W@TW*: Channeling Picasso

I am fortunate to live in a city that has free art museums. On Sunday, my husband and I went to one of them for about an hour.  The beauty of the museum being free is that you can visit frequently for a shorter amount of time.   In the past, I would want to get my monies worth, stay for hours and "Od'd" on the art work.

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Yesterday we participated in a short tour of the collection given by a volunteer.  Because we were near on the calendar to St. Valentine's Day, the theme of the tour was love.  We only looked at four exhibits, each representing love in a different way.  The last stop on the tour was a painting by Pablo Picasso: his 1922 "Mere et enfant" or "Mother and Child".  According to the docent, Picasso painted this after his cubism period, after his marriage, after fathering a child and after he had spent some time in Rome studying the masters.  It was the return to a period of realism for him. 

What is interesting is that the oil painting seems just like a sketch with watercolor highlights. The oil is so soft and light. He uses an economy of line but conveys a realistic portrait nonetheless.  For such a giant in ushering us into the modern art era, Picasso demonstrates that he is his own man; he has his own way of going forward in art.  He uses as inspiration his life circumstances or things around him and he incorporates it into his artwork.  He doesn't get buttonholed into being a certain type of artist who paints a certain type of style.  He is always growing, changing,  and moving forward. He does so by allowing his ideas to expand and following where they lead. 

As www.biography.com notes: 

"Pablo Picasso remains renowned for endlessly reinventing himself, switching between styles so radically different that his life's work seems to be the product of five or six great artists rather than just one. Of his penchant for style diversity, Picasso insisted that his varied work was not indicative of radical shifts throughout his career, but, rather, of his dedication to objectively evaluating for each piece the form and technique best suited to achieve his desired effect. "Whenever I wanted to say something, I said it the way I believed I should," he explained. "Different themes inevitably require different methods of expression. This does not imply either evolution or progress; it is a matter of following the idea one wants to express and the way in which one wants to express it."

It inspires me to keep going forward in whatever the endeavor- to observe the world around me and to incorporate what I see and say it "the way I believed I should".  Picasso reminds me to be confident and take chances. 

What about you?  Do you feel that you have grown and changed in your life?  Personally?  Professionally? 

* W@TW= Wednesdays at the Well. Of course this week it is F@TW because I had difficulty this week getting this post out.  More on that later.  But for some reason writing F@TW seems like an expletive or some type of tweet.

W@TW: Groundhog Day. Every. Day.

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This year it seemed as if every where I turned, the 1993 movie Groundhog Day was being shown. Have you ever felt like Bill Murray's character in the movie?  Try as he might, the character cannot get out of the time loop- the rut of living in the same day with the same encounters, the same problems and the same solutions. At first he thinks that this is a great idea, because he realizes that he doesn't live with any consequences to his actions: tomorrow will be the same and life doesn't move forward. Eventually he realizes that this is insanity and not healthy.

The movie has humorous moments as well as raises some existential questions. It is considered a contemporary classic.  Surely we can enjoy watching it because the daily repeat is happening to someone else. After all, we don't live in a groundhog day world, or do we? 

Sometimes I wonder if I do, especially when it comes to my reactions to situations.  Many times I find myself behaving in the same way, each time, even when I am trying hard not too and trying to break myself of a life-long pattern.   It is if I am on the same emotionally reactive loop.  If someone comments to me about this, I will always react with that. And it is not a healthy reaction.

Or, I find I make the same life-style choices.  Each week I might plan to do something different from my normal pattern, e.g. eat better, drink less, exercise more.  I might hope to change a lifestyle pattern that I feel is not helpful nor healthy.  Yet once again, I fall into the time loop of the same pattern of behavior. 

In the movie, it is finally through self-awareness and love that begins the change in Bill Murray's character's life.  

I think there is more to this groundhog lifestyle than that.  I also think that more of us suffer a groundhog lifestyle than we care to admit.  How many of us try all sorts of self-help:  podcasts, books, counselors, hypnotists, coaches, therapists, classes?  According to one source I read, in 2008 the self-help industry was over a billion dollar industry. If self-help truly worked, as humankind we should have discovered the solution by now. Certainly pouring money into the problem doesn't necessarily help.   I think that the problem in self-help is the self.

While self-help items are not necessarily bad resources, we cannot put our faith in those resources alone. I believe that those resources need to be used in tandem with the ultimate One in self awareness;  asking God to transform us by the renewing of our minds.  It is only the Creator who knows us and who knows how He created us to be. He knows what will work and not work for our individual lifestyle.  Only He can help us in stopping something harmful or embracing something worthwhile in our lives.

There is no magic bullet.  I have found the best way to stop the time loop is through prayer and learning more about God through His word the Bible.  I am a disciplined person and I think I have some willpower, but some things in my life willpower alone cannot help.  I need some spiritual guidance and intervention to stop the knee-jerk reactions I have in certain situations.  Sometimes it is in recalling a scripture that guides to a different reaction.  Other times it is the act of prayer that guides my speech.  

What about you?  Do you feel like you are living a groundhog lifestyle?  Do you end up on the treadmill or time loop of life? Have you ever been able to change it?  How?  What works for you?  

Ground hog day is also a day of prediction for the future.  I know that if I transform my mind, I will get out of that time loop pattern of behavior and have a different future.  

W@TW: Deep Thinking

When I was little my grandmother made a comment that has stuck, "My, you are a deep thinker."  At the time I cannot remember what was the discussion and I am sure that it was not that philosophical.  Probably had more verbiage than content.  I think it was her polite way to say that I was talky.

I don't know if I am truly a deep thinker but I am a ruminator. I'll go over things in my head, trying to consider all facets of a problem or discussion.  So, I listened with interest to a report on the radio about a study of deep thinking;  the "challenge of cultivating deep attention and what we gain by immersing ourselves in meaningful work. "  The reporter interviewed Cal Newport a professor of computer science at Georgetown University who has written a book, "Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World."

This is more than just looking at one page of writing at a time.  It is a thought process of intentionally not engaging in multiple things at once.  To be intentional requires a solitude and removal of oneself from the distractions of this world. The author of the studies give Mark Twain, JK Rowling, Carl Jung as examples of people who removed themselves from society for set periods of time in order to concentrate on things that needed concentration.  I think of Virginia Wolff's advice of a room of one's own, EB White and his spartan cabin furnished with just a chair, table and typewriter, or Thoreau and his Walden Pond. 

Profession Newport describes how we try to trick ourselves into thinking we are single-tasking yet we find ourselves pulled back into multi tasking through the way we plan our days.  As he states, we fool ourselves by saying: 

"{They say} I'm just working on one thing at a time. What they're still doing is every five or 10 minutes, a just-check. Let me just do a just-check to my inbox. Let me just do a just-check to my phone real quick and then back to my work. And it feels like single-tasking. It feels like you're predominantly working on one thing. But even those very brief checks, that switch your context even briefly, can have this massive negative impact on your cognitive performance. It's the switch itself that hurts, not how long you actually switch. So I actually think even very conscientious knowledge workers, who think they're pretty good at focusing on one thing at a time, are actually still working far from the sort of high-performance, deep work ideal.

