Still Struggling

I have taken a long hiatus from  blogging.  Part of it is because I have been trying to stay focused on the important people in my life and spending time with them.  The other part is because I don’t want to sound like a broken record.  I am still grieving.  I am still hurting.  I am still struggling to find that “new normal”.   I realize that it has not been a year yet, and because of that I am trying really hard to cut myself some slack.  But there are times that the fog still makes it hard to move forward.

We are in the middle of Advent, the time of preparation for Christmas.  I am terrified of that holiday this year.  Honestly, I have been scared since Thanksgiving.  This has always been my favorite time of the year.  I love everything about it – the decorations, the music, the specials on TV, the family traditions.  One tradition was that Dad and I always went out on a “booming around” day.   It was a shopping day where it was just the 2 of us (until the Cubs came along and then they came with us) and we went shopping for mom and whoever it was I needed to buy a special present for (boyfriends as I was growing up and then gifts for Papa Bear as we started dating and throughout our married life).    The day would always include Dad taking me out for lunch.  As I got older the day became more about the lunch and the conversations we shared than about the actual shopping.  When I graduated from Nursing School and started working he would pull out his date book on Thanksgiving weekend and say “we need to plan when we can do our day”.   We always aimed for weekdays since the stores would be less busy.   Until I was in my late teens the man had me convinced that he did not know how to wrap a gift, so I always wrapped the gifts for him after we got home from shopping.  Once I was living on my own I would always have a big pot of chili waiting for us so we could warm up while I wrapped.   This will be the first year in 46 years that we have missed a shopping day.   I have tried to think of so many ways to “honor” that tradition and create a new one.  I have yet to come up with one that feels right.  I thought about doing a spa day, but money and scheduling just did not work out.  I have tried to think of other ways….go out with the Cubs for a shopping day,  make it a family day of shopping, do some sort of service project with the family.  Nothing has worked out from a scheduling standpoint, and honestly, nothing has worked out from a feeling “right” standpoint either.

But this is just one of the things that have changed.  There are some not so great memories of last year’s Christmas that I have to work through.  Mom and dad usually came up to decorate our tree with us, but last year dad did not feel good enough for long enough to come up, so our tree did not even get decorated until 2 days before Christmas.  I am not even in the mood to decorate the tree this year.   After Christmas Eve Mass last year is when dad took a very bad turn for the worse and they had to leave our home in the wee hours of Christmas Morning while the cubs were still asleep.  It was the 1st Christmas morning that the Cubs did not spend with my parents.

During this precious time of the year I am just sitting in a low spot.  I know I have to work through the pain.  I know that have to just survive until the healing starts to occur.  I know that eventually there will be a “new normal”.  But right now, at this moment, it hurts.  And I want things to “old normal” again.  But normal would mean he would be in pain again.  Normal would mean that the loss was still going to occur.   Neither of those things would I want for him or my family.   But that does not stop what I am feeling right now, at this moment.   All I do right now is to cry out to the only one who knows completely about my pain and hang on to the faith that has been given to me.

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It worked!

Remember that mind game I played with myself?

I went for a walk last night (note to self, go walking when it is NOT dusk – irregularities in the sidewalk are much more evident!) and I walked for 20 minutes!

I stretched last night after the walk, but my hips are still very tight. I slept really well last night to boot. It was also nice to walk around the neighborhood holding hands with Daddy Bear and just enjoy time together. We found the cubs and were greeted with hugs from the little one and continued on our walk. The nice part about the cubs being a bit older is that I don’t have to figure out how to keep track of them while I walk.

Next goal – at least 10 minutes again today……

Out of Touch?

I recently had a Facebook “discussion” on the healthcare bill and what some people see as it’s infringement on religious liberty/freedom.

 

As an American and our fervent belief in “rights” and freedom and democracy,  I have had and continue to have a difficult time accepting the idea of  “Kingship”, and “submitting” to God.  I will also freely admit that I have thought and prayed hard about many of the “rules” of the Catholic Church.   I am a work in progress, and I figure I will still be questioning up until the day I draw my last breath.  Only through my questions does my faith grow.  But even when my beliefs are set and I know deep in my heart and soul they are true and right, when someone presents me with a differing point of view I listen.

I listen because I know that somewhere they have a valid point of view.

It may not be valid with the context of my beliefs, but it is valid to them and in order to respect them I have to respect their point of view.

That does not mean that I endorse it, but it does mean that I am giving them the freedom to believe what they want to believe.   It means that I give them very human right to think and feel and make a choice on their own.   It means that within their thought process I recognize that their point of view has been determined by something within their life – a teaching, an experience, an article.   My thought is to get at why they see them the way they do.   Everyone has something I can learn from them.   Without listening to them I can’t learn.  I may not change my position on things, but I that does not mean I have not tried to understand and learn.

