stress

Help Me To Embrace This Vulnerable Season

*Background info: In the past 8 months, there have been many changes in my life. I became an empty-nester. My husband got a new job. Actually, he got one job, then was promoted to another. I sold our home where we had lived for 13 years. I moved away from the Pacific NW, where I have lived all of my life, to Louisville, Kentucky, 2300 miles away. I quit my job as a hospice nurse. I became unemployed (by choice, but still, unemployed). We moved to a new part of the country, a new city, a new house, a new church. 

I’m so absent-minded lately, my husband is afraid I have early on-set Alzheimer’s. I lose my way when I drive to the health club. I leave for an errand and come back without the item I was supposed to get. I ask my husband repeatedly about the dates he is going out-of-town. I leave eggs boiling on the stove until they almost blow up (it’s not as cool as it sounds). I remember once my kids were convinced that I had early dementia. I was so scattered, I was almost convinced, too. So I made and appointment with a doctor friend of mine who is an expert in the area, and after some testing, she assured me that what I was dealing with was just stress. She told me that if you are stressed or sleep deprived, you can exhibit similar symptoms. However, this was the best test – If you forget where you put your keys, that is normal. If you forget what your keys are used for, that is not normal.

And on top of that, I have become a wishy-washy mass of insecurity. I have little to no sense of self or where I belong, and I have lost my sense of purpose. An acquaintance recently asked me, “What do you do?” I am currently not working, so she asked me “Well, what do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies?” I started blankly at her.

“Well, I like to write.” I seriously couldn’t think of anything else to say. I write, but I have a little blog and it’s probably not what you would be interested. I longed to say something interesting, to have a fabulous answer as to what I am doing with all of my free time. I stammered and stuttered and finally looked at my husband and said, “What do I like to do?”

WHAT? WHO is this person? What made me become this shaky leaf of insecurity?

THIS IS NOT ME.

And I miss the old me. I miss being able to have dinner with my kids. I miss the woman who worked hard as a hospice nurse liaison to make sure her patients were well-informed and well cared for. I miss supporting my colleagues, working shoulder to shoulder to advocate for our patients. I miss being an expert in my field. I miss my tribe of women, whom I purposely gathered over the years – women with whom I could share my heart, who would pray for me, cook with me, or just come sit and talk to me while I did my dishes. I miss feeling like what I was doing on a daily basis was purposeful. I miss the structure. I miss familiarity.

I don’t like feeling so uncertain all of the time. I don’t like having all of this time to fill, but I also don’t want it to be filled. I’m tired and feeling lost and out-of-place all of the time. I’m tired of feeling lonely. I’m tired of having one small incident – like getting looked over for a job, or having someone not return a text – shape my whole day.

And honestly, I tire of hearing myself whine about it. (You are probably tired of hearing about it, too). As a matter of fact, I hate even writing about this, but it was one of those times I just have to vent or go crazy. So I’m not going to post this blog on social media. I am just writing for me. So if you have somehow stumbled upon this, you were meant to be here. This is one of the few times I will leave open the comment section, so if you’re reading this, I’d love for you to leave a comment. 

It’s coming up on one year in just a few months. I thought things would be settled by now, figured out. I thought I would have a sense of community, a structure, a sense of purpose. I just want everything to feel okay. Some days it does, but honestly, most days it just doesn’t.

And to be really honest, not all of this has to do with the changes that have happened in my life. I could just as easily be feeling this way back in the Northwest. I would just have work and friends to distract me. In any setting, I am a seasonal person. And I know this is simply a season.

As always, the thing that helps me get centered is to get back to the basics:

Mindful breathing when I first wake up.

Eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising.

Looking at what I am feeling, discerning what is a lie and what is the truth, and being thankful for what I have.

And I am finding what I am lacking the most, and what I am in deepest need of – time with God and remembering who I am in Him. Being okay with where I am because he has brought me here for a reason.

