Monday, March 14, 2016

taking a breath of life

Friday Reflections' prompt gave me something to think about this weekend. The prompt that caught my attention was this one:

Give us some advice on how to de-stress at the end of a bad day or week?

At first I wondered how I would give anyone advice on this prompt.  This past year has been so stressful for me that there were days I didn't know if I could find the energy to do ordinary tasks, much less deal with work and what was going on with the rest of my life.

But as it all spiraled out of control, I knew that if I was going to survive, I needed to deal with the stress. One day I stopped, took a deep breath and remembered how I had dealt with high stress times in the past. And so the advice I give comes from the lesson I learned then. It was actually a self taught lesson, a compilation of things I have learned over the years, and the way I survive times in my life when I feel as though I might explode from overload.

I see my life as a plate. Literally. I close my eyes and see what is going on in the here and now as a plate full of stuff. I don't see food, I see the words representing what is stressing me. For instance, if I have a deadline at work, I see a piece of paper with the name of the project on it. If I have several projects going, each one is on that plate. If I have someone in the family with something serious going on, I see them too. (The year my daughter Jen had multiple throat cancer surgeries, she was sitting on the plate, in a hospital gown.) This past year, my husband's pacemaker was on that plate, my cancer was on the plate, the dog bite I got on January 1, 2016 was there, and so was my mum's illness and death. Full plate huh? You bet it was.

In the past, when my plate got too full, I started taking things off the plate to relieve the stress. I quit a job that almost caused me to burn out as a nurse, and several other things too. The problem with this past year is that there was nothing I could remove from the plate. Absolutely nothing. I couldn't run from breast cancer, or the huge bite on my face that got infected. I couldn't run the day Steve nearly died because his pacemaker failed. And I couldn't stop my mum from dying. My plate was as full as it could get, with no room left for anything else. 

When that happens in my life, and it has happened in the past, then I use mental imagery to escape.  I fix a cup of tea, picture a favorite place I have been, remember something good that has happened in my life, and I go there for a little while. I have mastered the ability to be in a place physically, but be thousands of miles away in my mind. I actually discovered this when I was a child, and would live inside the books I read. It takes practice, but I can actually feel my muscles begin to relax, and my breathing softens and deepens. Relaxation. Life. De-stressing in the moment. 

Yoga is another way to accomplish this same thing for me. It is one of the best practices for releasing stress. I recommend it, because yoga has made such a tremendous impact on my life.

Taking care of yourself includes managing the stress in your life. Too often we spend all our days filling them with things to do, tasks for ourselves and others that takes up all our time and energy. And like a fuel tank on a car, eventually that tank goes empty. You have to make the time to refuel so that you can manage that busy life you live. A balanced life is a happy one. For me it is anyway.

And even with all that has happened since last April, I have found my happy spot again. That doesn't mean every day is easy and not stressful. It just means I have regained my coping skills again. 

Found my happy spot. I encourage you to find yours.

...stop, take a breath of life... ~cath

i am @jonesbabie on twitter

Friday, March 4, 2016

the lesson of the shawl

When my mother recently died, my sisters and I had to sort through her things. It wasn't a conscious "ok now it's time to go through Mom's stuff" sort of a decision. There wasn't much to go through.

Years ago mother decided the best way to make it easy on us when the time came was to get rid of as much stuff as she could. She was moving into my sister Vicky's house and was downsizing anyway, so we had a big cleaning out for her, and divided up what meant to us then, sorting and passing stuff to our kids. Mom was happy it was taken care of.

That meant that when she died, all she had left was what was in the room she occupied at Vicky's. So there was no huge task of sorting things out. That had been done and dusted a few years before.

What the task of going through mom's things became for us was a trip down memory lane. Especially her jewelry. Mom didn't have expensive jewelry. She had never believed in spending a lot of money on it. So what she had was a collection of good and not so good costume jewelry. Some of it was so tarnished we couldn't tell what it was. But as we sorted through it, we talked about where the pieces came from, who had given it to her, and what she wore it for, if we could remember.

We laid things out on her single bed, walked away when it became an emotional overload, and then one by one over the week and a half I was there, I noticed we would drift quietly into the room, touch her things, and sort through our own memories. That was how I discovered the shawl.

It was under some things mom had crocheted, and as soon as I saw it I recognized it. It was made by my grandmother many years ago for my mom. Grandma had a special tool called a daisy maker, and she had made the daisies then crocheted them together.

I pulled the shawl from the drawer slowly and wrapped it around my shoulders.  As I looked at myself in the mirror on mom's dresser, it seemed almost as though I was looking at mom. I closed my eyes and could almost feel her presence there with me, and I felt a calmness wrap itself around me like the shawl had.

The truth of life is that no matter what you do or say there is never enough time.  Letting go of the anxiety and fear of my own mortality was the lesson I learned that day.

I miss you Mary, more than I ever thought I would. ~cat
i am @jonesbabie on twitter

Writing prompt for Friday Reflections:
Tell us about something you have in your home that has been handed down to you. Describe it, take a photo, and tell us the history and meaning of this item.