Lately I have been thinking about good and bad emotions. Good emotions run the gamut from a simple flash of a decent day to full blown joy. It is easy to see the negative ones. Fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, sorrow….I could go on. To counter these we can use the positive things we don’t often see as emotions: safety, relaxation, strength, gratitude, pleasure, satisfaction, friendship, kindness, and assertiveness. (From the article How to Tap into Your Light by Kalia Kelmenson in Spirituality and Health)
Most of these we don’t equate with emotion and so we don’t key into them. We don’t see them as positive emotions. We don’t focus on them. That is a major part of the problem.
I don’t know about you, but I am more likely to come home and relate a story about how uncomfortable I felt doing a mediation than that I did a good job. I let the good feeling be lost in the negative emotion. We tend to hang onto the bad feelings and nurse them. We are unwilling to let them go. Think of how often you have been angry about something and just kept bringing it up in conversation or dwelling on it. For some reason we must enjoy holding on to them.
When we don’t let go we experience physical changes. Negative emotions can cause an increase in heart rate and rise in blood pressure. They can decrease our resistance to disease and lower the ability of our immune system to function. They allow our bodies to attack us with autoimmune diseases such as lupus, asthma, ulceration colitis, migraines and irritable bowel. Oh, what we do to ourselves.
We have to learn to focus on the positive emotions and use them to overcome the negative ones. To do that we need to remember what they are and see them when they come. The list above can be added to I’m sure. It’s easy to see how we think when I realized that I had to find that list and couldn’t just come up with one from my head but the negative emotions were right on the tip of my tongue.
I think the most important piece is to be aware of what you are feeling. We can’t change it if we can’t recognize it.
As the song writer Johnny Mercer said “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative!”
Sometimes, as children, at bedtime we would imagine monsters….monsters under the bed or in the closet. We would make our parents open the closet door and look under the bed before we would let them leave the room. Unfortunately the monsters are not just part of our childhood. We hang on to some of the monsters as we grow up. We may not recognize them. They don’t look the same.
The monsters we have now are bigger and uglier. They threaten us in ways we never imagined as children. The monsters follow us around just waiting for us to slip and suddenly there they are.
The monsters have many names. Some are self doubt, loneliness, regret, guilt, anxiety, depression, fear, addiction. I am sure there are many more but each one can ruin our peace. They take advantage of any crack in our defenses and take over.
We can fight. We can eventually wipe them out. Each day we have to learn new ways to right ourselves. Tricks that make them go away. Tricks like meditation, medication, turning to God, music, TV, anything that works for us.
The monsters can be beaten. We can chase them away. Don’t be afraid to tackle them. They are weaker that we are. We have the strength of God with us.
Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Romans 8:7 New International Version
7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
Today I was reading another blog on this passage and it brought some things to mind. When we read passages about the “flesh” we tend to think in terms of sex. This passage is way broader than that. Paying attention to our flesh is to think of ourselves first. It is to put ourselves in the place of God. We create idols and worship them.
One of the worst is money which is connected with power. Some people want the money for moneys sake. I had an aunt who spent the early part of her life so poor that there was nothing to eat. She did not spend money as she acquired it. She squirreled it away so that she would never be that poor again. For her money was a life line. There was always that fear controlling her.
For others money is about luxury. Things. Having the best of everything. Being able to go out and buy anything you want. This is connected with one up-manship. This is wanting money to be better than someone else. This is trying assuage the hole in your soul with things.
Then there are those who use money for power. Their lives are spent manipulating those around them. They love being in control. They seldom think of anyone but themselves.
Although all of these things are connected to money each is flawed on its own. Each of these things create idols that are worshiped instead of God. Each of them takes us further and further away from what is real and meaningful.
Worship of the body itself is another idol. Our society loves this one. Youth and a beautiful body are all that matters. They cannot see ahead that each of us is dust and to dust we will return. God does not ask us to ignore our bodies. In fact we are called to care for ourselves as his creation. Just not turn it into worship.
There are many more things than sex connected with the flesh that become idols. We need to think broadly and see the truth. “Seek first the kingdom of God.”
Today I was thinking about the earth and God’s creation. This is what created itself.
Hurt, anger, pain
Do the flowers
As their petals fall?
Are the trees sad
When they are gray
Is the river
More often it is us
It is us
It is us
From its stem
We cut down
While it lives
We spill oil
It is us
It is us
Yesterday I did something I have not done in a very long time. ….I visited my mother’s grave. Most of my close relatives are in a mausoleum type place in a local cemetery. I seldom visit because for me they are not there. Only the shell they inhabited is there. Nevertheless I do feel guilty for not going there to see that all is as is should be.
My mother was a loving, caring person and reached out to those around her. She was a tremendous blessing in my life and brought me up to love God and others.
Almost two years ago I lost my longtime friend. She was the last person who knew me as a child. Life feels different when that person is gone. You can’t call them and say “remember when.” I miss her very much and was blessed to be given some pieces of costume jewelry that were precious to her. Every time I wear one of those pieces I can feel her with me.
She was an amazing person whose deep faith was an inspiration. She had a strong sense of social justice and was always helping where she could. Lots of people loved her and she has been missed.
Her youngest child, a daughter, was born with multiple heart defects and struggled through her life. It was my joy to be there for her following the death of Deirdre (my friend), Sadly, I think the loss of her mother was just too much and she died six months later. I was with her. She also had a deep faith and I loved the fact that she asked to be buried with a tree. Her ashes were scattered in the hole and the tree planted with her. She will nourish that tree as it grows. What a wonderful understanding of God’s creation and the cycle of life.