It calls into question not so much time wasted, but what type of productivity have I lost. It does make me wonder how much could've I achieved if I were a little more singleminded-ness in purpose.  It is tricky.  Part of my work and I suspect is also true for many of you who read this, is spent online reading and doing research.  In doing so, it is very easy to get distracted, to go down the rabbit holes all with the justification of "looking things up."  Or if you have a job that is responding to customers, via emails or phone calls, these are not distractions but the work itself. 

The researcher has these ways to think deeper by cordoning off his life:

  • He doesn't have a social media account. He knows that once he gets started with this type of distraction he will never stop.
  • He is very organized with his time. He works set hours of the day and plans his day like a chess player moving the pieces around. He doesn't let his mood dictate how his day unfolds. 
  • He is okay with disappointing people and at times annoying them.  He doesn't answer emails very quickly or at all sometimes. 

I don't know if I am quite ready to embrace that type of lifestyle but I think I can do better in the less distracted, intentional periods of work in my life.  I like his attitude of not letting his mood dictate how his day unfolds.  He follows his set schedule regardless of how he feels.  I also like that he has changed the expectation of what others expect of him.  I feel ready to do that. 

What about you?  Are you in a position of doing deep work?  Do you want to?  What would that look like for you?  Do you feel that you are multi-tasking?  Are you accomplishing much?  How do you handle your emails and the blips and dings from smart phones and computers?   Are you a deep thinker? 

Click here to read an interesting article.

W@TW: Perspectives

In starting this post, I realized that I have written about perspective a bunch of times.  I also realized that I need to hear it one more time.  Perhaps you do too?  It is always interesting that if I look and am observant, God puts in my path examples of what I am currently experiencing and new ways to view my life.

On a recent dog walk, I strolled* through the campus of a local university.   The students had not yet returned from break and it was interesting to see the changes of new buildings and walkways on campus.  There also appeared new outside art installations.  I came across the following: 

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Viewing the installation from the side, it looked like random white blocks on sticks.  But standing in front of the artwork, you could see the name of the school spelled out.  I had to take a picture of it as the reminder for me at that moment was just as revealing as the blocks aligning into something recognizable. 

Lately, I feel that I am viewing life as random white blocks on sticks: nothing seems to make sense, nothing is ordered and nothing is clear. It feels like I have been sucked into a vortex that doesn't allow me to see anything but the swirling chaos around me.  I know that what I see is not the entire truth and the reality of my life.  It just is hard to step out of that sucking tunnel. 

But, step out I must.  I know that I must make the effort to move my location and change my perspective. If not,  I will become washed out, useless and bitter about my situation.  "How come my white blocks don't spell anything?"  I'll be stuck in my disjointed views and never see the way life can actually be. 

I need to keep perspective by looking at the situation and my life in a different way: 

  • Perhaps I need to remove myself from where I am standing?  Literally.   I need to get out and take a walk or visit a new location.  
  • I might need to remove myself from a relationship or activity that holds me to a certain perspective. It might be a position that is expected from all the parties involved, or it is a position that has become comfortable and therefore provides no challenges and produces inertia.   
  • Or I need to help someone else see his/her white blocks aligned. Through that process, I might see a connection to my own situation and thereby help me to get my own blocks aligned.

What about you?  Do you ever feel that you are stuck at looking at your life from one direction?  How do you get out of that rut?  Do you think you even need to get out of a rut?  Is there anything wrong with ruts or one perspective? 

Yesterday afternoon, I got out from my normal routine.  I had a leisurely lunch with a friend who provided me with a new perspective on my situation. What was new and refreshing about this get together, was that neither one of us was rushed to a next thing.  We were able to dive a little deeper with our discussions and let the conversation twist and turn through a wide variety of topics.  I came home refreshed, encouraged and renewed.  She helped me align those random blocks into seeing some words. 

When you look at your life, do you see white blocks on sticks or do you see a word? 

*(Lately our two have been awful in the lack-of-wanting-to-walk department.  Must be because it is cold.  They absolutely loath their jackets and many times our walks become more of a "drag" than a walk.) 

W@TW: Yes, And...

 

The other week I attended a lecture that featured an improvisation group.  I had never been to an improv show and it was fascinating to see them work.  While the two actors did some "sets", the lecture was more of a tutorial about the philosophy of improv and how many of its facets can be applied to every day life. 

Watching the actors work was amazing.  Someone would suggest a phrase or idea and the actors would take that suggestion or phrase and run with it, bouncing ideas and dialogue off of each other.  In addition to demonstrating some of the techniques, the actors wanted us, the audience, to participate in the improv process. 

We were grouped into twos or threes. Our first task was to have a dialogue where one person would start the conversation with a negative.  We were given a scenario, e.g. planning a child's birthday party.  To whatever someone said, the next person would continue the conversation by starting her statement with, "No...."   Next we were to start the scenario with the same premise (planning a child's birthday party) but this time our subsequent statements would begin with an affirmation followed by a conjunction. For instance the dialogue would start with the same premise but the additional dialogue needed to start with the expression, "Yes, but....".  Our final task was to use the same premise but with subsequent statements beginning  with "Yes, and...."  

Of course, you can just imagine.  By saying "Yes, and..." one opens up the discussion to all sorts of wild possibilities. What the improv troop noted was that sometimes in negotiating or working with others, by saying "Yes, and..." the end result might be the same as a discussion with "Yes, but..." The difference is that the "yes, and..." opens up the discussion to possibilities, while the "Yes, but..." or the "no"closes and shuts down creative expression. 

Having recently experienced a group dynamic of the "No" and "Yes, but..." to various decisions,  I can see how draining and exhausting that type of response creates. There becomes a negative and oppressive atmosphere that stifles any desire for creativity.  It just seems as if our natural tendency is to say "No" or "Yes, but" (which really is another way to say no).   

I wonder if there needs to be mutual consent or at least some kind of understanding to use the "Yes, and" language.   In my recent group, knowing the individuals with whom I was conversing, if I said, "Yes, and..." there probably would not be a recognition of trying to creatively build something.  A "Yes, and..." would be viewed as an admission that whatever that person suggested is correct and there is no further exploration.  I guess in a group setting I will have to be careful in my use of "Yes, and..."

But for the times when I am just deciding or contemplating things on my own, I think I would like to explore the "Yes, and..." mindset.  What would it look like if I said, "Yes, and..." to a writing project, to a request or to a personal suggestion?

What about you?  Do you naturally respond with a "No" or a "Yes, but..." when asked for a decision?  What would your personal life look like if you said, "Yes, and..."  What about your professional life?  How about how you live your life?  

