Anti-peace

peace

True confessions…

I’m stressed out. Tired and stressed out, to be precise.

Earlier today, I looked up the definition of stress, and this is what I found:

“A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

So, I looked up the definition of peace (seeing as it’s the topic for May), and it gave two definitions, both of which started with the words:

“Freedom from…”

Freedom from…

Those two words stopped me in my tracks and highlighted the fact that I’ve been feeling the opposite of peace.

The truth is I haven’t been feeling freedom from anything.

But, I’ve started taking steps to figure out how I can keep stress from dominating my life. Especially since the “adverse and demanding circumstances” that contributed to me becoming so stressed are probably not going to go away anytime soon.

What’s a girl to do?

Well, my hubby and I are going on vacation just 4 short days from now, and I’m pretty sure that 8 days in Puerto Vallarta will go a long way to helping my stress. But, that will only be a brief respite, after which life will resume and, no doubt, my stressful circumstances.

It was recently suggested that I need to regularly spend time with a trusted friend or two who I can confide in, and who appreciates me for the person I am. I do have those people in my life but they mostly live somewhere else, which is the downside of having moved around a lot. But, there are a couple of friends where I live who have the potential to become close relationships. So, one of my goals is to become more intentional about deepening those friendships.

The closer your support system, the better.

It was also suggested that I be kinder to myself, and regularly indulge in some of the things I most enjoy. Things like going for a massage, taking a brisk walk, baking, reading, blogging, having date nights with my hubby, getting together with a friend for coffee, watching a movie, etc. These ideas seem somewhat simplistic on the surface but I do enjoy them, and they’ve been falling through the cracks in direct proportion to how stressed I’ve been feeling. Basically, I need to work smarter, not harder.

The goal is to manage my stress rather than have my stress manage me.

I’ve done a few of the things I enjoy this week but, to be honest, I still don’t feel much better. I do think our vacation will help jumpstart the process, and I’m very thankful for the timing. From the moment we leave the driveway until we return 8 days later, nothing but rest and relaxation will be on the agenda. I plan on taking full advantage of being out of the country… spending lots of quality time with my hubby, sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling, eating, reading, sightseeing, and sleeping.

I just need to remember that I didn’t get this stressed overnight so I won’t get unstressed overnight either. But, simply having a plan makes me think that peace is at least possible.

I especially need to remember that God is bigger than anyone or anything that’s been causing me stress. It’s easier said that done but committing my circumstances to Him, and trusting that He will intervene in the right way and at the right time will go a long way to being able to feel peace in the midst of the storm. I’ve been praying a lot but maybe I need to be still and listen more too.

It’s hard to hear that still small voice when I’m doing all the talking.

I decided to combine the definitions of peace and stress to come up with a new definition for peace that goes like this…

Freedom from a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

I like it.

I’m actively in pursuit of peace… my own version of “freedom from”, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it increases my joy.

But, it’s a journey, not a destination. So it’s to be continued…

Peace out.

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Love list…

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It can be easy to take the things we love – and the people we love – for granted so I decided to pay special attention to both this past week. That exercise made me wonder why I ever let life overshadow love…

