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Why this journey?

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.

See the Whole Person!

Today I had another medical test to understand why I am low in iron. I decided to explore on the web if anyone is connecting this abnormality to stress, grief and anxiety and discovered that indeed this is on the research radar.

As a nurse I have long been aware of the impact of grief and stress on the human body. Until now I don’t think that the medical field has paid enough attention to how our emotional life is reflected in our bodies. We have not long practiced holistic medicine. It is critical to understand that we are complex beings and that anything that impacts us is related to our health.

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I hope that the pendulum is swinging back and that the whole picture needs to be taken into consideration. This is not easy for those in the medical field since we have a specialty for every part of our body. We are blessed if we have a primary physician who puts all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Too often our spiritual life is not taken into consideration at all. How we consider our relationship to God or whatever spiritual practice is a key link in the chain. In a world where connection with the divine is shrinking we are likely to see more people with both physical and emotional/mental issues.

I have written a good bit about connections and feel strongly that having some connections with other human beings is critical to our well being. With so many of us loving dogs and understanding that they like being pack members should remind us that we are also communal beings. Throughout history we have related to other humans and lived in communal settings. Unfortunately, our current use of technology can lessen our personal connections. Technology helps us when we need to find connections outside of our local area but we also need face to face and touch.

I hope that we can marry the best of the old ways with the new and make a world where we don’t have to feel that we are alone. Also a world where the whole person is taken into consideration when examining our medical issues. Without these things we will see more of us suffering with depression, anxiety and stress related illness.

Connections Trump Control

Yesterday a mild anxiety lifted its head due to some physical problems that arise from time to time. For so long I have not been bothered with IBS that I have forgotten how disturbing it can be. It rankles me to have to deal with something that I somehow feel is my fault. It is as if I have no control over myself. Interestingly enough control is a major issue with most of us. It is when we feel that things have spiraled out of control and we are vulnerable that anxiety and worry jump in.

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When we are in control we are comfortable and life is manageable. Most of us want some routine….something that lives up to our expectations. This makes us feel safe and secure. When things are out of control the chaos is fearful. I think that most of us spend our lives trying to keep control of ourselves and our surroundings. We like to be the one making the choices. We don’t want to need anyone else.

The truth is that we do need others. In my case I also need God. I need something that can’t be shaken. I understand that there are people who don’t need that but it is hard for me to understand. What is there to turn to when things are completely out of our control?  I cannot prove that God is there but conversely I don’t know if anyone can prove he is not. I just know that this belief is something I need and count on.

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We also need people who can love and support us. Those who understand our failings as we also understand theirs. These are the people we can count on. Not one of us is perfect. Let us just hope that we can have people around us to lift us up when we are down.

For some of us we are blessed that those people are near to us. For others they may be on-line or at a distance. There is someone out there who will care. Never doubt this…never stop looking for that connection.

Connections and Sadness

It is terribly hot and humid where I live and we are as housebound as someone snowed in. In the last week I have discovered how disconnected I feel from life.

Having lost my job/ministry was bad but connected with it was the loss of connections. The severing of relationships was the greatest blow.

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I suspect that I am feeling what many people my age (76) feel at this time in their life. Suddenly you are not working and for me that was connection with people. Until I can better understand my next focus I am adrift in a world of loneliness.

I am just stubborn enough to say I am not done yet! I have not yet established a pattern for my days and seem to have little to look forward to. If anyone wonders what older people feel when they are forced to confront not being needed I can tell you. It sucks!

I do know that it is up to me to find new direction and since I do believe that God directs my ways I know that some answers will come. However, now I am befuddled and sad. I am sure that this is no fun for my husband as well. He is a blessing of support and love.

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I think at this particular moment sadness is more prominent than anxiety. I am not anxious about what to do but still dealing with the sadness of loss. Having run Grief Support Groups I understand about grief and know that it is a process. There is no set time or pattern. Every person travels through it differently.  I am finding my way and know that change will come. Nothing ever remains the same.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer  in the Service of Compline it says:

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness;”

At this moment I am wearied of the changes.