Click here to read how "Yes, and..." works in drama.

W@TW: The Acorn and The Tree

The other month as I was speaking to one of our sons I was reminded that the acorn doesn't fall too far from the tree.  Our son was talking about all the various work he had to accomplish and how he was going to do so.  But in the midst of his lists he mentioned a task that needed to be done that he hadn't accomplished yet. 

He had to make some grown-up phone calls to settle a missing rent check.  From the questions he was asking, it was obvious that he would do anything else, email, send a text or even write a letter, but not pick up the phone and talk.  He just doesn't like communicating over the phone.

I totally get it.  For me, talking over the phone is one of those least liked things especially when it is for a routine "administrative" type of discussion. The problem becomes the more one doesn't have to do it, the more difficult it becomes.

Touche.  

I was reminded of how I will avoid doing something I don't like to do.  I will do ANYTHING else.  

In the case of my son, as I heard his excuses I thought to myself, "just do it. and get it over with",  But then I realized that many times when I am faced with something I don't like to do, I cannot  "just do it"  and don't do it.   And when I delay and it is after the fact,  I kick myself for not doing the task at hand when it was time to do so.  The task has now become even more difficult.  For instance, I may have not told someone something that is important and now it is a big problem of communication- feelings get hurt, important items misplaced or an opportunity is lost.   All because I couldn't "just do it and get it over with". 

Recently I was reading again about how to approach your day when you have difficult tasks: Of course the first thing is that you should prioritize- what is the most important thing to do today in a descending order from most to least importance.  And then they suggest that you "eat that frog"- do the most difficult thing or the item that you don't want to do, first.  

For me, doing things that I don't like to do I am reminded not of the frog but of the acorn and the tree.  That which I see my son struggle is exactly my own. My son reminds me to "just do it and get it over with." 

What about you?   Do you struggle with completing tasks?  Why or why not?  Have you ever noticed traits in family members that you also exhibit?  Do you have recommendations or advice to give them on how to handle such traits?  Do you follow your own advice? 

W@TW: Caregiver's Survival Guide

Well it has been three weeks since my last post.  So much has happened that in some ways it seems like a lifetime and in other ways, I cannot believe that Christmas and the New Year's has come and gone.

On Thursday December 14th I received a phone call that my father had fallen and was being taken to a local emergency room.  That one call has set in motion a chain of events that has culminated with me sitting in my dad's hospice room writing this post.  It has been quite a journey and one that is not even remotely over. 

And so, I thought I would start a list of lessons learned (or in the process of learning) as I continue on the caregiver's journey:

  • There are many ways to accomplish the same thing.  As my husband reminded me, I don't even wash the dishes the same way he does.  I might not agree with the methods of some of the people taking care of my dad but I need to remember that the we are all in agreement of the end result (like clean dishes). 
  • Stay healthy:  Make sure you eat properly, get some form of exercise (even if it is pacing the hallways), and get some sleep.  Number #1 thing to remember but is so hard to do especially when you are living in the crisis mode of day to day and not knowing what changes could happen.  The thing is, if you do not deliberately take care of yourself, crisis mode living can become your default even when things aren't that bad.
  • Guard your tongue.  If you don't stay healthy, you will end up saying things you regret or at least you will be more likely to do so.
  • One person's sense of urgency doesn't have to be yours. Even in a crisis mode, there can be a sense of calm and deliberate action.  Just like bullet #1 don't let someone else's sense of urgency suck you into a path that doesn't feel right to you.
  • Family members will surprise you. I have had family members who have risen to the occasion and totally surprised my expectation. 
  • Give yourself permission to know that you have done the best that you could.  On this journey you will (no doubt about it)  make loads of mistakes.  You might've responded in a way that you now regret, said something hurtful or experience a feeling or emotion that surprises you.  It is okay.
  • Give your loved ones the same permission to know that they have done the best they could.

What about you?  Have you ever been on the caregiver's journey?  How did it go?  What lessons did you learn?  Or are still learning? 

W@TW: Caregiver's Fatigue

 

"Yes, yes, yes...."   

Such were my answers recently to a quiz about caregiving fatigue that I took on a whim as I was researching resources about caregiving.  I found the replies to the questions shocking because I thought that I was handling my caregiving responsibilities so much better than a couple of months ago.

Apparently not.

It seems as if so many people I know are going through difficult times in the care of their elderly parents.  There are many mixed emotions: guilt over not doing enough for the parent, guilt over doing too much and neglecting other family members, anger over siblings not doing their "fair share", anger over siblings interfering with the established care, frustration with the medical establishment for not taking the elderly seriously, frustration with the elderly parent for not taking the caregiver's other responsibilities seriously, guilt over doing the "right" thing and caring for the parent who cared for him in his childhood versus wanting to live one's own adult life before getting too old to enjoy it. 

For many of us who are in the caregiver role it seems as if there are no specific answers.  Each person's situation is different and each, I would surmise, would say that her commitment has to be the way it is.  "Mom wouldn't understand/like if someone else took care of her."  It is just the way things are and how things have to be.

Or is it?

I realize that there is a big need out there for care for the caregiver.  I absolutely agree that if the caregiver gets sick, everything else can fall apart.  My heart breaks when I meet someone and they start telling me about their extended family care needs. Even before the words are out explaining about a family member, I'll recognize the tell tale signs of caregiving burnout:  the pooling, panicky, blinking eyes; the "need to reassure" statements; "Things could be worse..., I am blessed..., She did so much for me when I was younger..., It's the least I can do..."   All indications that the person is hanging on to sanity with a thread.  The loathsomeness and loneliness of feeling that she has to keep these thoughts to herself or be labeled selfish. 

I do not have any answers to this quandary.  All I know is that no one who experiences caregiving is going it alone.  There are many people in the same situation and many feel the same way.  I know that each day I wrestle with some aspect of the difficulties in caregiving.  Ultimately I want to go through this experience with grace, truth and love. As I travel down this road, I want to say that I learned something positive and that I was joyful even in the midst of struggles.

I can honestly say that nothing has been further from the truth.

So, what to do about it? I really do not know. Because for all the articles written about caregiving burnout  and all the advice of how to prevent it, there comes a time when there is nothing one can do but to experience it.  You have to go through the fire to come out the other end.  Even with the best intention of following the "what to do to prevent" it, burnout still happens. So, I am trying to write my experiences as they happen with the hope that I could help someone else one day.  Although I am coming to the conclusion that the person the journaling really helps is me: it gives me a sense of purpose to what seems like a waste of years. (Again, in just writing the sentence I need to clarify what appears to be selfish and  fills me with self-loathing.  The wasted years is my struggle rather than the care I give.) 

What about you?  Have you found yourself in a caregiving role?  Are you experiencing any caregiver burnout or fatigue?  What do you do to prevent it from happening?  Have you found any tips?   

