Walking

If I had to name the top 10 most influential people in my adult life, there is one person who would certainly be at the top of the list.  She was a spiritual mentor, a life coach, an encourager (this word flags as misspelled, but I like it so it stays), and a partner in my creative endeavors.

She was a pastor at a church that I used to attend. As our relationship developed, she learned that I was an artist – although at that time I was just somebody who made stuff.  She started sharing her sermon plans with me and I started to create art that illustrated the sermon.  Some of it was pretty bad, but she hung it on the wall anyway.  Eventually, it got better and she hung that too.

Sometimes she would come to me with a sermon and verse and we would find that I had already started the canvas that went with it.

I would sit and draw her sermons on Sundays.  It’s how I learned that art is my form of worship…a lesson that I still value today.  I did a complete book of sermon drawings for her.  When I visited her a month or so ago, I saw that it sits on her hearth along with some other things that she treasures.

We rarely see each other any more as we live on opposite side of Austin.  Though our lives no longer intersect as they once did something interesting is starting to happen.

I faithfully read her postings on Caring Bridge as she chronicles her experiences with metastatic Stage IV colon cancer.  Lately, her posts are becoming more and more applicable and relative to my life – just as her sermons often seemed to be written just for me.

A couple of days ago she wrote something that inspired my post, “Doors”, which turned out to be one of the most popular things I’ve ever written here.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to get a “big head”.  By popular, I mean that more than 10 people read it.  It’s all relative, right.  I favor quality over quantity any day.

Today, she wrote about going through the interview process to try and get selected for a clinical trial of a new treatment.  Although our situations are totally different and I would never try to compare my struggles with hers – when I read the words she had written about being overwhelmed, I could identify with her completely.

First, it put the circumstances of my life right now in perspective.  I’ve reminded myself that the problems that I am facing are manageable and most likely solvable.  The challenges to come are not insurmountable.

Second, her words helped me gain my footing again.  She wrote that “sometimes people who are overwhelmed don’t do anything because they can’t do everything.”

She added that we should “acknowledge it (the situation) , pray, and just do one thing at a time.”

I can do that.  I can acknowledge that while my situation could be worse, it’s still hard and I’m both tired and overwhelmed.  And while I can’t do everything, I can do something.

So here’s what I accomplished today:

  • I went to work
  • I visited my sister in I.C.U and initiated a discussion about what her discharge plan might need to look like
  • I spent time with my husband although I did forget to make his lunch
  • We started planning what needs to be done to fix our second bathroom so that it is easily accessible for my sister as her recovery continues – I did not figure out how to pay for said renovations – that would be too much for today and would lead to feeling overwhelmed again.
  • I am committing to filling one bag with trash as I begin to catch-up on housework. Some (most) of it will just have to wait.
  • I took a short walk in an effort to get back to walking two miles a day so that I can lose the weight I have gained.  A long walk just couldn’t happen.  That’s okay.
  • My daughter and I are going to do one math lesson as we work on getting caught up.  It won’t solve the problem, but it’s something.
  • I am going to sit and prepare the bag of worn out T-shirts into strips for my rug as I watch a stupid T.V. show and allow myself to rest. Oh, and by the way…here’s my efforts so far. Barret, the dork dog seems to like it just fine.

Perhaps most importantly, she reminded me that I’m not alone.  I have friends that are thinking of and praying for me.  I have people that I can call on if I need to (even if I’m too stubborn to admit that I need help).

Just because people are no longer physically present in our lives doesn’t mean that the lessons we learned from them, or the experiences we shared with them aren’t still valuable resources that we can draw from when we need to.  Special people who have once been in our lives never really leave us.  They become a part of us…often the best part.

Some Days…

Some days the world is a sunny place – regardless of the weather or the circumstances or the realities of existence.

Some days it rains – whether water actually falls from the sky or not.

On the sunny days, anything seems possible.  I can handle it all.  Bring it on world….taking care of a household, teaching an art class, figuring out Latin homework, relearning division, waving good-bye as my kids go out into the scary, bad world alone, training a spastic, brain-damaged dog to be sociable, working two other part-time jobs, being there for my sister as she recovers from surgery, laughing off the 20 pounds I’ve put back on over the summer and being a patient and supportive listener.

And then there’s the morning I wake up, and from the very start of the day, it’s all too much.  The smallest thing triggers tears and the urge to crawl back into bed with the covers pulled over my head.  Everything seems to be moving too fast and I’m moving too slow.  I’d give anything for a “pause” button so that I could gain my footing.

When anyone speaks to me, I hear disappointment in their voice.  Their awareness that I’m just not up to the task.  That I’m falling short.

It’s not really their voice I’m hearing though, is it?  It’s my inner voice.  I’m disappointed in myself.  Yesterday, I could handle this.  Today, not so much.

What’s the difference in yesterday and today? Good question.  My anxiety disorder? Depression?  A good night’s sleep?  I’ve got nothing in the way of an answer.

I’ve been told that I’m my own harshest critic.  That’s probably true.  Being kind to a stranger is pretty easy for me.  Cutting myself some slack is much more challenging.

Maybe that needs to go on the list of things to do.  Learn to be nicer to myself.  Be kinder and more understanding that some days are harder than others.  Tell myself that I’m doing the best I can and to take a deep breath.  But not today.  I’m not adding anything more to today’s to-do list.  I’m done with today.

I’m going to go wrap up in a blanket and listen to the rain fall.