I find that I am often drifting down the stream and entering into a spinning whirlpool before I remember that I have had a lifeline all along. 

Lord, I need help. I know that as I look back on my life, I’ve learned the most from times of struggle, when I am pushed out of my comfort zone and am learning to rely on you, to love you in a new way, and to let you love me. Those times are what has made me life so much richer. Be with me, give me peace and strength and joy. Help me to reach out and be your loving touch to those around me. Help me to embrace this vulnerable season.

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that  are right with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity, to name a few.”  Brene Brown

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Lies. Truth. Gratefulness. This Exercise Can Help You Put Anxiety in Its Place

“Mom, I got in a car wreck.”

No one ever wants to get those phone calls or text messages.

My college-aged son was in a wreck last week, and his car was totaled. Thankfully he was not injured. He was rear-ended, but the car is older, and the repairs are going to exceed the worth of the car. The other driver was insured, so he gets money to buy a replacement car, and the other driver’s insurance has supplied him with a rental car. So between work and starting school next week, he is tasked with looking for and buying a car for the first time in his life, and he lives almost 1,000 miles from us. My first instinct is to fly or drive down there to help him – I’m great at research and negotiating. But I also want him empower him to do this on his own. It is stressful, both for us as parents and for him as the one looking for a car. His anxiety is ramping up with each obstacle – the ‘perfect car’ that was already sold when he called to schedule a test drive, issues with getting the check from the insurance money, issues with the bank, and trying to search for a car that is comparable to what he had within his limited price range.

He tends to be an all or nothing type of guy – it’s the best day ever, or the worst day ever. (I have NO IDEA where he learned that. I blame his father.)

Last week I was thinking about all of the exciting changes that have happened over the past year, and of all of the wonderful opportunities ahead of me. I am trying to practice starting my day with mindfulness and focus, but there were just too many thoughts swirling in my head. As the anxiety mounted, I wondered, “What in the heck is wrong with me? Each of these things I’m thinking about are GOOD things: new beginnings, open doors, a chance to start over, amazing opportunities to grow and change. WHY are they causing me such great anxiety?

We are almost a two weeks into the New Year. Maybe you’re the kind of person who sets a list of ten New Year’s resolutions, checks your progress each month, and at the end of the year checks off all that you have accomplished. New Year, New Me, and you mean it. Each year you set goals and at the end of the year you feel a great sense of accomplishment at your success and growth.

Good for you. *Cue slow clap.

I am more along the lines of New Year, Same Me. I used to be big on resolutions, but I have downgraded to just choosing one word for the year as a theme.This year I haven’t even thought of a word.

This past year has been full of new beginnings and great change. Our three adult sons are all living on their own, and one has moved to India. We moved from the Pacific Northwest, where I was born and raised, to Louisville, Kentucky for my husband’s job. My husband went from being a state employee to running a nonprofit. I quit my job as a hospice nurse when we moved, and after a short stint as a night shift nurse (I quickly found out I’m no longer cut out for night shift), I am currently unemployed, by choice. And I am finding that sometimes a blank slate is disconcerting. So after about a week of this anxiety slowing building and finally causing a slight freak out and melt down, I did something I should have done from the beginning.

I spent the morning journaling and praying. Why is it that in the midst of anxiety and chaos, we often forget to start at the basics? If you’re a praying person, why do we wait before we consult with the God of the universe? It seems like a no-brainer, but we just trudge along, on our own, and wonder why we feel so disconnected. 

Until we remember to connect. 

Writing in a journal has always helped me to process, I just need to commit to sitting down and doing it. 

There is truly something magical about writing down your thoughts and seeing them in black and white, on paper. 

I was so perplexed that how all of these things that should be causing me joy and peace could actually be causing me so much anxiety. So I wrote down each thing that was distressing me: not having to work, exercising and getting healthy, setting boundaries, my friend making healthy choices in different areas of her life, opportunities to travel, change in finances with my husband’s new job, writing, our new home, my husband’s new job, etc. You get the idea.