Let's resolve to join together and share our experiences.  If for nothing else, we realize that we are not going this alone.  There is help in sharing the journey and collectively caring for the caregiver. 

Click here to take the caregiver burnout quiz.

Wednesdays At The Well: Take A Second Look

This week I was pleasantly surprised to discover that an opinion I had formed about a person was short sighted.  Over the years I had seen this man in the same context and he seemed to me to be egotistical and arrogant.  In a recent discussion I had with a grieving widow, this man's name came up and she described this man as being compassionate, patient and caring for her sick husband.  First I was surprised by the context, that the man even knew the husband and then it gave me pause and a reason to stop and take a second look.

In my Women's Bible study we have been exploring the book of Isaiah, one of the prophets of the Old Testament. My past familiarity with this prophet was that the book was doom and gloom. God seemed judgmental and unforgiving.  However, in studying it and reading it with others, I am seeing the Word with a different lens.  I am looking at God in a different context and I have found that, while He judges, He is also compassionate, long-suffering and caring. 

It made me wonder how much am I viewing God with a limited lens?  How many others see God only through a very limited lens too?  Could my view be based on a childhood experience?  Or could it be based on association with someone who claimed to be a God follower but who was not very nice?  Either way, sometimes we have decided that He is egotistical and arrogant and not worth a second glance.  

Perhaps it is time that we took a second look...

This week and during the Christmas season, why not take a second look at God, viewing Him through the lens of Jesus?  Read (or reread) the Christmas story. (Found in the beginning of the New Testament- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).  Read books from C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity or The Abolition of Man or try Lou Strobel's, The Case for Christ.  Check out one of Madeleine L'Engle's religious non-fiction, Bright Evening Star or The Rock that is Higher.  (If your local library doesn't carry any of these books, see if a local church library does.)

In addition to taking a second look at God, is there someone in your life you need to see through a different lens?  You may have come to some conclusion based on your own perception.  Do you have mutual friends who can help you round out your picture? Maybe you need to take a second look. 

C.S. Lewis says in the The Four Loves:  “In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets..."

Going Around

As I was taking a run last week, I ran into this situation: 

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Immediately I had two different reactions.  I first thought,  "What lazy government worker couldn't properly correct or coordinate the telephone support and instead did a quick fix?"  Then I thought, "Someone's taking initiative- at least they put in some type of walkway to prevent a problem of having people trip over the wood telephone support."

The more I thought about it, the more I thought, what a great metaphor about life. Many times we travel down a straight path and nothing obscures where we are going.  Then due to some type of internal or external change, our straight path gets blocked.  We have to decide how we are going to go- will we try and remove the obstacle, will we struggle through or will we go around?  

When I have obstacles I seem to choose the former.  I will keep trying to remove the obstacles.  I try so hard to keep the path clear.  I plan and rearrange plans so that I can continue what I think is the straight path.  Many times by the rearrangement of plans or the slight tweaking of them, I can keep the path and its focus clear. But every once in a while, something will pop up into my path and I have to figure out what I should do next. 

At those moments I have to consider removing the obstacles in the path. There are times when I must stop and assess the situation.  The road blocks may be too large that I cannot simply push aside.  I have to remove the obstacles before I can go any further on my journey.  It might be the obstacle of asking for forgiveness or for forgiving another.  It might be the obstacle of temptation in all its forms from benign to dangerous.  Or, it might be the obstacle of pride, thinking too highly of myself and I get in my own way.

What the picture reminds me is that sometimes I cannot go the direction I planned.  The path is blocked and there is no way through it and there is no way to remove the obstacle.  I have to set up a way around.   In the cardiac medical model, many people develop collateral circulation- veins and arteries that by-pass a direct blockage by using minor vessels as the alternate path.  The body will naturally set that up in order to preserve life. 

I was thinking of how that affects me in this season of life.  As you know I have been struggling with balance in my life lately.  But I am wondering if what I think is the correct balance is really my trying to force life through a set path.  Perhaps for the time being, I need to circle around and try a different approach.  Maybe I need to look for a way around.  

The new way around may take different forms: Do I need to lower some expectations for myself and others? How should I view the distractions in my life?  Should I spend my energy on those things I "think" are distractions?  Are these really obstacles or my new path? Should I go with the problem rather than fighting it? 

With my current writing plan, do I need to change it?  Should I think about developing a side path since the regular path is, for the time being, blocked?  I am going to experiment with a weekly posting:  Wednesdays at the Well.   My plan is to have a weekly posting (rather than M,W,F) so that I can concentrate on a devotional I am writing.  Some of my postings may be entries and ideas for the book, other postings will be my normal comments on life and wellbeing but all of the postings will be geared towards mid-week inspiration.  

What about you?  Do you ever feel that your path is blocked?  Did something just spring up or was it an obstacle you have always had?   Do you need to remove the obstacle or do you need to go around? 

Wednesdays at the Well: A mid-week dose of inspiration. Blog postings each Wednesday.
— wellofencouragement.com

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving.  Boy, am I grateful that Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday.  For if he didn't, I wonder if I would ever be thankful?  I would forget about doing it annually much less practicing it on a daily basis. 

This week I heard that the community of Sutherland Springs, Texas was having a Thanksgiving dinner- "Feast of Sharing".  The free meal was originally an event to get to know one's neighbors but this year it has become an opportunity for healing.  What a witness to being thankful even in the midst of incredible grief. 

Being thankful doesn't necessarily mean everything is sweetness and light.  It doesn't look like a Hollywood movie. One can be thankful in the midst of deep hurt, grief, pain and adversity. There can still be hope in the middle of a pit.

The other day I heard someone talk about the difference between condemnation and conviction.

Condemnation is evil and creates absolutes in our thinking. Things are seen in terms of the superlatives always or never.   We think of ourselves as always worthless or that our situation will never get better.  We get stuck in that place where there is no point in trying.  Condemnation pulls us down and keeps us down with no hope of getting up.  

Not only is condemnation hurtful to ourselves but it is hurtful to others.  There is a dismissal towards those who feel condemned or we feel should be condemned.  "You are not worthwhile."    Life becomes isolating for both the condemned and the accuser. There is no community.  There is no opportunity for things to get better. 

Confrontation is loving.  It says even if what has happened through our choices or through our situations may not be good, it is not the final word. Confrontation says that this might be bad but it can get better. What has happened doesn't need to define us.  There is hope for a future.  There is hope for change.  There is hope that this doesn't have to be.

Confrontation is loving to others.  It says, you are worthwhile.  You are worth the investment to help with the change. Even though there might be correction and help it is done with care in mind. "I care for you so I will lovingly help in making things better." 

I am grateful for this Thanksgiving.  I am grateful that even if I feel troubled in a situation, I have hope that things can get better.  Click here to read my nephew's inspirational Thanksgiving message.