Here is a glimpse of my love list…

  • My husband and I celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary a couple of days ago. We had dinner at the historical ranche house where our wedding had taken place, and where Mike had proposed six months before that. We loved reminiscing and just celebrating us in the place that holds so many great memories of our love story…
  • Emily turned 17 the day before our anniversary, and her wish was to celebrate by having both sides of the family over for dinner. It was somewhat daunting to consider feeding 22 people – especially just days after having had surgery – but it was worth it to see how happy both Emily and my hubby were with how the evening had gone…
  • Lately, I’ve tried to be more intentional about being connected to friends and family. It means a lot when people take the time to send an e-mail, message, text, or phone call my way – or do something equally thoughtful – and I want to be that kind of person too. As much as I think I do reasonably well in this respect, my goal is to do better, because nothing communicates love quite like our actions…
  • The more I strive to know God and to love God, the more I find I’m able to love others. Hopefully, somewhere in that process, I also become more lovable to others…
  • Great food always rates some love. This past week… stellar sturgeon for our anniversary dinner, fall-off-the bone ribs for Emily’s party, delish salads made by my husband’s mom and sister, and to-die-for giant cupcakes from a bakery aptly called ‘Crave’. Yum…
  • I’ve been loving the great weather that Calgary has had since the end of January. I’m originally from the east coast where winters are epic – both in cold and in snowfall. But, even by west coast standards, the weather has been quite ‘un’Canadian, with above seasonal temperatures and virtually no snow. I’ve even been almost warm enough most days (with an emphasis on ‘almost’), which is saying something, given I tend to get a chill on a breezy day in the summer…
  • Our quirky British bulldog puppy, Charlie, inspires love just by being Charlie…
  • I’ve been loving an app for my Kindle from our local library that allows me to download and read countless books for free (and who doesn’t love free…). My favorite guilt-free part of that pleasure are the books I start and decide to return (because they really aren’t my cup of tea) – and I can do it for FREE. I still love to physically read a good book every now and then but, for the most part, bye bye paperbacks…
  • I used to tell people that I have a black thumb, as evidenced by the historical failure of plants to thrive under my care. But, since assuming the care for my husband’s many plants after getting married, I’ve surprisingly had more successes than failures. So, I recently extended my efforts from indoor to outdoor, cleaning up our numerous flower beds (all home to perennials) and trimming back umpteen bushes and trees. It was a much bigger job than I had anticipated – and one that involved a lot of ‘bs’ (blood and sweat…) – but the outcome more than made up for the effort. It was a  vivid reminder that the people we love – and the things we love – generally need considerable effort on our part in order to get the best result.

One final thing that impressed itself on me this past week was how much more joy I felt simply by focusing on what I loved about people, places, and things. It’s amazing how easy it can be to lose sight of the fact that, even when it’s tough to focus on what’s good, making a conscious effort to do just that always inspires far more positive feelings than when we focus on what’s not so good.

Just one more thing to love…

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The Joy Journey

I recently took an 18 month hiatus from writing to consider the direction I wanted to take with my blog, after finding myself with a serious case of writer’s block. I was at a perpetual loss to think of a subject that inspired me, which inevitably led to the conclusion that perhaps my blogging days were behind me.

The answer presented itself out of the blue (as answers are prone to do). For a full year, the book “The Happiness Project” had languished in my nightstand. While it had captured my interest from the very first page, I had never made it past the first two chapters. Reading took a backseat to life… which included getting married, becoming a stepmother to two teens, becoming ‘Mom’ to a purebred English bulldog puppy, becoming out of work, going into business for myself, having two dental surgeries, and being diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (a fancy term for skin cancer).

It was my recent diagnosis of skin cancer that prompted me to dust off “The Happiness Project”. I wanted to make a commitment to happiness, and thought it would be beneficial to consider someone else’s experience with the same commitment.

(I highly recommend this book, by the way. Gretchen Rubin approaches her experiment with candor, aplomb, and humor, and it’s a compelling and captivating read.)

Inspired by Gretchen, I decided to undertake my own experiment but to personalize it to fit me. I confess that having the name “Joy” influenced my decision to choose “joy” as a goal over “happiness”. But, the tipping point was when I considered the fundamental differences between the two.  Happiness tends to be fleeting, and depends upon temporal factors like circumstances or other people, while joy is true contentment that comes from internal factors like faith in God. In fact, the Bible uses “happy” or “happiness” approximately 30 times while “joy” or “rejoice” are referred to more than 300 times!

Hence… “The Joy Journey”.

How then to map out my journey? I narrowed it down to thirteen internal qualities that I want to focus on… one each month for the next twelve months. Using the Bible as my reference, I chose the fruit of the Spirit (from Galatians 5:22-23a) – love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, and added to those… wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and discernment. I’ll dedicate the thirteen month to examining “joy” (the remaining fruit of the Spirit), both as a distinct virtue but also from the standpoint that the preceding twelve virtues lead directly to its door.

All these qualities are ones I’ve wanted to more consistently reflect for a long time but this will be the first time I’ll have made them a concerted focus. My theory is that by making them an intentional and ongoing practice, they’ll become a solid foundation for a life that radiates joy. After all, practice makes permanent.

Beginning in April, my blog will chronicle my journey, complete with successes, challenges, and failures. I hope you’ll join me on “The Joy Journey”!

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