P.S.  Just one more thing.  Tomorrow, when you hear that little voice whispering that you messed up, that you haven’t done enough,  that there’s too much to-do…when you feel overwhelmed…hear these words…

I think you’re doing okay.  That you are doing the best that you can.  And it’s enough.  The world is a better place with you in it.  And the sun will come back out.

 

 

 

 

 

If I’m Not Writing…

You can bet that if I’m not writing, I’m not feeling so great.   And that is indeed the case right now.

Someone posted a list of some symptoms of anxiety on facebook.  Here’s the paraphrased version:

  • unpredictable bouts of rage and irritability
  • Nit-pickiness (obsessive behavior)
  • hypersensitivity to disarray, chaos or any sort of change
  • fast-talking, stuttering, stumbling over words

That’s not all, but these really hit home…

I went and did some more research on anxiety.  There’s a difference between knowing something and knowing something.  You can have the information and understand it’s content in an intellectual sense

OR

you can get “hit upside the head” with an experience put into words and have an aha moment.  That’s what happened for me.

I have an anxiety disorder.  I’ve known that.  I take medication for that.  Probably not enough.  I’ve argued with my doctor about my dosage.

I don’t want to have an anxiety disorder.

I don’t want to be a weak individual who can’t handle whatever life throws at me.  I want to be capable and strong.  I want to have great coping skills and walk through life serenely without struggle or the need for rest.  And sometimes I do deal well with stuff.

But, sometimes I don’t.  I have some work to do.  I have an actual medical condition.  I need to learn how to deal with it.  I need to recognize when it’s happening and take care of myself.  I need to take a time-out sometimes.  I need to continue my decluttering and organizing efforts in order to minimize the chaos in my home.  I need to quit being so stubborn and recognize that sometimes I can’t keep up the pace that I’ve set for myself.  I need to cut myself some slack.

Sometimes I just get to the point where my whole body feels like it’s “humming”.  The thoughts in my head are swirling so fast that it’s hard to just get ahold of one.  I quit writing becasue the words don’t flow easily.  I have to grab each one and place it on the page.  I worry that it’s not done well enough.  I don’t want to write poorly and put it out there in the world.  The insecurity starts and a vicious cycle is born.

This applies to everything in my life…writing, art, cleaning, everything.  It’s hard to do something, so I don’t do anything because I can’t deal with the struggle and the “imperfection”.  The less I do, the harder it becomes to start.  Soon I surrounded by a really big, undone mess of a life that is overwhelming…and I feel inadequate and a failure.

I visualize it as dropping out of an airplance holding onto a parachute by a thousand separate strings.  The strings become tangled and one by one they are breaking and I am losing my grip on them.  As I let go the parachute is catching more and more air until I fear that it will actually be totally ripped from my grasp – and I will fall…

We’ll see if I actually post this.  I’m feeling indecisive about it right now.  Do I want to share this much with people I know and see often or people I don’t even know?  Do I want to announce publicly that I can’t seem to get my life together.  That I’m so flawed that I can’t cope.  That sometimes I just sit and cry because it all seems so hard.  That I hate myself for the times my house is just a giant mess and it’s not welcoming.  That I’ve yelled at my family when I really just wanted to yell at myself for my failures.  That I’m crying right now.

I am going to post this.  I’m going to take this risk…because I’m not the only one.  There are others out there who are dealing with anxiety.  Who feel alone.

You are not alone.  And you are strong.  Only a strong person could deal with this disorder and get up every morning and keep going forward – imperfectly maybe, but we keep trying.

This world can be hard – there is plenty to be anxious about – even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder.  Sometimes there is a totally valid reason to be anxious.  Sometimes I don’t need any reason at all.

“This too shall pass”.  Tomorrow or the next day (or the next) will be a better day.  I believe that.  And, even with the problems I’m dealing with right now, today’s not so bad.

The Next Day

A late night last night.  A restless night’s sleep.  A husband who had to be up at 5.  I am not a morning person unless the morning is starting around 9.

I still got a lot done.

I put my shoes on.IMAG0563

I took 11 boxes of paper and 9 bags of shredded paper to the recycling center.

I spent almost 2 hours balancing our checkbook and updating our budget program. It takes only a few minutes a day if I do it every day,  I hadn’t touched it in over a month.  I didn’t plan on ignoring it for so long…one day became two and so on.   I even sorted through a huge stack of unopened mail.  A classic case of ignoring a difficult problem until it becomes an enormous problem.

We sorted out some stuff. One more bag is ready to go to the thrift store.

I worked on my canvas.  I’m really trying to push some self-imposed boundaries. You’re lucky that I can’t  post a photo of it because my internet is screwing up.   I hate it.  It’s ugly.  And terrible.   I think it reflects how I feel.

I am tired and discouraged.  I’m overwhelmed and really having trouble looking on the bright side.

My problems are first world problems.  I am so much better off than most of the world.  My problems are nominal compared to what’s happening all over the world and in my own backyard.

This is depression and anxiety.  Even well-managed depression and anxiety.  Even when you take care of yourself and rest.

Sometimes the day just “goes bad”.  Sometimes there’s a reason.  Sometimes not.

You can’t see clearly. A part of you knows that it will work out.  The house will get cleaned.  The painting can be re-worked.  There is a glimmer of financial hope on the way.  It could certainly be worse.  Just follow the news.

But you still can’t see clearly.  Your focus turns inward of it’s own accord and all you can see is your sadness.

The difference between yesterday and today.  Night and Day.

But I have faith and I believe.  Tomorrow will be a new day