Life is a series of choices. We don’t often think of that but just getting out of bed in the morning is a choice. We are so used to routine that it doesn’t seem like we made a choice. It’s just what we do every day with little thought. How different life could be it we could be fully present for each of those choices. It is interesting to reflect on one’s path in life. It is so easy to see the places where I stepped off the path and usually paid for it. Sometimes the slip brings an instant outcome. Sometimes life continues and only with a long look back can we see the result of the choice.
I have always wanted to learn to live each day in the present moment but I haven’t mastered it yet. If only every second of every day I could remember I am alive now! How different my whole life would have been.
You see, I am a worrier. I cross bridges and explore every good and bad outcome for each crisis or major event that comes up. I can easily picture myself with a fatal illness or catastrophic problem. The real question is how I have managed to live for 76 years and not learned how to let this go. It is time to move on. This is my journey into change. My first step into a new way to really live each moment.
I know that I have a tough road ahead of me and will struggle with my resistance to changing habits and applying all the advice and wisdom I have been given. I worried as a child. My grandmother used to tell me to sit in a chair and worry as hard as I could and get up and see if anything had changed. Her wisdom (she died at 100 ) was there for me as long as she lived. I heard it over and over but never learned how to do it.
The practice of faith was not absent in my growing years. God was a part of my everyday life. I was baptized in the Presbyterian church that my parents attended and each Sunday was in church with my parents or my grandmother (she was Methodist) I saw my grandmother read her Bible each day and pray as she rested after lunch and again at night before bed. Her connection to God was strong. Was Her consistent time spent with God the thing that brought her such peace? Many of my adult years have been spent in God’s ministry. Interesting that all that energy and action didn’t have a deeper effect on my way of being. One would think that Bible study, leading church events, teaching yoga and meditation would have had more impact.
So many human quirks that have been around since Adam and Eve have been given titles and are seen as present in many of us. In today’s world, my worrying would be given the title mild anxiety. What I do is not unusual nor can it be considered a psychiatric diagnosis. It seems to me that the recognition of garden variety anxiety has given some relief for those of us who worry. I am not the only one and will certainly not be the last.
Added on to this propensity to worry are the major changes in our way of life. It seems to me that sometimes ignorance is bliss. (note: I say it seems that way). Today we are bombarded with information. The world seems to be more dangerous day by day. To quote Dr King “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” We can see the result of this on the streets of our cities. Have we been desensitized to violence so that nothing is too abhorrent to do?
All the electronic devices have added noise on a former unprecedented level. Is there silence anywhere? Do we understand the effect on body and mind of constant noise? Do we ever just sit back and think? I see this pattern as actually increasing worry or anxiety in the future. There is no time to just be.
All that having been said this writing will record my progress (or lack thereof) of a journey into change. I cannot change the world but I can change myself. I believe in the butterfly principle and maybe if one person finds a different way something will change.
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Today I have been thinking about cause and effect. No matter what we do, or don’t do for that matter, there is always a result. It cannot be avoided. Just how much control do we have over the result of our actions? Sometimes I think we don’t have any and at other times it seems that I am definitely responsible for the outcome.
If we have anything to do with the outcome then we need to be careful. What I choose may have a result that affects someone else. Do I think about that when I make choices? Do I have a positive or negative attitude? It seems to me that having a positive attitude can change the outcome.
There is a difference between positive and negative attitudes. All of us have been with people who are always negative. For them, nothing is ever good. This can really wear on me and I don’t like being around them. Their negativity is just depressing. How we approach things is a decision that we can choose. I can get up in the morning and decide that it is going to be a good day and usually it works. Of course there are times when the day goes downhill anyway but not always.
We do have some control over our own mind. For those of us who have anxiety sometimes we feel truly out of control. It is hard to think yourself into a better place. Depending on the circumstances it may not be possible but that is what I am working on. Developing skills for handling bad feelings is a matter of training. It is just so hard to be disciplined.
Taking control of your own mind is a challenge but it is possible to do. It just takes consistent work.
Why is life today so stressful? I don’t remember it being like this when I was younger. I don’t know if the world has changed or I have. Probably both. Instead of hearing local news we hear news from everywhere and the focus is on the sad, tragic, violent and horrible things. Seldom do we hear about something nice. The one good thing to come out of the recent disasters from hurricanes to earthquakes has been the stories of people helping each other.
I have been listening to the book The Tribe by Sebastian Junger. I have ordered the book. It is interesting to find something that follows my own thinking so closely. If you have read any of my previous posts you know I am concerned about how disconnected we all are. There are many reasons why that is so. People move for jobs away from family. Very few people live in towns small enough to know most everyone. Both parents work changing the family dynamic. Communication has changed from primarily face to face to email, internet, social media, and texting. A lot of people do not know and may not have seen their next door neighbor. Our circle of people has grown exponentially smaller. Most of us do not have a wider community that we belong to. As I have said before this may one of the most critical aspects of a church if it is truly a community.
This loss of community has removed the glue that we need to hold ourselves together. There is no way of knowing (since there is no data) if the incidence of anxiety, depression and related problems was as high when we were more communal. My suspicion is that it was not.
Here in the USA we rush from task to task. People work longer hours and get less pats on the back. We are accessible 24/7. I wonder why everyone isn’t anxious. Maybe those of us who are are the ones who get it.
If you suffer from anxiety etc. try a find a community where you can be accepted and find belonging. I have the feeling it will help.
