I love C.S. Lewis. I have read a great deal of what he has written. He has written so much beside the Chronicles of Narnia. Recently, when we were without power I re-read his other fiction series beginning with “Out of the Silent Planet.”
I could quote him every day but I want to focus on this one.
We all have a past. It may have been wonderful or it may be have been awful but it is the past. We can’t change it but we can let it go. Even if we are struggling the struggle will pay off. We are like the swan who looks so wonderful as she glides along and is paddling furiously under the water. Each thing that we do, every moment that we glide ahead takes us one step further even if we are paddling frantically.
We can change only the moment we are in. That’s as far as we can go. We need to not obsess about tomorrow but just manage this day, this hour, this minute. It’s all we have.
That quote from Joan Rivers seems to go a long way to explaining why she spent her life altering her appearance. For so many of us our view of ourselves is set by others. We see ourselves as others see us and not as we are. We can spend our whole lives wishing that we were different.
I doubt that any of believe we are perfect but in today’s society it would be easy to believe that you are ugly. The norm set for beautiful by fashion models is unreachable except by 13-16 yo’s. There are so many ads on media telling us what to do to be beautiful…use this face cream, wash with this soap, go to this plastic surgeon.
The truth is that the criteria set by society is not reality. None of us can live up to it and we can make ourselves miserable trying to change. Even the “beautiful people” have a history of being unhappy. It seems that no matter how you look there can be shadows underneath. Remember how many rich and famous people have committed suicide.
In my lifetime I have never thought myself beautiful. I was an awkward teen and as most girls I wished I was prettier. It took some time before I began to see the things that were good about me and they weren’t all physical. By the time I married and had children I was reasonably happy with myself. I felt able to “fit in.” Even though this felt good I think this is part of the problem. We want to fit in.
The thing is we don’t always need to fit in. We need to be ourselves. We have to learn to be the best at who we are. This requires accepting ourselves. This is not always easy. Many of us have things that set us apart from the norm. It could be appearance (being in a wheelchair, having a deformity, etc.) or it could be mental illness.
You are unique. There is nothing wrong with being who you are. Learn to be yourself! This is one of the most valuable lessons that you can attain. Accept who you are with all your warts and scars. Those things are what make you YOU. Don’t let others tell you anything different.
I read the daily articles from Richard Rohr who is a wonderful source of inspiration for me. Today he quoted the works of Viktor Frankl who was a respected psychiatrist. Frankl talked about how most of us seek for meaning at some point in our lives. I know this has been true for me.
I have found myself at several points asking “what is it all about?”
Frankl posited three possible sources for meaning: in work, in love and in courage. He talks about the possibility of being able to do work that has some meaning. There are jobs where this seems obvious….doctors, nurses, social workers. (there are lots more) In other jobs meaning may not be so easy to find. I am sure that those of us writing blogs have found some meaning in the response we receive and the assurance that we are helping others. This is very affirming.
The second idea…love…also seems fairly clear. Hopefully our love reaches out to others. It allows us to help others in our everyday lives. Again this allows for meaningful affirmation.
The third idea….courage…means being courageous in difficult times. This certainly includes times of suffering. He says that suffering by itself has little meaning. The meaning comes from how we respond to it. We have the ability to use our suffering to be an example to others. Our response can encourage others who are facing the same kinds of challenges.
It seems to me that many of the bloggers I read can find affirmation that their lives have meaning as so many blogs help others. The community members need to see that this work can bring meaning to their lives. You are important!
Recently I read an article that led me to explore another coping skill for managing stress. One of the things I have noticed about dealing with stress, anxiety and depression is the more we are able to step away in our minds helps. The ability to almost have an out of body experience allows us to look at things differently. We disassociate ourselves from the distress and are able to see it as outside of ourselves.
We seem to do it (when we can) without really understanding that it is what we are doing. I think if we can understand this process, and actually use it, more control is possible. I can imagine saying to myself “now just stand away…let this other person struggle you are separated from it.” I don’t see it as a true out of body experience but just the disconnecting of our mind from the immediate issue.