What about you?  Where do you find yourself this Thanksgiving?  Do you feel condemned or confronted in a situation or problem?  How can you think about it in a way that gives you hope?  

 

Ready for it?

Are you ready for next week?  The start of the holiday marathon of food, food and more food: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, New Year's, Holiday parties.  It is one of those inevitable situations and it is coming, ready or not. 

There are differing statistics of how much weight people will gain between now and January 1st.  Some studies say Americans typically gain 5- 8 additional pounds each year and others say that it is more like 1 pound per year.  Whatever the number, each year the poundage adds up. This is a season of potential overindulgence.  There are different ways to approach it:

  • Screw it and eat whatever you want.  You can have the attitude that it doesn't matter.  I will eat whatever, whenever I want. In some respects why do we put guilt and limits on ourselves and our appetites?   I know of people who have this attitude.  Unfortunately they are really not happy with their choices because they end up not eating good quality of food. They would probably say they don't even like what they just consumed. It is just a quantity of food because it is there and it really doesn't satisfy them.
  • Monitor and avoid everything.   You can be on the other end of the spectrum and monitor, weigh, limit and avoid all the holiday feasts and imbibing. In doing so you can miss out on the joy of the season.  After all, every culture gathers around food when it celebrates.
  • Moderation.  Be a discriminating connoisseur of food.  Enjoy Grandma's annual pie, co-worker's handmade candy or neighbor's sugar cookies.  Not everything has equal taste and "goodness". Choose the items that taste the best to you.  Skip the store bought pastries sent to the office from the insurance agency. Choose the things that you don't normally eat, make yourself or are just here for the season. Limit how many and how often you eat them.  Take you time in eating. Savor the taste.

If you are prone to overindulge, have a plan this season.  Some suggestions:

  • Make sure you eat breakfast and lunch before your Thanksgiving or other holiday dinners. 
  • Take a walk before or after dinner.
  • Use a smaller plate at any buffet.
  • Drink a glass of water before your meal and drink water during the meal (drink a glass between courses).
  • Eat a lighter or vegetarian meal during the holiday weekend.
  • Take your time as you eat.  Enjoy the conversation and the people around you. 
  • Chew slowly.
  • Say, "No, thank you, couldn't possibly, I am stuffed." If you do not want to insult a host (depends on the relationship), ask if you could take a piece or portion home for later. 

What about you?  Any strategies to prepare for the eating frenzy?  Are you ready for the holidays? 

Developing Holiday Resilience

In looking up resources on how to be resilient in the face of stress I found an article that discusses five characteristics that are common to resilient people: being positive, focused, flexible, organized, proactive.  (An article by Karen S. Dickason, LCSW, CEAP © 2006 Achieve Solutions)  Resiliency is the ability to withstand and to recover from adversity. 

While none of these characteristics are earth shattering, I think they are helpful reminders especially when the end of the year seems to bring on much stress.  I can think of many a holiday occasion when I have regretted my actions, conversations or attitude.  I kick myself for not acting with grace under pressure.  "Next year...", I declare.  The spirit may be willing but my flesh is weak. The characteristics for learning to be resilient can help us learn to change and adapt so that we can withstand adversity, anxiety and stress.  

The holiday season can trigger all kinds of adversity- whether that adversity comes from relationships, financial, emotional, spiritual, or physical trials. The subsequent tips in these five areas are exercises to practice in order to develop resilience in our own lives.  Just like some people enjoy running while others prefer swimming, these are not absolutes in developing resilience and ability to handle stress.  Rather they are ideas that might help spur you on to think of something that works for you as you embrace these five characteristics.  The more one practices, the better in handling the variety of stress we find in our lives. 

Positive

  • Concentrate on becoming better at a new task rather than perfecting it.

  • Practice using positive “self-talk” phrases, such as “this too shall pass” or “I will only ask myself to do the best I can rather than never to make any mistakes.”

  • During the holiday season, think about why you are doing what you are doing rather than striving to achieve the "perfect" holiday gathering.

  • Keep a gratitude journal this season. Begin or end each day with three statements of gratitude.  Some days you might only be able to enter  " grateful we didn't have a heated discussion over the way the turkey was cooked."  Keep a list of daily accomplishments- no matter how small. 

Focused:

  • Visualize yourself as you would like to be  (either this holiday season or next year). Put a sign or picture on your bathroom mirror or desk to remind you of your vision. (e.g. enjoy the hubbub during the holidays, not to fight it, be more gracious, etc.)

  • Set specific short-, medium- and long-range goals for yourself relating to your change initiative. (e.g. will be cordial to Uncle Grumpy at the family dinner, will no longer play the comparison game with family members, will not be part of Facebook highlights of the perfect Christmas.) Base your goals firmly on your personal values.

  • Ask someone you trust to review your goals and give you feedback and suggestions on how you can further target the steps needed for successfully making the transition through the change. (Perhaps another family member has learned to handle Uncle Grumpy.  Ask what worked for him/her)

  • For this holiday season, focus on one aspect of the season- perhaps relationships.  If you find yourself in the midst of a change this season (and some type of adversity) and your family doesn't understand what you are doing, keep affirming and reminding yourself of your successes towards your goal. 

Flexible: 

  • Learn to see another side to an issue. Swap sides in a discussion where you disagree with someone—you argue their side and ask them to argue your side. (might be a way to preemptively navigate the annual political discussion at the holiday table)

  • Put yourself into situations where you need to be flexible.  (e.g. Drive a new and unfamiliar route to a store or a friend’s house. Make note of what you see that’s different from your usual route.)

  • Change one aspect of your holiday- e.g. try a new Thanksgiving recipe, incorporate a new tradition- possibly from a "new" member of your extended family or a friend or neighbor.

Organized:

  • Purchase and use a day planner.  Use it to keep track of your personal and work goals. 

  • Take a few moments to think through and list the key steps you need to take to accomplish a task before you tackle it. (e.g. If you are the one hosting a holiday dinner, start writing out a to-do list of all that you need to do each day before the big day.  Delegate where you can)

  • Put pieces of paperwork and important information in clearly marked files and put them in an accessible place. Good time to regroup especially as the year ends.  Start 2018 with organized tax info, health and medical records, etc.

  • Break down a problem, any problem, into smaller pieces—then tackle the easiest piece first. 

Proactive:

  • Develop plans for managing the worst-case scenario that might result from the change. (Will some of the family be upset and leave the table if you change the menu?)

  • Practice assessing the risks about a change initiative by listing all of the pros and cons you can think of. Ask yourself: What if...?

  • For the holiday season, if you anticipate how family members react (based on past history), try to reorganize or control the scenario.  (e.g. two family members do not get along- have them visit at separate occasions)

  • Plan as best you can for the holidays- shopping, card writing, meal planning, parties, holiday shows and concerts- do as much as you can a head of time and in small increments.   If things are hectic this year, cut out one or two events.  There is no grade or requisite that you have to do any of these things.  You can still celebrate the holidays without any of the hoopla and self-imposed deadlines. 