Then I did an exercise that totally changed my perspective.

Lies. Truth. Gratefulness.

After I wrote down each situation, one by one, I wrote this:

The lie I believe is:  A lie often includes words like Always, Never, Everyone. “This always happens to me.” “I will never get this solved.” “Everyone always treats me like this.”

The truth is: The truth is the REALITY of the situation. Step outside of your situation and try to be objective.

I am grateful because: In every situation, there is SOMETHING to be grateful for.

If you are too overwhelmed and can’t discern the lies and truth of the situation, ask a friend to help. Sometimes someone else’s perspective will see thing that we can’t because we’re so close.

Here is how the exercise works, I’ll share some examples, straight from my journal, my heart to yours:

ANXIETY ABOUT NOT WORKING
LIE: My worth/value are in my job as a nurse. If I’m not contributing to income, I am worth less than my spouse.
TRUTH: My value is in who I am, not what I do as a job. I am complete in Christ. 
GRATEFULNESS: I am grateful for a partner who is supportive of my not working at this time. 

GETTING HEALTHY
LIE: I can’t do it. I’ve tried and failed over and over. I will never succeed. I will always be lazy. 
TRUTH: I have been lazy but I can make different choices. Never before have I had the time and resources to focus solely on getting healthy. 
GRATEFULNESS: I am grateful for a supportive and understanding spouse who does not shame me. 

SETTING BOUNDARIES
LIE: When I set boundaries, I am mean. I shouldn’t rock the boat. I should try to keep the peace, and if I have upset it, I should try to fix it even if it means not keeping the boundaries I set. 
TRUTH: It is not wrong to set healthy boundaries. I am not mean to set boundaries. Setting boundaries is a loving thing to do for myself and for others. To have healthy relationships, one must have healthy boundaries. Unhealthy people are made uncomfortable by healthy boundaries, but that is their issue. 
GRATEFULNESS: I am grateful for a partner who understands and supports me, and for friends and family members who are working at being healthy in their relationships.

MY FRIEND’S HEALTHY CHOICES: 
LIE: My friend’s growth threatens our relationship. If she grows then she will judge where I am at and no longer accept me. 
TRUTH: I am happy for my friend’s growth and healing. Becoming physically, emotionally, and spiritual healthy is a good thing. My friend loves me and won’t judge me. As my friend becomes more healthy, it will also serve to make our friendship more healthy. 
GRATEFULNESS: I love my friend and am grateful to have someone with whom I can share my heart, who inspires me by her brave spirit and willingness to do the hard work of change and growth. 

Here is how this exercise might look for my son as he is stressed about having to buy a car:

BUYING A CAR
LIE: I’ll never find a car. There are no options. I can’t do this on my own. This is the most horrible thing that has happened.
TRUTH:It sucks that I don’t have access to the money right this second,  but I will have the money available Monday so I can buy a car. I can look at cars now and explain my situation. If I find a car, I can ask if they will hold it until the insurance check goes through.
GRATEFULNESS: I am grateful that I have had a car to drive the past couple of years. I am thankful that I was not injured. I am grateful that the accident was not my fault and that I will have money to get a replacement. I am grateful that I am learning survival tools that will help me later in life.

I hope you found this helpful. If you decide to try this exercise, I would love to hear from you! Please send me your examples by using the form below, or email me at kkmeador@gmail.com with the subject line LIES TRUTH GRATEFULNESS

The Value of Tension -Why We Should Embrace It

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach – something’s just not right, but you can’t put your finger on it? Maybe it wraps its fingers around your mind in the dark just as you’re starting to fall asleep, and the thoughts are swirling in your head. Or maybe you can feel the tight grip on your heart as Sunday afternoon turns into evening, and your weekend is coming to an end and going to work on Monday morning looms over you. Or it might be the dread you feel when you think of a certain relationship. Maybe it’s just a general feeling of dissatisfaction – you try to distract yourself, but it keeps creeping back in like fog over a lake.