Though these three (my mother, my friend, her daughter) are all gone their love and faith sustained me through the loss and reminds me still that God is loving and caring.
Grief is a funny thing. Just when you think it is behind you it shows up and completely surprises you with its strength. My mother died in 2002 and a few nights ago I dreamed that I had just watched her die. The dream is haunting me. I can’t seem to shake it.
Grief has showed up again. Logically I know that this can happen. I ran a grief support group for a few years and understand how suddenly it can overpower you when you least expect it. It still ambushed me.
When someone we love dies we ask ourselves all sorts of questions. We feel guilt for anything that we did or didn’t do…..real or not. Grief is hard and makes us look back over our relationships with others. It can shine a light on everything we think we have done wrong. We can end up feeling lost.
However, there is an up side to grief. At least we were not guilty of missing love. Unless we are willing to love we will never feel grief. Missing out on love would make life seem colorless. Love can give us ups and downs but it is worth the downs. Love requires openness and being willing to be hurt. When we have been hurt we are not sure we want to feel that again but it is worth the pain. Love can hold us up when we are down. It can fill our lives with meaning. We have to choose love and we have to go on choosing it day after day otherwise it can slip away.
Don’t be afraid to love. Don’t be afraid to open up and give of yourself. Love is worth it.
It is only in the last few years that I have realized that anxiety (and related problems) runs in families. It may manifest itself differently in each person but those descended from us may have it. Since there are two people involved in conception it is not 100% that a family member will have it. In my family I now realize that there are several of us who suffer with some form of this. More than one of us has some anxiety, OCD, depression and/or inability to sleep. The only light is that they can see at the end of the tunnel me still moving along at 76. They can feel comfortable that it is possible to manage these problems and live a good life. In the early years of my life anxiety, depression etc were not understood or talked about. Where women were concerned it was brushed off. In the south it was often called the “vapors” and you could go to a hospital to return to a calm demeanor. Some women just kept to their rooms. I am sure that most of you have read or seen Pride and Prejudice where the mother is constantly in a state of anxiety.
As the years went on I learned that certain situations caused me extreme stress with some symptoms of anxiety such as sleeplessness, increased heart rate, etc. I had one panic attack in college and the school had a psychiatrist who gave me ?Valium short term. I felt there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t face some things without anxiety. I tried so hard to change but nothing helped. I felt guilty for being the way I was and never talked about it. It was a no no subject.
Thank God things have changed. The invention of anti-depressants and other meds that can help the symptoms make this no longer a guilty secret. I know that my problem is mild compared to many and that I am not crazy. This is the information that I feel the need to pass on to anyone suffering from these disorders ,,,,especially to those I love.
You can live a full life. You don’t have to hide or be ashamed. Doctors now realize that this a brain wiring problem and much research is being done on the brain to identify where the various problems are located and what can be done to help. This also doesn’t mean that you must be born with it. Extreme trauma such as PTSD can cause the wiring glitch. There is a recent book by a lifelong anxiety sufferer called On Edge – A journey Through Anxiety by Andrea Peterson. It can be a tough read but she has done major research with scientists who are studying the problems. It may or may not be something you want to read but I found it enlightening.
The most important thing to remember is that we are not some weird creation. “God didn’t make junk.” (from marriage encounter) We have issues just like everyone else. Ours were taboo for a long while but that has changed and will continue to as more research is done. Hang in there! I lived through “the dark ages” and have a wonderful husband and family. Life is good most of the time. You can do it!
Today I am thinking about another one of my crusades. We have allowed electronic devices and the world they have created to rule our lives and more importantly our time. We allow ourselves to be connected so much that we have no think time. Our ?free? time is interrupted constantly. The human body is not made to cope with this. No wonder the stress level is so high. We have to find balance.
Balance is a very tricky thing. I have a book done in the 50’s by the cartoonist “Osborne”. The book was originally a lecture done for a design conference in Colorado. The lecture was wonderfully illustrated. It became so popular it became a book. This is one of the best things I have ever seen about using our time well. He talks about “the perfectly attainable Leisure the picnic, the two hours in the evening, …….the non-frenetic weekend with gardening or carpentry- the QUIET moments which CAN be had.” He says that the “crux of the matter……we must set limits to out efforts…..How much LAWN are we going to MOW? If we choose too little we have lots of Leisure, but a vapid face. If we choose too much we become tired, irritable, dislocated, insensate.” (Caps etc are his) *
This is the tricky part. Figuring out what is too much and what is not enough is difficult to say the least. Balancing work, family and some social life is complicated. Who do we leave out when we see it all as too much? What is most important? It can be different things at different times. Osborn wrote at a time when more women were at home and he saw it as difficult then. Think how much worse it is now. I think the anxiety about trying to stuff everything in for children is why helicopter parenting began. The idea that we MUST do the best since we are working parents. The guilt about not being there is overwhelming. Many families never have a meal together.
Eating together is central to the ministry of Christ. I think all of us see sitting at a table together is a huge part of connecting. Over food we can share feelings, discuss problemsin a non-threatening way and just enjoy each other. When meals are eaten in fast food restaurants or the pressures of life are so great that a meal is a trial things go downhill fast.
How do we find that balance? We have to set aside time to understand ourselves and our situation. Each day may require a different balance of priorities but over time balance can be seen. NOT EASY. Some serious listing on paper may be needed and discussion with others whose schedules coincides with ours.
*If you are interested I found there are still used copies on Amazon. Osborn on Leisure, A Ridge Press Book published by Simon and Schuster, copyright 1956 by E, R, Squibb & Sons.
Cartoon drawing from the book.