I read an article recently that talked about intuition. Something was said about how little intuition is respected. I think intuition is a good barometer and we should pay attention to it. An intuition is not necessarily a bad gauge to go by. There may be a compilation of experiences and learning that are prompting it and not just some feeling. It is like making soup. If there is just one ingredient it may not be any good but the combination of all the things we put in make it wonderful. All those things meld together to jog something in our brain.
People who are concerned with provable facts don’t think there is anything to intuition. It is often scoffed at….especially as women’s intuition. One of the things I did as a nurse was to have classes for young children called the Touch Program. The program was to tell young children that there can be good touch such as hugging and bad touch like being fondled inappropriately. The children were told to be aware of a bad feeling in the pit of their stomach. A gut feeling. Young children understood this. Those who reported abuse could usually tell you that something felt wrong.
As you can tell I am sure that intuition is a useful tool. Sometimes it can be wrong but most frequently it is right on target and women are not the only ones who use it.
As I thought about things that can’t be fixed I realized that there is another issue for us.
The trouble is that so much of what we have learned over the years is that many things can be fixed. If we have an infection medicine invented by science may fix it. Science has learned to fix many things.We see science as the fixer. If we have an accident in the car that is not a major crash the car can be fixed. As a people who want everything fixed and with as little distress on our part as possible we are impatient to get it fixed.
Ironically we are a society that fixes few things. If my cell phone breaks maybe I will turn it in to get recycled or maybe I will just throw it away. Most of our small electronic things will be trashed instead of fixed. There is hardly anyone who runs a fix-it shop today. We see things as disposable.
What a scary thought. Just how much of our world is disposable? We don’t cherish things as we used to. We have so much that each item is of little importance. Our solution is to just throw it away and get another. Where are we headed with this kind of thinking?
Are we going to become disposable? Are we moving into the era of 1984 and Soylent Green. (If you haven’t seen or read these do so) As we grow older and are perceived as having nothing left to give will we just be ended and recycled as in Soylent Green?
There is already an issue of the elderly using a large amount of funds for medical problems. Will we be ended so that money can be saved? Already this has come up for discussion. (not ending the elderly but curtailing available medical help) I am concerned about where we are headed.
Are we disposable?
Today someone said something to me that reminded me of a profound truth that I began to accept late in life. Having attended college twice with two different degrees it wasn’t until my 40s that I finished my nursing degree. Working with those who were sick brought home to me in a different way that there are some things that we cannot fix.
I have a friend whose grandchild is suffering with brain cancer. It is tragic and I mourn for the struggle they are facing but I can’t fix it.
Right now I am watching three hurricanes in the Atlantic that could devastate some people already hit by another storm. I can’t fix it. I wish I could. I really want to.
We expect everything to continue just exactly the way we want and we are gobsmacked by something that we can’t fix.
While nursing I did learn that things that can’t be fixed can usually be helped in some way. The sick child still has cancer but thanks to medicine he is better (not cured) and has many people helping him and others with financial and emotional support.
The last hurricane has shown that it could not be stopped but many people have put their lives on hold to help. What was amazing to me was to see linemen from Houston here in Savannah helping to restore power to us. They were “paying it forward.”
I have learned that we can’t dwell on the fact that it can’t be fixed but instead concentrate on what is possible to do to help. That way we give of ourselves…….the most precious thing that we can give.
Understand there are things that can’t be fixed but we can help the unendurable be endured.
My husband and I have been watching the BBC series “Father Brown.” I have been struck with the many scenes about confession and forgiveness. Father Brown makes completely clear that there is no forgiveness if there is not true regret and a desire to change. That is the view for the person who needs forgiveness. There is also the side of the injured. What is forgiveness from that point of view?
Forgiveness can be a difficult thing. If someone has hurt us badly we can have so many different emotions…anger, pain, hurt, disappointment, betrayal and others. Our emotions may swing from one feeling to another. Forgiveness may be the last thing we think about. Maybe we don’t even want to forgive for to do that we would have to let it all go.
The important thing to remember about forgiveness is that it is not just for the person who hurt us but for us as well. All the emotions that we are feeling heighten our body in a flight or fight mode. We secrete extra adrenaline causing our body to prepare for danger. When we think about the hurt we drag up those emotions again and again. You can feel the upheaval. If we continue to hang on to the hurt and drag it around with us it damages our well being. Somehow we have to find a way to let it go.
Letting it go may take time and conscious effort. Some of the hurts I have encountered in my life have hung on for quite a while. We have to consciously decide to turn it loose…. and do it again and again until those feelings subside. When we can remember the hurt without the emotions attached then we have truly let it go. There may always be a small residue like ashes left after burning paper but the real pain has subsided.
Forgiveness takes work.
We have weathered Irma and are more or less back to normal. Our son, daughter-in-law and kids have been with us for two days since they still had no power. They left tonight and it is nice to feel back to normal.
The time spent in the last week has made me realize just how attached we are to routine. when we are forced out of our normal pattern we become (at least in my case) anxious and disoriented. I like my routine…especially in the morning. If something disrupts that then nothing seems to go well the whole day.
There are so many times that we are tested by circumstances beyond out control. Life definitely does not always run smoothly. It is the changes that challenge us. We have to adapt to the new circumstances like it or not. The thing is that adaptation takes time and we want things to be good immediately. Our society has expectations of everything being done RIGHT NOW!
At one time I worked for a group of pediatricians and a sick child would be given a prescription in the morning and in the afternoon the mother would call and want to know why the child wasn’t well. (absolutely true story.. and it didn’t happen just once.)
We need to relearn patience….the ability to let things resolve in their own time. Life doesn’t run on our schedule. We cannot expect instant gratification.
Learn to sit and wait.