaigning for landed in federal prison even though he was a dynamic force while running for office in the 70’s. Then there was Jimmy Carter in 1977, and Obama, who I didn’t vote for, but I believed once he was in office would ease tension and set an optimistic example. I talked him up for a little while until I felt let down.

Again, it’s about how I feel, and emotions can kill us when we won’t talk, or think we can’t. #selfcaringin2017

I care about blogging through this political mess until I get to the creative place I want to be, and I hope it’s helping some of you to get there too. Feel free to share here constructively about how you feel unless, of course, you want to tell me you feel nauseous. A reader did that to be disdainful, and it’s really not cool. Also, feeling nauseous is not an emotion. #keepitkind #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit #inthistogether

In This Together,
Kim

Love the pix, Pixabay.com. And thanks to my daughter for the most interesting couple of days. I appreciate your wisdom, guidance, and friendship.

It’s Always Something

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“There are no guarantees. There are no promises, but there is you, and strength inside to fight for recovery. And always there is hope.” Gilda Radner

Before I ever finished the first chapter, I threw away Gilda Radner’s book about living and dying with ovarian cancer, It’s Always Something. She sounded cynical and I didn’t like it. In hindsight, maybe I didn’t like it because it’s true …

It’s always something.

My son texted, “I believe 2017’s going to be a great year.” I texted back, “I think so too,” but troubling was a message I’d read about our bishop being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and we’d just joined the church the week prior to the news. My husband and I talked about how, for the first time, we felt like we were going “home” – to a community where we’ve always wanted to live, to a house well-matched for us, and to a church with a spiritual foundation we didn’t even know we needed. “Shaken by the news” was an understatement, but I knew I didn’t want dread to wreck 2017’s possibilities, and that’s when it came to mind …

It’s always something.

I remembered Gilda’s book. Since I threw it away some 20 years ago, but still recalled it, I realized, like it or not, the first chapter made an impression. I found the chapter online and read it again. I still didn’t like it, but I understood more and accepted more because …

It is always something.

As far back as I remember, I’ve wished for all to be right in the world. Just once. Maybe for 24 hours. Maybe just 24 minutes. Like the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “ … on Earth as it is in Heaven,” so I pictured Jesus saying we’d have perfect times here meaning total perfection down to no dog hair on the floor, which is why I chunked Gilda’s book. She messed up the fairytale. Of course, a lot of things mess up fairytales because …

It’s always something.

I worked hard at having a clean house and laundry; a mowed, raked and edged lawn; washed and detailed vehicles; and a spiritually, physically, and emotionally balanced family (my husband, grown children, and their families) – all on the same day. But perfection’s elusive because …

 It’s always something.

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Addiction muddles love stories. A wayward child worries a mom’s heart. Financial difficulties unsettle financial security. Illness ruins retirement plans. The perfect partner doesn’t complete us after all. #whilelovingthepeopleinit

Disruptions happen like not being paid for a job, not landing a job, waiting for medical tests, waiting for a return call, and waiting to feel better, be skinnier, and get stronger. There’s a broken washing machine and dreams that break instead of flourish. There’s stress from car accidents, a car engine that won’t start, inclement weather, and, like our friends had happen, a tree falling on their house that caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage leading to a bout with the insurance company.

It could be a distraction as simple as spilled milk, and in spite of being told, “Don’t cry over it,” …

It’s always something.

Another story I’ve never been crazy about goes something like this: if we put our problems in a pile and have to swap them out for other problems, we’d end up taking back our own. I balked for a long time, but now I’m buying into it. I can’t think of a person on this planet with whom I’d swap lives. Not one, and it’s because I don’t want their problems.

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Our stories are about choice, like Gilda’s story too. She wrote about the bad and the beautiful. Our stories are the same. We live in vicious cycles alongside victories. I’ve been noticing my downward cycles are easier to pay attention to than perfect moments, I’m guessing because I’m human more than holy. I have to be intentional about taking my eyes off difficulties and getting my feet off slippery slopes like the past and future, and onto the present holy ground.

#selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #gettingyourownlifenow

I’m still not sure I’ll read Gilda’s book even though I’ve accepted “it’s always something,” and I treasure her saying, “And always there is hope.” My son’s right, 2017 will be great even with its messy moments because …

It is always something, and sometimes it’s something beautiful.

What I love best about bringing this to light is we get to muddle together and hope together and we get to go through our “somethings” together. I appreciate sharing our passages, whether excursions or episodes, with each other. And while we’re together, please pray for Bishop Chuck Murphy because some of our “somethings” are scarier than others.

In This Together,
Kim

Pixabay.com shows off again with interesting images and at no cost. Thank  you, Pixabay.

A Frustrated Post Standing in for Acceptance

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“All conflict we experience in the world is a conflict within our own selves.” Brenda Shoshanna

Don’t you hate it when you’re on a roll, and then life throws a curveball or a donut just five minutes into committing to a goal, 10 minutes after you’ve undertaken a healthy habit, and 20 minutes since getting your own life?

At the end of last week’s blog post, I mentioned I’d be highlighting acceptance and tolerance next. I’ve learned my lesson about announcing upcoming posts after typing, backspacing, and deleting for hours only to end up with an abridged (and unhinged) version of non-acceptance that rambled on something like this.

“Acceptance is off the table. We’ve faked tolerance for years, some of us until we got our way and some of us until we didn’t.”

“We’ve read history books and the Bible, so time’s up for us to accept that we have never embraced diversity, stood united, or practiced political correctness. “We the People” have been at odds forever.”

“Acceptance is a fine idea until we disagree. Then, forget it.”

Just so you know, this isn’t the positive post I envisioned or the one to which I invited you. Authors of novels blame their characters for taking over scenes, however, I’m not sure who to blame for this. If I had known about this post, I would have sent a warning, not an invitation.

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I’m naïve, though, and figured most would be weary of … what’s the antonym of acceptance?  

Oh, yeah, dissension, antagonism, discord, rebellion, judgment, and nasty posts. I figured most would be weary of these. I was wrong. I googled “antonyms of acceptance” for the list above – all except nasty posts. I made that one up.

I planned to gush on about accepting others as a byproduct of accepting ourselves, an overflow of acceptance, of sorts – are you getting even a glimmer of that? – kind of like a volcano of acceptance. Ahhh, that describes more accurately how this post was spilling over.

Take heart, though, all who wander (into frustration) are not lost.

Okay, so at the moment, maybe we are lost. And unhinged. Yeah, definitely unhinged. I couldn’t figure out the problem, or a solution, until my husband texted from the bedroom at 4 a.m. and said, “Come to bed.” I looked at the clock. I felt like I’d been slapped awake.

Until he texted, there was no way I was waking up to and accepting the fact that, since last week, the gracious post I’d started about acceptance had turned frustrated, and so had I. My post about acceptance was off the table the same as acceptance was off the table.

But I had to wonder, since being “slapped,” why such an emotional reaction when I’d hardly been involved in any backlash during the week, or during the year for that matter? I’ve felt overwhelmed and scared and misunderstood in the shadows of it all, but not personally attacked, yet I was taking this week on like I had been. It’s like the quote says, “… it is conflict within our own selves.”

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So, there you have it, the problem and the solution.

The Problem: I take things personally that have nothing to do with me, which lands me in a frustrated place instead of an accepting one. I want to resign my inner conflict that tells me things outside myself are my responsibility, my fault, and mine to fix. I want to accept that friends who rage and name call and belittle aren’t talking to me unless they tag me, text me, call me, or knock on my door.

The Solution: Following through with acceptance means work, prayer, and writing to rid myself of fear, especially fear of others’ confrontations and disapproval. Following through means accepting their reactions are theirs to deal with, and also accepting I deserve contentment and I’ve earned the right to my own life, even unpopular opinions.

#gettingyourownlife #workseverytime #whilelovingthepeopleinit #acceptingmyself 

A friend’s funny comment to a disparaging one put the problem into perspective. He wrote, “Wash, rinse, repeat.” #lovetolaugh

And my daughter’s solution is the same instruction she gives to our nearly two-year-old grandson who overreacts, “Shake it off, buddy.” And he does. He shakes, wiggles, and stomps until he’s done with it. I won’t be cute like him, but if it helps with acceptance …

How is “getting your own life” coming along if you’re like me and easily distracted by negative noise? Sharing solutions help us all. And if you need to share frustration, that’s fine too because we’re in this together.