Anyway –

Back to this friend with whom I was having a discussion.  I appreciate the fact that she gave me her point of view.  It reminded me that not everyone starts at the same point.   I also appreciated her acknowledging that we were not trying to change each other’s mind and that we could remain friends even while agreeing to disagree.   Having friends like that have helped me accept my own self-worth.  They allow me to have my opinions and don’t mock me for having them.

Unloading

Since the day I could form words on paper I have loved to write.   I enjoy the artistic part of crafting the letters together to form beautiful script.   I play with words until they create the perfect image in my mind.  Then I actually write them and my script looks like chicken scratch and my word images become a jumble that really don’t do justice to what I had created in my mind.  But that is OK, because when I write in my personal journal, I don’t care what others think, because it is not for them.  It is for me.  It is my safe zone to unload all that boils in me all day.   Now one big problem I have is keeping my writing to something less than the length of  “War and Peace”.   That is why I have the journal I use.

It is full of prompts that focus me on the important parts of my day.  The space to answer those prompts is large enough to allow a couple of sentences, which forces me to really think about my answers and to distill my thoughts to their purest form.  The back of each page of prompts is a plain pages with lines so that I can free form anything that was not covered in the prompts.   Often I use that page as a gratitude journal.  One of the struggles of depression is finding the good in a day, especially when buried under the dark feelings. My mother gave me the exercise when I was a child, to report to her one good thing about the day when she was tucking me in at night.  I have carried that forward to my journal and I have found, even on my darkest days that I stop writing the good things only because I have run out of space on the page.  Not every day is that easy, but as long as I keep up my journaling and writing, it becomes a habit to focus on the good and identify it before I identify the bad.  My snarky sarcastic jabs lessen and I become a much nicer person.

I had fallen away from journaling for quite a long time.  When my dad’s cancer came back this last time I knew I needed to dig my journal out again and start writing.   But I was having a really rough time and just could not get motivated.  So I checked my e-mail and found a 50% coupon at one of my favorite craft stores,  marched myself in and spent the whopping $3.50 on myself and bought a pen that creates lovely writing even out of my scrawling hand!

As I write I imagine I am a regal lady who has wonderful history to record for posterity instead of a working suburban mother of 2 just trying to make ends meet.   In reality, though, when I write with that pen my writing becomes art, it becomes more important, if to no one else but me.  And at that moment, as I pour out my day onto the page and work to make sense of the struggles and celebrate the victories and fulfill my mother’s request to find something good at the end of the day, I am writing a unique and priceless story because no one else will ever do the things I do or feel the things I feel in exactly the same way.   And by filling in the blanks on the daily page I empty myself so that the next day I can once again be filled with the love, laughter, and joy that my family brings to me each and every day.

Learning how to walk the walk

Part of my spiritual growth is learning how to actually live my faith and not just talk it.  One way to do this is to actually learn about and absorb the knowledge in the resources available to me.  By taking these deep into myself and internalizing the lessons the practice of it become second nature – like muscle memory in TKD, it is spiritual memory for my life.   The Pope, the leader of my Church, has declared this year to be the year of Faith, a year where we really analyze what we believe and embrace it.   Papa Bear and I are facilitating a study at our church regarding this, using a terrific workbook

I should say we started facilitating this study, but with the issues in my family the group we were studying with picked up and continued when we could not be there.  We are really looking forward to studying with them again this Sunday.  We have really missed our time with them.   This study delves into no just what we believe as Catholic Christians, but also WHY.

A personal study I have started recently is a study of the Gospel of Luke.  I started it before I realized that this year is the cycle in our church when we read from the Gospel of Luke.   Don’t ask me how I found this study, because I honestly don’t remember.  But I, as someone who loves to write and journal, was drawn to the journaling part of this study.   It is put together by The Good Morning Girls.  I won’t bore you with all the details, as their website does a great job of explaining everything.  I am not part of a group, mainly because I was not able to start when they did, and I was not sure how much I was going to be able to keep up once I did start.  It is not like I haven’t heard the Gospel of Luke my entire life, but taking it slowly, making the words mine, reading my Bible Commentary and learning the history and meaning behind the layers of the stories has really enhanced my experience.    I have found great comfort in learning more about who is walking beside, talking with, and showing my father new wood working techniques, and knowing that He is waiting to do the same with  me.

 

My Spiritual Home

Right now my life is going through an overhaul.

I am once again taking charge of my physical well-being.

I am being proactive in taking care of my emotional health while grieving and working through the stress of this time of my life.