What about you?  Have you ever employed any of these tactics or characteristics in building resiliency?  How did it work out?  Are you anxious and stressed about the holidays?  What steps can you take this year to reduce that stress?  How can you adapt to changes so that you can no only survive but thrive during this season? 

When Stress Happens....

This week I was reminded of the two types of stress- dis-stress and eu-stress. (A new friend (Rebecca Faye, Smith Galli) is a wonderful writer. Check out her webpage and newsletters )  Back in the day of my designing wellness programs, I scheduled and attended talks about stress and even would give my own lectures on stress.  Stress itself is not a bad thing.  There are good stressors in life- birth of a baby, moving to a new home, getting a new job.  The problem becomes when we cannot handle the stress or when we perceive it as difficult. 

Differences-between-eustress-and-distress.png

 

Most of us are in the dis-stress mode. And most, I would surmise are stressed from perceived stressors, or even self-created stressors which doesn't make it any less of an issue.  But if we acknowledge how and why we are stressed, we can figure out how to some coping mechanisms. 

Here are some suggestions for dealing with (dis) stress and anxiety from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (www.adaa.org) : 

Anxiety Tips ADAA and MHA Collaboration Oct 2017_0.png

What about you?  Are you in a season of dis-stress or eu-stress? How do you handle it?  What are your coping mechanisms? 

Bouncing Back Like Bozo. Part 2

Another thing that is helpful when life's various assaults hit us hard, is to be organized.  When we have too much clutter, too many demands, too many things scheduled, too many obligations, too many of anything we become overwhelmed.  Once overwhelmed have no extra reserves to bounce back to center.  There can be such a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.  We forget that much of the disorganization is part of our own doing.  If we contributed to it, we can also reverse the situation. 

Being organized is subjective to your personality and temperament. There is a spectrum of disorganization on which some people can withstand more disorganization than another.  For those people leaning more towards the obsessive compulsive side, a kitchen sink not wiped out dry with every use is considered a major stressor. While others on the hoarders side of the continuum see nothing amiss with cardboard boxes and newspaper piles stacked over the entire area of the living, dining, kitchen and bedrooms.  No matter what is the trigger, eventually the clutter and disorganization will impact one's outlook and outcomes. 

There have been studies that children and older individuals (ones with dementia) do well with the concepts of simplicity and organization for the simple fact that it causes less stress whether one recognizes it as such.  When I was designing wellness programs for companies, many of the speakers on stress would talk about organizing one's workspace and keeping it (relatively) clutter free. It takes a lot of time and energy to try and find things when there is much to look through and things are not easily found.

Same can be said of our home keeping.  Having a home that is organized with our stuff makes things so much easier.  Even if chaos is swirling around us, we can rest among some semblance of peace and tranquility. Organization can spill over to how we plan our calendars, our meals, and our days.

Here are just a few suggestions that might help you get started in an effort to be organized:

  • Make your bed in the morning.  I heard a pretty highly ranked military man speak to a college graduation and his one word of advice, "make your bed every morning."  The idea is that you have accomplished one thing already in your day.  A bed is the largest piece of real estate in your bedroom.  When it is unmade, it makes everything else disorganized.  But once made, you can go forth knowing you already did something for the day plus you will have a more restful sleep that night with smooth sheets and blankets.
  • Get rid of 1/4 of your stuff.   Most people have way too much junk in their houses.  I know that we do.  If, God forbid, we had a fire and most of our stuff were ruined, I probably wouldn't replace it.  Telling huh?  I try and routinely go through sections of the house with a ruthless eye, "If I lost this in a fire, would I replace it?"  If the answer is no and it is something that isn't useful or beautiful- out it goes.
  • One thing in, one thing out.  My mother-in-law has had this rule.  For anything she brought into the house, she got rid of something from the house.  Makes sense when you have limited space. 
  • Straighten your desk before you leave work for the day.  You will come into your space the next morning prepared to tackle the day.
  • Take time each week to plan the following week.  This might include your food menu for the following week, your work schedule, items to complete on your to- do list.  You should also put down your plan for balancing the needs of others (volunteer times) and your needs (your activity that brings you joy).  If you are still in the mode of changing your exercise, eating and sleeping habits, add that to your weekly plan. Part of being organized is to let wiggle room in your schedule.  Give yourself permission to not have the day completely jammed packed.  You can always fill it up, but it is more difficult to eliminate things that take your time.
  • Keep under notes all things pertinent and important.  There are many different systems out there to help in organization of lists and files- charts, apps, documents, etc.  If you google "organizing important documents" you can find one that fits your needs, personality and budget. Can be as simple as a piece of paper with a list kept in a folder.  The point is to keep in one place the information of important documents: Doctors names and contact information. Prescriptions.  Medical history.  Passwords. Financial information. Tax information. Receipts for major purchases. 

What about you?  Do you feel overwhelmed with your schedule and obligations?  What areas of your life?  What do you need to do to get organized?  What small steps can you take to achieve it?  If you feel pretty organized in your life, what things do you do to stay organized?  

 Simplifying our lives and organizing what we have is another way to bolster our resilience to the onslaught of life.   It is a way that we can bounce back like Bozo. 

 

Bouncing Back Like Bozo

I have been thinking a lot about the word resilience lately.  I guess it is the natural reaction when you hear about all the tragedy and problems of this world- whether it occurs in another part of the country or in your own home.  Resilience appears to be the key to moving forward in the face of difficulty, but what exactly is it? 

According to the American Psychological Association, "Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means "bouncing back" from difficult experiences."

It is not that we try to avoid or can avoid those difficult experiences because frankly we cannot.  Change, adversity and stress are givens in our lives.  It is not a question of if they will affect us but when?  And when they affect us do we adapt or handle it well? 

How to we prepare to handle these situations?  How do we develop resiliency? 

I think there are some basic foundational things we can do to be prepared and adapt to whatever possible  stress will happen.  I know that in my own life I can create additional stress by feeling disorganized, feeling that I have too much to do in too little time, or by being physically ill or tired. 

Bozo Bop Bag 2.jpg

I think a good way to prepare for stress is to have foundational elements in place in our lifestyle.  Kind of like the old Bozo the Clown Bop Bags- those free standing inflatable bags that are weighted on the bottom.  You can hit and punch it and it falls over but it always comes springing back to the upright position. Sure, we will have onslaughts in our lives but by practicing crucial lifestyle elements we can withstand the pummeling and bounce back to center. 

 

The first is to be as healthy as you can be. That includes exercise, diet, sleep, balance of taking time for yourself and time for others.  Years ago a work acquaintance shared that she had a brain tumor.  It was benign but she had to go through surgeries and some follow up care nonetheless.  She did quite well in her recovery and attributed it to being as healthy as she can be.  "Who knows if I hadn't exercised or eaten well all these years what would've been discovered instead?"