It does seem to have a relationship with things like taking a deep breath, or lowering your chi. I do think it goes one step further. Breathing can help to get us to that state. Take a deep breath and imagine yourself standing apart from all the problems. See your other self and let the feelings that are there be away from you.
This may all sound a little out there but I am adding this coping skill and will report on how well it works for me.
The last few months have been filled with such stress that it has been hard to keep focused. It hasn’t been one thing but the combination of things. Friends sick, husbands sick, travel, whatever. It is time to get my focus back and to remember an event from last week.
Wednesday of last week i realized how sick I was and decided that I must go to my doctor. It was in the morning and while I was trying to make a logical decision the phone rang and it was my doctor’s office. They called to let me know that they had called in a refill for some routine medicine. This is not how their system works. They never call to let me know about that I just get a text from the pharmacy when it is ready. Their system has been skewed due to some doctors moving and the office being understaffed at the moment so this was not the usual person. While I had her on the phone I asked if I could see my physician that day and she managed an appointment for that afternoon. Absolutely amazing. That would never have happened at any other time!
Madeleine L’Engle says “a miracle is a coincidence where God prefers to remain anonymous.” People say miracles don’t happen and this was just nothing but it didn’t feel that way to me. I have a friend who says “the ARANGELS were at work” and I agree. For me this was a miracle and due to that visit I am now better.
Expectations. Something that can really send us into a tail spin. It seems that there are always people expecting things of us. We can spend our whole lives trying to live up to someone’s expectations.
Too often those expectations are not appropriate. Sometimes they are actually too low because we are thought to be damaged because of mental health issues. That prejudice can make us feel “less than” and sets us up for problems with self esteem. Labels can be so damaging.
The other side is when expectations are too high. They may not be logical or reasonable. We are set up for failure and again threatened with low self esteem.
Challenging expectations that are too high may require discussion regarding what is appropriate. Too often anyone can find themselves pushed by overwhelming expectations. It is part of the society we live in. Sometimes it’s hard to bring it up, as for some, jobs could be on the line. The most important part is to recognize when it is not your issue but someone else’s. Don’t let the situation affect your own sense of self worth.
Somehow we need to find a path down the middle. There may not be anything that can be done about other people who give us labels. Until things change just consider the source and move on. If it is just an education problem that can be solved. Continuing to work within your own abilities solves many issues.
Watch out for people who want you to fail or who want to put you down. These people are toxic and need to be avoided.
We also have to be careful in setting our own expectations. Setting them too high or too low can make us feel inadequate. We have to find a reasonable path.
Remember you count! Your life matters too! Seek the place where you can find success and self affirmation.
Life can be difficult at times. It may not be one big thing but many little ones that push you over the edge. In fact for me that is usually the case. If there is a big crisis I seem to do well until it is over…then I crash. Many little things nibbling away at just push you closer and closer to the precipice. You don’t notice it is happening until it is too late.
We want to be strong and able to handle the things that life brings but sometimes it is just not possible. When this happens I have to take a step back and realize that I am over the edge. It’s time to back away from the things that I can and handle only the most important. Sometimes I struggle to prioritize and don’t know which balls in the air to let fall. Sometimes some fall while I am not looking. It can’t be helped. None of us are Wonder Woman or Superman. We just aren’t.
I spent much of my life trying to be all things to all people and the stress took it’s toll in anxiety, depression and physical symptoms. We have to learn that we are vulnerable too.
The sad part is that when you spend your time saving everyone you become expected to do it and sometimes you receive no thanks or appreciation. When you stop it is a tremendous shock and you may have some upset people.
We have to set boundaries. I think our struggle with self worth is part of the reason we fall into this trap. The more secure we are with ourselves and our own self respect the more we can choose wisely. Logical decisions about what we can do are critical.
You are important. You are just as important as anyone else. You deserve to have pride, dignity and self regard. Don’t throw yourself away.