We sure are,
Kim

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Where Have I Been???

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“Sometimes the person who’s been there for everyone else needs to be there for herself.” S. Kim Henson

I’m funniest in the shower, like this morning. I asked myself a slightly revised question from the movie Sabrina, and in the same tone William Holden asked it of Audrey Hepburn, “Where have I been all my life?”

I laughed, and then, giving it a second thought, genuinely asked it out loud, “Where have I been all my life?”

By the time I wrapped myself in a towel, I sounded annoyed, “Where have I been all my life?”

An hour later, I scrolled through Christmas photos on my phone and found the one I shared above of my three-year-old granddaughter. Her self-studying picture reminded me I hadn’t answered my question, and to answer it gently.

A friend’s suggestion to evaluate my life in seven-year scenes, or thereabouts, seemed a good idea for coming up with an account of where I’ve been. Aside from specifics, maybe you’ll relate.

I spent the first eight years or so of my life – Scene One – growing up on military bases in New York. Mom disliked being away from her family in South Carolina, which meant Dad tried appeasing her until he could get her back to the South. Homesick wasn’t all that was wrong, so I set out at a very young age to figure out and fix us.

I confused a playful childhood with child labor – trying to be silly enough, cute enough, and obedient enough to give Mom and Dad reasons to lighten up, laugh, and be happy in place of her crying and him covering his pain with anger.

Dad was stationed in Vietnam the first year of Scene Two, around the time I turned nine. He moved Mom, my brother, and me to Mom’s childhood home in South Carolina, which also meant being moved in with my great aunt who raised my mom. I cherished Aunt Viola, but I think Dad felt differently. When he returned to the states, he bought a motel in a nearby resort town and lived there seven, then eight, and finally nine months out of every year.

By then, I was hiding out because we weren’t normal anymore. We no longer had a dad, a mom, and siblings living together while Dad worked 9 to 5. Being “not normal anymore” also meant my mentally ill uncle moved in and out of my great aunt’s house, so he lived with us on and off. His disturbing behavior left behind even more to hide.

During Scene Three, I graduated from high school, chose a local college since I was too anxious to move away, and attached myself to my future husband to help me escape the house I wouldn’t leave. We eloped at age 20. Mom gifted us baby presents because she was certain I’d run off to get married because I’d gotten pregnant. Our first child was born five years later.

I ran, although uncertain where I was headed. In retrospect, I was making a run for the metaphorical white picket fence, a place where I convinced myself I’d feel loved enough, taken care of enough, and safe enough.

For the next 28 years, the next four scenes of my life, I moved back to my hometown to live close by my parents who I eventually distanced myself from. I made up a fairytale marriage. I birthed and raised two children (who, by the way, are my two accomplishments that are “enough”). I worked determinedly and went back to school for degrees to teach, counsel, supervise, and write so as to increase my income and my self-worth, and to prove myself to people who weren’t paying much attention. I chose some wrong friends who made me feel important for the same “wrong” reason I picked them – their prominence, not their praiseworthiness. Most of my actions were okay, but my motives, well, not so much. I did a lot of what I did in hopes that I’d earn enough, buy enough, elevate myself enough, help enough, be seen enough, be needed enough, accomplish enough to ultimately persuade myself I was enough.

I immersed myself in other people’s scenes so I wouldn’t have to engage in my own conflicted ones. I lost myself in their lives because I wasn’t sure how to get my own.

It wasn’t until my most recent scene, preceded by Dad’s death and when I was coming up on 50, that I began showing up the way I believe we’re supposed to – for me, for my life’s purpose, and for my God. I stepped back from being confused, hiding, running, and immersing myself in others. I’m excited you’re still reading because this is the scene with the hashtags, the ones that help us focus on ourselves. #selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

But first, before I worked my way up to wondering Where have I been all my life?, I wondered where all these people, places, and things in my life came from. At half-a-century-old (that’ll get your attention), I was no longer able to disregard uncomfortable questions that kept surfacing.