I think too to my post op recovery for my surgery.  I have been told that what I had done is one of the most painful procedures a person can experience but I was able to get through it.  My healing has been pretty fast.  I don't think that it is because I have any special healing super powers but because I am pretty healthy and am used to regular exercise and a good diet.   Of course, these last couple of weeks I haven't been able to pursue the exercise as much but the foundations were there.  In a sense, I have been pummeled but have been able to come back to center. 

If you feel that you are not overall healthy, why not?  Has something prevented you in the past?  Can you start making small changes?

Start by looking at your current practices:  Do you exercise? How much soda and sugar laden beverages or food do you ingest?  Do you eat out a lot?  How many fruits and veggies to you take in each day?  How much sleep do you get? Do you feel drained caring for others?  When was the last time you did something for yourself? What brings you joy? Do you volunteer or help others on a regular basis? Does that bring you joy? 

As we have talked about before, making changes in our routine can be difficult.  Start out small. Plan to incorporate one or two ideas each week.  Remember that your goal is to be as healthy as you can.

  • Exercise: Walk around your block before dinner, use steps instead of the elevator, do arm exercises, sit ups or march in place during commercial breaks while watching television, do one errand without using the car (bike, walk or run to do it). 
  • Food: Buy some clementines or apples and leave in a bowl on your counter- reminder to eat healthy snacks. Or any other fresh fruit or veggie. Swap out white flour products for whole wheat. Prepare for the afternoon munchies by having pre-measured cut up carrots and humus, nuts or popcorn as a work snack.  Put away the candy dish and give away the extra Halloween candy. If the break room at work is too tempting this time of year, avoid going in.  Plan to not bring into your home anything sugary or prepared with more than five ingredients. Drink a glass of water before snacking. 
  • Sleep: Try to get an extra 1/2 hour of sleep each night.  If you cannot commit to that for seven days in a row, try getting some extra winks three nights/week. 
  • Balance:  Figure out what brings you joy and what you love to do. Write in your calendar specific times when you can practice that activity.  Look around your family, community, and work for opportunities to help others.  It might be writing encouraging notes, driving an elderly person to the store, volunteering at a school, listening and keeping in touch with many friends or a myriad of other opportunities.  Helping others is only limited by our imaginations. Schedule these times on your calendar too.  A good rule of thumb- make sure that you have just as many outings for yourself as you do for others. 

What about you?  Do you bounce back like Bozo?  Have you developed some basic healthy practices to help?  What works for you? 

 

Smoked Kippers

Last week I had surgery and have been recovering.  I don't like to wish my life away but if I could fast forward these two weeks of post-op pain, I would.  Short of that, I have been trying to make the best of it.  I have found a wonderful distraction on Netflix- Escape to the Country.  The show involves showing three various types of homes to a couple or family who have decided to give up their English city/suburban life for a country/village one.  I love seeing the homes that have been picked but mostly, love the filming of the different counties in England.  Each show will highlight some particular feature of a specific region. 

On one of the shows, they were featuring the Northumberland coast and were interviewing the family who makes smoked kippers- the quintessential full fry-up English breakfast item. The family claims that they "discovered" them and it was only through a tragedy.   As the story goes, the fish were drying in the wood shed along the dock.  A fire occurred overnight.  By morning they wondered if anything could be salvaged, especially the fish.  The flavor of the smoked herring was acceptable and thus an industry was born.

I love stories where there is a silver lining in a seemingly disastrous event.  I wonder how many disasters that we as a society have gone through only to have missed the opportunities to see potential or possibilities because we focused on the loss?  I wonder too how many disasters that I may have experienced  and have missed or chosen to miss the opportunities to see potential, possibilities or change in my own life? 

It must've been devastating on that morning in the village of Seahouse to see one's whole catch of fish, in essence, one's whole livelihood literally up in smoke.  Where do you start with that type of disaster?  How do you go through the rubble and even begin to see possibility?

Disaster and tragedy are part of the ongoing human condition.  Look to the events in the last couple of weeks.  What do you do when your house has been completely flooded and there are no salvageable parts?  Is there any opportunity in a madman shooter or rental truck terrorist?

Yet I think many of us feel that we are going through disaster and tragedy when the perspective might show otherwise. 

I am even thinking of the "disaster" of this post op recovery.  Certainly it has been problematic and quite painful but it has given me time to be still.  I am not allowed to drive, lift, or strain in any way..  And so I lie down, sit and try to get comfortable in my stillness.  But I am grateful for the pain because that means that I have functioning nerve cells. I am grateful for healing medicine and I am grateful for this respite time.

Not to sound trite or offer platitudes but I really do think the beginning of finding possibility starts with gratitude:  gratitude that one is alive, gratitude that one can make choices and decisions, gratitude that one is not going through the difficulty alone.  Gratitude does give us a new lens on the same situation.  It is through that lens that we can begin to see a different angle of our predicament. Perhaps to germinate the seed of opportunity or a growth of possibility. 

At the same time as my surgery our family has been witness to the medical trials of a grand-niece baby. There have been moments of great concern about her health and her life.  It was in those times that I could pray, pretty much without ceasing because I did not have any other distractions.  Now I am not saying that my prayers were the things that healed this baby but the silver lining of my surgery was that I was able to have the opportunity to be like the persistent widow in Jesus story and continually lift up my family member to God.  I was able to practice continual prayers and was able to add my voice to many others. 

The prayers gave me purpose and focus during my pain. It gave me perspective over what I had to endure. In the big scheme of things, my "disaster" is nothing.  While I was soldiering through the pain, I kept telling myself that this too would end. I had perspective when I thought of those who had truly suffered before me- slaves, prisoners of war, homeless people and was grateful that my experience was temporary. 

I realized that the experience of gratitude helped me to foster endurance. I am hoping that the experience of learning to endure will aid me in future situations; if I remember how I endured in the past I can be resilient to problems in the future.  

What about you?  Have you gone through pain and suffering?  What got you through?  Has there been any opportunity in it? Even one iota?  How did you discover that?  In the found rubble, could you discover smoked kippers? 

 

 

Open Or Closed To Change?

As I write this the house is shaking, the walls are rumbling and there is abounding general organized chaos.  We are having some home maintenance projects done.  Currently there are two men standing on scaffolding outside my bedroom window, chipping and drilling around our fireplace chimney and another drilling and chipping away at an outside former garage door which would lead to my office if we hadn't permanently shut it. 

Our chimney and furnace flues need repair.  It is a question of safety.  We do not want any chimney fires nor carbon monoxide problems.  We are also having an unused and probably never to be used outside door bricked in.  In fact, from the inside, the door is covered over by book shelves and cannot be opened. We also will be redoing our basement space so that it will be a usable family room and redoing our outside deck so that the new deck footprint makes sense to our use of the space and will repair damaged wood.  In addition I plan to paint the living room and dining room this winter. 