I am also leaning on and building up the spiritual part of my life.  It is not actually a “part of” my life, it is my foundation.  I have never been very open about my faith life on this blog, but if I am going to continue to grow I am going to have to talk about it a bit more.   To do that I am going to have to tell you a bit about my worship tradition in order for you to understand some of what I talk about in future posts.   First and foremost I am a Christian – I profess without hesitation that my entire life is influenced by Jesus.  I attempt to follow him, though I am only human and fall many times, DAILY!  But because of his forgiveness and grace I am able to get up and try again, knowing that he is always there for me.   The way I worship is guided by the Roman Catholic Church.  I was baptized as an infant into the Church, and have been a practicing Catholic my entire life.  I went through the normal teen and early adult years where I questioned not only my faith tradition, but also Christianity as a whole.  It was only through this time of questioning that I was drawn back to my faith and the Catholic Church and have been able to embrace it with my entire heart and soul.   That time of questioning, exploration, and even flat-out denial gave me the chance to step away from the faith that my parents spoon fed me and return to it as an adult making a conscious decision to enter into a relationship with God and accept the traditions of the Catholic church.

There are many traditions that Protestants object to in the Catholic Church, and there are many misconceptions about the Church.  There will be times that I discuss specifics of the Catholic church as it relates to my growth journey.  I will explain those specifics so that anyone who is not intimately familiar with the traditions of the Church can understand why it is important to me.  But never is my intention to preach or try to convert anyone.  I am merely speaking from my heart about my personal journey.    I may point out differences between my faith tradition and those of another denomination only to make a point, but never, ever to denigrate anyone else’s beliefs.  I would hope that my journey would encourage others to seek out their own spiritual path no matter what belief system.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Catholic Church in order to understand a bit more of my point of view and my origins, there are many really good books out there.  One series in particular is very good at explaining things, and is in a format that I really appreciate…..

Catholicism for Dummies

Catholic Mass for Dummies

Saints for Dummies

Falling Apart

Over the last few months I have felt like I am falling apart.  When I set my New Goals back in November I was doing pretty good.  Since that time I have had a string of pretty major health issues.  Part of the onset, I am sure, was influenced by the stress of my father’s progressing illness.  Stress, as we all know, has a massive impact on not only psychological and emotional health, but also physical health.

My body chose one of the worst days in the world to revolt and send me to the Emergency Department – Presidential Election Day.  Please trust me when I say there is absolutely NOTHING on TV during an election.  Sure, I am interested in the results,  but after the first 30 times of hearing the exact same numbers, I am sure I could manage with only the ticker along the bottom of the screen!  Anyway, I ended up there with chest pain.  I know all the protocols for someone entering the ER with chest pain.  But it is totally different when I am the patient, not the nurse.  Not only that, I knew exactly why I was having chest pain, and it had nothing to do with having a heart attack!  I just needed a medication adjustment to help control my heart rate.  But the staff had to follow the routine and I had to submit.  I do have to say that they staff was really good and took my teasing and light-hearted complaining all in stride.  After spending the night in the hospital I had to take a couple of weeks off from vigorous exercise to allow my medication levels to rise.  During that time I was fairly (OK, moderately to majorly) sedentary and made the mistake of taking up soda consumption again.  Subsequently, my old friends, kidney stones, came to visit.  I started showing symptoms right before Thanksgiving.  I finally passed one stone that I know of the last week of November.   Because I knew I had passed the stone I could not figure out why I was still having so much pain.  A CT scan showed an inordinately large amount of stones.   I was given the option of trying to pass them or have surgery.  Since it was 2 weeks before Christmas we made the decision to go ahead of surgically remove them.  Good thing we did, because the size of the stone that was causing the majority of the pain was not going to pass by itself.  I was healed and healthy for Christmas.

I relate these things, not to get sympathy, but to discuss the emotional impact this has had on me.  As I said before,  I really believe that stress had a huge impact on all of this.  Stress causes the release of the “fight or flight” hormone – the one that makes the heart race, causes muscle tension and creates a sense of alertness.  Some stress is normal and actually somewhat beneficial to our bodies.  And the “fight or flight” response is great when a mountain lion is about to attack. But long-term stress wreaks havoc.  It can cause high blood pressure,  lead to a suppression of the immune system,  aggravate skin conditions, trigger the onset of diabetes or worsen diabetes in those who already have it, and can even influence fertility.  (The Physical Effects of Long-Term Stress By JANE COLLINGWOOD)  Those are the physical effects that occur naturally within the body.  That does not include the poor habits developed over life to cope – over-eating, eating the wrong thing, etc.  There are also mental effects such as being unable to concentrate, racing thoughts, negative thoughts, and inability to problem-solve, to name a few.  Long term stress can also result in depression, withdrawing from family and friends who can provide support, and ceasing to participate in stress-relieving activities such as hobbies and exercises.  (The Impact of Stress By STEVE BRESSERT, PH.D.)

You see, I had ALL of those symptoms, but I did not heed my body’s warnings.  I had to wait for them to get so bad that I ended up in the ER and cascade to surgery before I started to listen and become proactive.  My work life depends on my being proactive.   I need to move that proactive mindset to my personal life.  It is much easier to be proactive while I have the energy and the mental resources than it is to be reactive when I am rolling under a wave of stress.

In future posts I will be exploring ways to once again move to the proactive.  I would love to have a “discussion” about ways to actively negate the effects of stress before they become a problem.  So please chime in on the comments section!