When delivery is hope

via Daily Prompt: Delivery

M husband spent two tours in Viet Nam. Unlike today’s communication there was no way to quickly hear about his world there. As he was a company commander with an infantry unit he was in constant danger. The letters that I received from him were the only thing to give me hope. I waited anxiously for the mail each day longing for a letter. The mail was erratic with letters coming in bunches. It didn’t take us long to discover that we had to number our letters to each other so that they made sense. He told me often that he lived for each mail delivery hoping to have news about me and his children. It was what connected him to a world that seemed a million miles away. I don’t think either one of us would have survived without the hope that those deliveries meant to us.

Change Hate to Love

I have worked within Christian churches for many years of my life both as volunteer and staff. One thing is clear to me. Most of us have not really heard and understood the words of Christ. After 76 years I have come to see the message as simple and straight forward. Love God and Your Neighbor. It seems to me that this is the message of many great religious leaders of every faith. Why is it that we have so much trouble following it?

I don’t know if the world is actually getting more violent and hateful or if it is just that we can’t get away from hearing it. If you are not frightened by what is happening then you clearly to do not understand.

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We are now putting people into categories so that we can know who to hate. Liberals, conservatives, gay and straight, white and black, transgender, whatever, there is a name for it and someone hates it. How do we begin to change things?

I am oneI have long belonged to a Prayer Group that says I am but one, but I am one. I may not be able to change everything but I can change something….. starting with myself.

This is part of my journey. Following those simple words of Christ I can learn to live differently. I can change. One day, one moment, one second. It continues to be hard. I backslid with my mediation this past week but tomorrow is another day. I know that anxiety will rear its ugly head. I just need to be as ready as I can.

 

 

Habits and Change

old habitsSince the loss of my ministry as a Parish Nurse I have become aware of how much we humans need to be needed. When we are adrift on our own there is a longing for some connection….something to make us feel as if we belong.

I have had periods in my life where I have experienced this longing due to circumstances beyond my control. The time spent alone and separated from any meaningful relationship is painful. Spending time with ourselves requires soul searching. Sometimes some uncomfortable truths about ourselves are uncovered. I think this is even more difficult when this time alone is forced upon us and not of our choosing.

It is even harder for those of us who are extroverts. Loneliness brings on sadness. I was raised as a only child and do need some quiet and solitude but as the only thing there is it is difficult to bear.

This is why I am concentrating so hard on change. I do need other people and my previous role provided a chance to be present with others and share their joys and sorrows. It was a powerful and empowering experience. It gave my life meaning beyond my own personal needs.

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It is hard to take on doing the things we must do to change. Most of all it is hard to be consistent with them. Sometimes no progress can be seen. The thing is we have to continue long enough for what is change now will become a habit. Habits are hard to form and just as hard to break.

Anxiety also can be a habit. One that is high on the list of difficult changes. One that requires major effort to conquer. It may not be possible to banish it forever but just pushing it down to a minor irritation would be a blessing.

So the journey continues.

Compassion is Healing

moment to moment

I think that one of the hardest things to learn about anxiety is the up and down of it. One moment everything is fine and then something is said and or learned and there you are again…dealing with anxiousness. Life is such as gift it is not right to waste it. I don’t know how someone lives in  a country like Israel not knowing when your life might be wiped out. I guess you must learn to live with it. There is no other choice.

It is so hard to keep up with the meditation, prayer and yoga that I am using to learn a new path. It is so easy to put it off and say I’ll do it tomorrow. The thing is that it helps when I follow through. How dumb is that to put it off?

Usually I stay away from the news as being too violent and depressing but now with the North Korea situation it is hard to shut it out. What sort of world are we leaving for our children and grandchildren?

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We are all humans dwelling on this planet. Will we ever learn kindness and love toward one another?. Sometimes I wonder if anyone has ever read with a real listening heart the words of Christ. There is no part of his life that was not concentrated on getting us to practice compassion.

 

compasssion-2Compassion is a unique thing. I am not sure that we really understand it until we have lived long enough to have encountered hardship and tragedy in our own lives. With that experience we can really feel the pain of others. If we use this experience to reach out to others in their pain we are a healing voice in the world.