Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Sun is Shining

It always amazes me how good it makes me feel to open my eyes and see sunshine.  Living in a desert climate I'm grateful for the brilliant light that we are graced with.

I lived in the Northwest for almost 20 years.  I tried to learn to love the shade and shadow as the natives did.  It never really happened.  There was one winter with ninety days in a row that the sun NEVER showed up!  People were so cranky!  It wasn't the rain that made me grumpy...it was the GRAY!

I find that this weather discussion is an excellent analogy for living.  How many times do we wake up to find difficulty facing us?  Many times we wake up to gray days or rainy days (symbolically).   A teen has started experimenting with drugs, your husband is addicted to pornography, or you're going through postpartum depression.  There are ever so many problems that can arise in life.

In Portland when the sun refused its warming light my husband put in broad spectrum lights throughout our house.  There was a lamp that you could buy that was supposed to mimic the effect of sunlight.  There were gadgets and gizmos aplenty. 

One of the most important lessons that I have learned about life is that rough times come BUT THEY ALSO GO!  Yesterday I was in horrible, all encompassing pain.  I have several medical conditions that cause pain.  Usually I can keep the pain at a manageable level but that huge change in barometric pressure seems to make pain encompass me at the cellular level.

Then the very next day, today, I awakened to the shining sun.  I moved out of bed, took the animals outside, started to check Facebook and realized, "That horrible pain is gone!"  HOORAY!  I did a happy dance.  (It's a good thing that I was inside at that point).

I never would request the pain filled days, or the challenge laden days.  A friend recently said to me, "I would like a little boredom, just for awhile."  I can concur with that assessment if that means that my pain is limited, and I feel well enough to conquer the necessities of the day.

At the same time, I would not give away the lessons learned about empathy, strength, and thriving through those hard times, those days when I struggle to even have the sunshine in my soul.  This is one of the paradoxes of life.  To truly understand happiness you need to face sadness.  Joy is more fully felt after sorrow.  There is a reason for the word bittersweet. 

Sometimes it feels as though there is no break between hard, challenging thing in life.  At that point you must create that break!  My husband was in the hospital at one point for six weeks.  I was there with him throughout.  One bleak night I knew that I had to do something to shore up my sagging spirits. 

I imagined that Nyle and I were on a cruise (one of our favorite activities), and I was going to another deck to get a late night snack.  I went to the cafe and bought myself a luscious shake.  I sat and reviewed all the joyous memories of our cruising days.  One of my favorite was snorkeling with my honey.  We held hands and swam with our faces inside the water.  We saw coral reef, and magically bright colored fish.  It was ever so romantic to be linked by our hands while we shared this majestic beauty.

When I returned to the reality of Nyle in the hospital I felt renewed.  I could see that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  Before my little break I felt like there was only another tunnel at the end of the tunnel! 

Today, I WILL accomplish necessary beads on a string with no knot on the end types of chores, but I will also dance and sing.  The sun is brilliant.  Beads of rainy droplets shine on the grass like thousands of diamonds.  The birds are joyously enjoying the suns return.  I think I'll join those lovely birdies and sing to the sunshine!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Thrive, Don't Just Survive

In difficult times there is no shame in just surviving.  In fact, I agree with the song, "I'm a survivor, I'm gonna make it..."  In my mind Surviving means to cling with all the tenacity you possess, starting to slide, fingernails digging into whatever you can reach, the branch on the edge of the cliff you're sliding into, the tiny crack in the bricks of the skyscraper where an earthquake threw you.  (The examples, of course, are figurative.)  To be literal, let me use these examples.  Your spouse is dying, your finances are a total snarly mess, your kids are quarreling all the time because of the stress caused by your spouse dying, or you are dying, or your child is dying, or you all are dying!  In these situations surviving may be the very best that you can do.

On the other hand, I wish to suggest a better way.  Is it possible to THRIVE in the midst of gut clenching, earth shaking challenge?  My answer would be yes, well not only yes but ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY YES!

Do you need to be delusional to THRIVE in such a horrific time of challenge?  I think it's more of a delusion to let crisis and terror take any and all joy out of your life.  Oh I'm not suggesting that you think, "Somebody I love is dying?  I'm so HAPPY!"  That is called psychosis, or a total disconnect from reality.

There is a darling movie out right now called "Inside Out."  I love this movie.  It speaks to how our brains work.  It even suggests that emotions we consider, negative, can achieve a positive result.  For example, again, your spouse or family member is dying...OF COURSE YOU FEEL SAD!  There is a quote that says, "Sorrow is the price for great love."  Is it possible to use this sorrow to thrive?  Yes.  Is it easy?  NOT EVEN CLOSE.

The older I get, the more I realize that the things that have mattered the most in my life, family, faith, friends, have NOT been easy.  They have been richly rewarding.  Indeed, I think that the things that matter the most in our lives do NOT come easily.  This process of experiencing pain, sorrow, disgust, fear, has precious lessons to teach us.   The kindest, most loving people that I have ever met have faced some of the hardest challenges that life can offer.

One example was my beloved friend that had a son die in a robbery.  He was one of the robbers.  To have a beloved child die while causing great suffering to others?  I don't think anyone would disagree that this would be an enormous weight of sorrow pressing you down into the ground.
She used her sorrow to drive her to be more compassionate.  I was one of the grateful recipients of her loving and giving,   In other words, she thrived in spite of this horrific experience.

I wish to suggest a few methods that have helped me to THRIVE when SURVIVING seemed my only option.

1.  Prayer or meditation.  However you perceive God, or whatever name you use to address Him or Her, science has shown a significant positive power in the use of prayer.  If you don't believe in God slow down and meditate.  Whatever method works for you, quiet your mind.  Do this as often as your sorrow threatens to suck you into a giant vacuum of grief and pain.

2.  Reach out!  Getting professional help can be extremely beneficial in times of extreme challenge.  Sometimes you have to shop around to find the right "fit," for this clinician.  For example, one therapist actually said to me in a time of huge crisis, "I don't have anything to help you.  You are welcome to come and cry if that helps."  REALLY?  REALLY?  I'm going to pay money to come and feel worse when I leave?  Wrong fit.

3.  FAMILY/FRIENDS are usually wonderful sources of love and support.  They can't read your mind so call them when you need them!

4.  Read only uplifting material.  Watch only uplifting material on the TV or computer.  It's no secret that connecting with upbeat positive ideas can lift your soul...ESPECIALLY in the hardest times of life.

5.  At least daily but more if needed do powerful visualizations.  Example?  Imagine an enormous sink.  Now go through your problems one at a time.  Take each problem, one by one, and put it in the enormous sink.  Now you will turn on the water and watch all those problems, those struggles wash down, down, down, the sink and disappear down the drain.

6.  Throw a potluck party.  Invite all your family/friends to come.  It can be a theme party where everyone comes dressed like their favorite movie/book character.  Parties are excellent ways of connecting and celebrating the best in life when the worst in life is walking with you.

6.  Serve others!  There are as many ways of reaching out to others as there are people.  Volunteer at a soup kitchen, non-profit organization, your church, a foodbank...the list goes on and on.  It's amazing how your problems seem lighter when serving others. 

As usual my post has helped ME tremendously.  I hope that it can help someone, somewhere out in the blogosphere.  Remember, none of us needs to be alone!  One of the best things to understand in this life is, troubles come, but they also go!  Cling to the reality of this idea.  Problems will come but you can do more than just survive them.  You can thrive in spite of them!