Whew.  A lot of delayed projects and planning.  I am trying to be organized and smart with how we go about this set-up.  Should I move all the books from the office to this corner or will I have to get into that corner before the project is complete?  Where do I put the items from our basement?  In the dining room or living room?  Will I be painting those rooms before that basement project is finished? If possible I am trying to prevent moving boxes over and over again.

As you see, we are going through changes to some of the rooms and features in our house.  Some are quite necessary like the chimney and furnace flues.  We do not want fires or poisoning.  Our door project is necessary since the door frame is starting to rot.  We will never use that as a door, so why not make it one continual wall of brick and never have to worry about rot again. Our basement redo and our deck redo will help us when the time comes to sell our home.  In the meantime, we can enjoy the extra rooms and the redone projects.  The repainting of the living and dining room are ways for me to freshen up the space without having to do a major redecoration.  In some ways it is not a necessity but rather a want.  Again, it will be a good feature for selling but also allow us to enjoy the current fruits of our labor. 

All this disruption makes me think about change; the reasons and how I handle it.  

Sometimes change is necessary for our safety and wellbeing. We have to change our diet or increase exercise because if we don't, inevitable diseases might happen.  Change happens too when situations occur outside our control. We may experience a family death or chronic illness and we just have to go on and figure out how to move forward and live into the new "normal".  

Other change takes place because our circumstances no longer require what we used to do. Once our children were old enough to chew and swallow food, we no longer needed to give them pureed food. If we had continued to do so, they most likely would've developed significant mouth and digestive problems.  Like our no longer used door.  If we kept the door, there was potential for all sorts of problems- rot of the surrounding door frame or critters living inside.

Change also takes place for growth and development. In my tennis game, if I want to improve my serve I will have to make some changes to my grip, my stance, my ball toss and my contact with the ball. With a good serve, I can develop into a halfway decent player but I must change some things that I currently do.  It is not a necessity.  Currently I play and have an enjoyable time but if I want to play at a different level I need to make some changes. 

In whatever circumstance of change I find myself, I still have an option if I will be open or closed to that change. I find that if it is a change that I initiated, e.g. painting the room, I am more likely to embrace it than a change I feel has been thrust upon me, e.g. fixing the chimney.  Which is rather silly when you think about it:  just because I didn't initiate or think of it on my own, doesn't mean that it won't be beneficial to me.  I can think of people who have had to change their diets from unhealthy eating to healthy.  Most times they will grumble as they go through it, but once it becomes a part of who they are, the general consensus is that they feel so much better. 

Of course, when change happens without any warning, it is extremely difficult to be open to it.  And it would be insensitive of me to say that we should be.  I really do not have any answer for the type of change that occurs through sudden death and loss.

But I am wondering if we learn to be good with change in other situations, when those sudden ones occur, we can draw upon the knowledge of what has worked in the past. 

Reminds me of the time as a child I attended a music convention with my mom.  One of the workshops included a time for singing through the newly arranged/composed choral works that were available for ordering. I remember being flabbergasted that once the director raised her hands all the attendees sang in their respective parts and it sounded great.  No stopping for correction or wrong notes.  I asked my mother how could everyone sound so good?  To which she replied, "But we are all professionals and can read music."  Those in attendance had never seen the music but they had the foundational elements of reading music and singing techniques so that they could get through a choral piece without too much difficulty. 

I do feel that most of the time our call to change is not an overt situation but rather a series of subtle, little moments which add up. If we can try to be open to change, we are more resilient to whatever comes our way.   All of us can practice developing resiliency in our daily lives.  It is a skill that can be developed which can help us when we are faced with various types of change.  In his book Resilience: A Change for the Better, Daryl R. Conner outlines five characteristics of resilient people. They are positive, focused, flexible, organized, and proactive.   I thought we might want to explore those five areas in the next couple of postings.

What about you? How are you with change in your life?   Are you embracing change or are you kicking and screaming wanting things the way they were? What types of changes are you experiencing?  A necessity?  A want or desire? A "have-to"?  A thrust-upon-you, didn't-ask-for-this type? Do you want to change?  

Before we go any further with exploring change and resiliency, think about your past- were you open or closed to change? 

 

 

 

In A Single Day

My dearest friend once gave me a book, " 642 Things To Write About".  I've pulled out the book in preparation for a mini, personal writer's workshop.  I am planning on using these ideas for a jumping off point for daily writing exercises.

I love the introduction in the beginning- "This book was written in a single day."  It goes on to explain how one writer was asked by his editor to write a book called- 642 Things To Write About.  The editor was adamant that the amount should be 642 of ideas so the writer emailed his writing friends for contributions. He thought that it might take a month to compile.  Within twenty-four hours he had all the items he needed.  As he writes,

"I tell this story because it's a lesson in hidden potential. You never know what might happen.  In a single day, if you hit the right nerve, you could have something-maybe it's the start of something, maybe it's the whole thing.  And it doesn't even have to begin with your own idea.  You just have to get creative and plunge in." 

On one hand, when you think of one day or twenty-four hours it doesn't seem that long. Definitely twenty-four hours of vacation or a holiday seems to blink by. But on the other hand, I imagine that you can think of days when the twenty-four hours seem to drag on.  I know that when I cannot sleep, just one hour of tossing and turning seems unbearably long. 

For the most part of our lives are days are compiled of twenty-four hours of monotony and that is okay.  I enjoy Jennifer L. Scott's blog, "The Daily Connoisseur".  This past week she writes that even though she is enjoying her family holiday in Europe, she misses the mundane and routine of home; cooking, cleaning, daily schedule.  I can relate to that.  As much as I enjoyed our vacation this past summer, I was ready to get back to that which I knew- my schedule. 

I love the idea of hidden potential. To think, when we get up in the morning, we really do not have any idea of how our day will go.  We can plan.  We can arrange and rearrange our schedule. We can imagine how an event or activity will go. But we really do not know when or if we will get that phone call- the one that can give us joy or sorrow. We do not know what will come in the mail or unfold in our news or physically happen to us.  

We also do not know if and when an idea or cure or item might be discovered or invented.  As Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin writes, "When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928 I certainly didn't plan to revolutionize all medicine by  discovering the world's first antibiotic, or bacteria killer.  But I guess that is exactly what I did." 

What about you?  What is your single day looking like?  Do you awaken in the morning with the thrill of hidden potential?  Or the dread of another mundane existence?  What could you do differently to look for hidden potential?  Explore something new?  Re-evaluate what you already have? Try something creative? Collaborate with others?  Or, can you look at your "mundane" with new eyes?  Discover the hidden potential in the familiar? 

When you think about it, we really only have a single day of life.  The past is past and there is no guarantee for the future.  We are called to enjoy, explore, and seek the hidden potential of a single day.