Discomfort. Stress. Tension.

Often our first reaction when we feel this sense of ‘something is not right’ is to try to just get rid of that anxiety. We look at our phones or computers. We watch television. We eat. We drink. We distract ourselves with whatever we can to just not feel that discomfort.

What would it mean to look at that discomfort in a positive light? As we are on this journey of finding our dream, our purpose, our meaning – what if that tension was a tool that we can use to help guide our path, to push us in the right direction – or in any direction?

Tension is valuable because is tells us that something needs to change. It is a necessary tool in our overall mental health – it is a sign of the gap between “. . . what one has already achieved and what one still has to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become.” (Frankl)

If we only seek to discharge that tension and remove the discomfort, we lose out on the most important purpose of the tension, stress, or discomfort.

The motivation to change.

We don’t need a life free of tension. We need a life in which we struggle for a greater purpose. If we seek to simply ‘feel better’ by alleviating our discomfort, we miss the chance of striving towards a call to purpose, a deeper meaning which only we can fulfill.

Author Jon Maxwell says,

“Growth stops when you lose the tension between where you are and where you could be.”

What would it mean if we embraced the tension? Or at the very least did not attempt to immediately rid ourselves of it? That discomfort is our heart’s way of telling us we are not where we should be.

Journaling exercise:

Think back to a time this week when you felt stress/discomfort/tension.

What did you do? Did you try to get rid of that tension or ignore it?

Can you identify a meaning that is waiting to be fulfilled? Or is this tension pointing to an area of needed growth? What other meaning or message can you learn from this time of experiencing tension?

 

Balance: What’s “IN YOUR FACE” the Most?

by Kristin Meador

I wish I could start out with a lovely list of “Ten Steps To Finding Balance in Your Life”. The all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking part of me would love this. But I know it’s going to be more messy than ten simple steps. So I’m going to write about my journey. You can follow along if you want, but I’m writing this for me, and my two or three friends that follow along. Anyone else is gravy.

Step 1. What is “in your face” the most?  Years ago, during my first round of personal counseling, I was dealing with a dysfunctional family, a past eating disorder, a history of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, multiple miscarriages, having three babies in four years, my chaotic ADD life, and a broken marriage that we were struggling to repair. I told my counselor “I don’t even know where to begin!” So she asked me, “What’s ‘in your face’ the most? What seems to be a common theme? Which issue is causing you the most distress? Let’s deal with that one first.” As any honest, broken person knows, our lives are messy. Rarely is there just one issue that we are dealing with. Often the issues are interrelated and overlap, but if you think about it, there may be something that stands out. Let’s deal with that one first.

photo credit: Creative Commons by John Veldboom

photo credit: Creative Commons by John Veldboom

So that is where I will begin – What’s in my face the most? Having said all that, I honestly can’t say.

My thoughts are racing, my brain is overwhelmed.

There are not enough hours in a day. I feel like I’m always busy, but I never seem to accomplish anything substantial.

I am not eating healthy, I have gained back every pound I had lost and then some, and I am tired and sore and overweight and unhealthy. I’m restless in my life, and I know that I need a change, but I’m not sure what. I have unfinished projects and goals at work, but I am overwhelmed by every day tasks. I have so many things I want to do – remodel my house, travel, and write, to name just a few – but I can’t seem to start a project, let alone finish one.

I have broken relationships that are calling out to be healed and reconciled. I long to find a church family, or a spiritual community, in which I can grow and serve.

More than anything, I long for a peaceful, quiet place in my soul and spirit so I can sort all of this out. Hey guys – THAT IS WHAT IS IN MY FACE THE MOST. Those things in my life that are distracting me from the most important work I should be doing – finding balance. So there we have it – step one is complete.

Next post –

2. Squirrel! How to Stop Chasing Distractions