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Questions like …

Why am I living in this big house? In this town? Why do I do for others what they can and should do for themselves? Why do I spend time with people I discern aren’t friends or even kind, for that matter? Why’d I spend money on that? Why do I tolerate disrespect? Lying? Others calling me crazy when they’re the ones driving me there? Why don’t I feel emotionally safe? Why don’t I fit in at church? Any church? Ever? Why do I rise to others’ expectations, but not my own? Why am I avoiding the gym? Why do I sidestep genuine friendships? Why am I procrastinating when productivity makes me feel good? Why don’t I pick up the phone when I need someone? Why don’t I like to cook? Why do I make writing difficult? Why am I eating a third Reese Cup?

Nine years of “cleaning house,” sometimes literally like the time we downsized from 4,000 to 1,000 square feet, and I’m finally asking the foundational question that undergirds the rest, “Where have I been all my life?”

 … and how appropriate for it to pop into my head at the start of 2017, the year I’ve committed to self-care … and how appropriate during a shower because water is a big part of my self-care.

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 So, where have I been all my life? Answer the question, already.

I’m where most of us are right now, no matter our ages – I’m right here (like on the map in a shopping center: “You are here”) and doing all I can to make my story better. Aren’t we all? Isn’t “being better” what most of us attempt daily in our lives? We try to look younger, eat healthier, get wealthier, promote louder, work harder, act calmer, help further, workout longer, treat others kinder, connect deeper, pray profounder, feel stronger, and all so we’ll be better.

We just want to “arrive,” and though arriving is impossible this side of heaven, I believe one inroad to being better is self-care. I hope you’re with me since it’s easier to get better together. #selfcaringin2017

In This Together,
Kim

I’m inviting you back next week to read about acceptance and tolerance. #selfcaring2017 #whilelovingthepeopleinit

My Word for 2017 – Self-Care

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“One word can change everything.” OneWord365.com

Every year since 2012, instead of making resolutions, I’ve chosen a word of the year. Unlike resolutions, I actually remember my word and I make progress because of it. So far, my words have been …

2012 – Incremental
2013 – Ponder
2014 – Content
2015 – Revise & Momentum
2016 – Love

I panic near the end of the year and try to force a word into Word of the Year if I haven’t yet figured out one or if one hasn’t “found” me, which is usually how it works. Sometimes a word shows up so many times, I can’t ignore it. Or I hear it in a song and it sounds like the only word being sung. Or it shows up in a meaningful quote or sermon or passage from a book.

By mid-December, I tried to coerce myself into choosing one of these words: laughter, reassurance, freedom. “Reassurance” almost made the cut, until the shower at my daughter’s house (I’d spent the night at her home after babysitting my grandkids) when “self-care” popped into my head. I do my best thinking on walks and in the shower. In November, I began a 10-session online course on the topic of self-care, so I’m guessing the word was lying in wait.

While dressing, I asked my daughter, who, by the way, knew nothing about the course, “If you picked any word for me in 2017, what would it be?”

“Self-care,” she said after she thought for about three seconds.

I squealed.

“That settles it. Self-care is my word,” I said.

Yep, that’s how it usually works for me.

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Last year, I started another practice based on Word of the Year – I put up cover photos on Facebook that only related to my word for 2016, which was love, so I posted lots of Love-ly hearts. I’ll do the same this year except the images will be about self-care. Today’s cover photo seemed a good way to start off 2017’s self-care. It’s a poster of a bathtub with the saying, “Happiness is a long hot bubble bath. Relax. Recharge. Renew.”

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Since Word of the Year is turning into quite the project for me, I’m adding a hashtag for 2017 in addition to the two I already regularly use, #GettingYourOwnLife #WhileLovingthePeopleInIt. This year’s highlight is #selfcaringin2017 because women need all the help and hashtags we can get when it comes to living our lives and taking care of ourselves.

Have you chosen a word for 2017? If so, let us know what it is. I’ll be happy to share “self-care” with anyone who wants to join me for a whole year of taking care of us. I plan to blog about it often.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the pix, Pixabay.com

Thanks for the suggestion about a hashtag in 2017, Jenine.

Thanks for the course, Lucille.

 

Click the link if you’re interested in signing up for the 10-session work-at-your-own-pace course I mentioned above for only $59, Renaissance U: Lessons on Selfcare taught by a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Friend Lucille Zimmerman, instructor of the course, covers self-care topics including The Fine Art of Solitude, The Fine Art of Boundaries, and The Fine Art of Play. Lucille is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, Colorado. She’s an affiliate faculty professor at Colorado Christian University. She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World.

 

 

A Quiet Miracle (one I almost talked through)

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“A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:7 #WhileLovingthePeopleInIt

Although I wouldn’t call this a typical Thanksgiving post, today, I’m grateful.

For a few weeks now, our family’s been going through growing pains, which makes me feel crazy because, even when I don’t know what to do, I believe God needs my help.

I can’t get out of the way. I can’t shut up.

When I say, “I can’t,” it’s not that I won’t. I mean I can’t. I’ve made up my mind and tried dozens of times before. Too many frightening images pop up like the time I got out of the way and shut up with Mom and Dad, and we spoke to each other only three or four more times before Dad died.

I can’t shut up.

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I’m terrified of quiet. I mean, I’m an introvert, so I love it when I’m alone and peaceful and there is no noise. But if there’s something that needs fixing, I can’t keep quiet about it.

Last week, while I sat in the wrong parking lot that I accidentally pulled into, I talked to my daughter about feeling crazy, which is even more scary for me right before the holidays. We’ll all be together and I’ll talk, especially in the middle of growing pains.

“I don’t know why I’m telling you this story, but what you’re going through right now reminds me of what you and I went through after Claire was born. It wasn’t until you got quiet that I recognized my part,” she said.

Wait. What? When I got quiet?

Kelly and I hit a rough spot after our first grandchild arrived three and a half years ago. She and my son-in-law asked me to move in for a week to help. I changed diapers, rocked Claire, stayed up late into the nights, cooked meals, made beds, washed clothes, and cleaned, but I couldn’t do anything quite right. Kelly’s conversations with me were edgy and unpredictable. The atmosphere was tense, and it got worse when I talked with her about it.

I told you, I can’t shut up.

I finally said to my husband John, “I’d rather never see Claire again than set an example for her by allowing this kind of disrespect.”

I meant it. Disregard for women, really, people in general, runs rampant in both of our families. I set out, I think from birth, to put an end to our unhealthy generational patterns, even though clueless about how to do it. In fact, many times I did the opposite of what was right, but I did something. My resolve was never stronger than the first time I held Claire.  

Detaching from Kelly and her family ranks among the hardest choices I’ve ever made. I stepped away for about three months from grandparenting. Kelly and I talked seldom and I saw Claire even less.

Our break ended with Kelly apologizing. It didn’t happen overnight, but it still seemed she grew up right in front of me. On the phone and crying, and still in the wrong parking lot, I said, “I wondered what I said that helped you recognize your bad attitude and your resentments.”

Nothing.

I took a deep breath on the phone. I’m taking another one now. I cried then. I’m crying now while writing this.

It wasn’t anything I said. It was all the things I stopped saying.

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and she tells me the thing that worked was being quiet.

I couldn’t hear “be quiet” until this moment because of my fear of losing the people I’ve loved most. I still know there are plenty of times I need to speak up, but there have been many more times I’ve needed to shut up, but I could not. I’d shake until I talked.

This week’s been different. I’ve been quiet, which is called a miracle. It’s my Thanksgiving miracle, and I believe God will extend the Grace of it onto my family while I quietly watch.

If you’re in the middle of a mess, please believe with me that a miracle is on its way. God loves surprising us when we least expect it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I love y’all dearly.

In This Together,
Kim

Here’s a funny side note about when I told Claire, aka Amelia Bedelia, “I love you dearly.” She said, “Mammy, who’s dearly?”

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com. Wow, I’m even feeling more grateful for your site today. ‘Tis the season for gratefulness …