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.

peace

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Take the weight off…

I’ve done a whole lot of packing and unpacking in the past week, and it got me to thinking about baggage and luggage and how the first is weighty while the second is simply heavy.  Two very different things.blog 2

I tried to pack as efficiently as possible but my luggage was still pretty heavy.  Thank goodness for pull handles.  But it really didn’t matter one way or another because I was packing for a positive reason… to go visit my son and his fiance for Christmas.

Having luggage generally isn’t a bad thing unless you have too much, in which case it costs you financially if an airport is involved.

My luggage was heavy but it thankfully didn’t cost me a penny.

blog 1On the other hand, baggage is rarely a good thing.  People generally think of it in the context of emotional ‘luggage’.

If you tell someone you have too much luggage, they’ll usually offer to help carry the load.  But, if you tell someone you have too much baggage, they’ll usually run for the hills.  Baggage is weighty.  Weighty for the person who’s carrying it.

Baggage.

  • things that encumber one’s freedom, progress, development, or adaptability.

Encumber.

  • put a heavy load on; burden.

Weighty stuff.

blog 3Here’s the thing.  Live long enough and you’re going to end up with baggage.  It’s inevitable.  It’s what you choose to do with baggage that makes all the difference.  If you don’t deal, feel, and heal, it’s going to cost you emotionally.  And it’s going to cost everyone close to you simply by association.

I’ve been through a lot in my life.  I know what it’s like to have baggage.  I know what it’s like to be stuck with baggage.  And I know what it’s like to get rid of baggage.  I really can’t recommend it enough.

Deal… feel… and heal.blog 4

It’s not easy.  Some baggage is easier to deal with than others but most of it is pretty tough (at least in my own experience…).  It takes honesty, time, commitment, perseverance, determination, and forgiveness.

It’s a journey, not a destination.

But, consider this truth.

No one else can do it for you.

That’s not to say you have to do it alone, you just have to do it yourself.

Lose some baggage and I guarantee you’ll feel a whole lot lighter.  If you make no other life resolution for 2013, resolve to take the weight off and dump that baggage.  You’ll never regret it.

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Deking discouragement…

I’m at war with discouragement.BLOG 14

I’ve been unemployed for 38 days and counting.  No income.  Still no word from the government about possible interim income.

Oh, I’ve had a couple of interviews recently.  I was even offered one of the jobs.  But, they offered me a part-time job with unspecified hours when I had applied for a full-time job.  When I turned that down, they came back with a second offer but they were so deceptive throughout the whole process that what initially seemed like a great job proved to be anything but.  As for the second job, I’m still waiting on the ‘verdict’.

Discouragement is the feeling of despair in the face of obstacles.  Yeah, that sounds about right.

Feelings.  Bah, humbug.  Who can trust them.  If I’ve learned one thing in my life it’s that feelings are not facts.  They’re just our personal reaction to our immediate circumstances.  Feelings don’t live in the future, don’t consider the future, rarely even acknowledge the future, they just live in the moment.  So, they’re not terribly reliable.

That being said, it’s probably not a healthy thing to deny or suppress our feelings but I do believe there’s great merit in acknowledging the truth of what we’re feeling and, if necessary, going to war against it.

Why war?  Well, negative feelings like discouragement need to be battled against or they will defeat us.

And, make no mistake, I have no plans to concede defeat.

BLOG 8Life is tough at the moment.  It takes an act of will to keep pushing forward, to fight, to believe, to hope, to concentrate, to put one foot in front of the other, to have faith, to get out of bed.

Discouragement is paralyzing,  hope is mobilizing.  I’m somewhere between the two at any given moment but aiming to stay at least 51% in hope’s corner.  I want to keep discouragement on it’s toes, somewhere behind me.  Hopefully far, far behind me.

A deke is a classic hockey term but I think it makes a great war term.  “Quickly changing direction so the opposing player is caught out of position”.  I love dekes in hockey and I love the concept of dekes in war.

BLOG 15

I think it defies human nature to be forward thinkers.  Especially when the present is overwhelming.  But, hope looks forward.  Hope looks up.  You never know what tomorrow will bring.  I never know what tomorrow will bring.

I believe that this too shall end.  I believe there’s no strength without strain.  I believe that good will come of this.  I believe that I have the choice to be bitter or to be better, and I choose better.  I believe my choice to never give up will make a difference in someone’s life.  I believe that the lessons I’ve been learning in the ‘trenches’ will be an encouragement to others.  I believe that who I become through the struggle is far more important than the circumstances themselves.  And, as a person of faith, I believe that God works ALL things together for good.  For my good.  God has a plan for my life and He’s not finished yet.

I believe.

Am I feeling discouraged?  Yes, I am.

Am I defeated?  Not by a longshot.  I might be down but I’m not out.

I might not deke as well as Sid the Kid but I do have skills.  Mad skills too, if I say so myself…

BLOG 5BLOG 3

Keep on, keeping on… per severe…

So, I’ve paused my job search to consider what it means to persevere.  Interestingly enough, this has been a huge encouragement to me.

per·sev·ere

Verb:
Continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no indication of success.

First of all, persevering is a verb.  So, when people tell you to “hang in there”, you shouldn’t literally “hang in there”.  That implies staying put, no action, holding on for dear life.  That would be an anti-verb.  If you’re just hanging in there, you’re not persevering.

CONTINUING in a course of action… EVEN in the face of difficulty… OR with little or no indication of success.

Continuing.  That means “keep going”.  Sounds easy enough.

BUT, then add the caveat.  EVEN in the face of difficulty.  OR with little or no indication of success.  It’s like “keep going” but with a burden added to each shoulder.  A heavy burden on each shoulder.  A burden that feels heavier the more you keep going.

I was thinking about the word persevere itself.  Break it into two parts and you have “per” “severe”.  By way of being severe.  Basically, it’s tough whether you consider it in part or in whole.

se·vere

Adjective
  1. Demanding great ability, skill, or resilience: “a severe test of stamina”.

I can’t say for sure if I have great ability or skill but I know I can choose to have great resilience.

re·sil·ience

Noun
  1. The power or ability to return to the original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
I’m definitely being stretched.  22 days without a job and without income.  Having to move out of my apartment because I don’t have the financial means to maintain a place of my own.  Not a great feeling.  None of it.  But I have two choices.  Either be stretched through this experience or be inflexible.
What doesn’t bend, breaks.  And it’s not an option for me to break.  So I’m determined to be resilient.

To revert to the original definition of resilience,  I have a burden on each shoulder.  I’m in the face of difficulty and, even though I’ve sent out countless resumes, I’ve had little or no indication of success.  It would be soooooo easy to give up.  To throw up my hands and say this is impossible.  To say it’s too hard and quit.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve told my son that the only failure is in not getting up when you’re down.  To give up instead of keep going.

My son is now 34 years old but I’m still his mother.  I know he pays close attention to what happens in my life.  That he still looks up to me as an example.

This situation might be hard.  It might be scary.  It might seem insurmountable sometimes but I AM DETERMINED to make something good out of it.  The answer is out there somewhere.  I just have to keep going.

I’m not going to quit.  I’m going to be an example to my son and to others that, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.  I’m going to be one of the tough ones.  I’ve been through a lot in the past.  I can still go through a lot now.
Many, many years ago, my mother used to tell me I was stubborn.  I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean it as a compliment.  But, stubborn can actually be a good thing.

stub·born

Adjective
  1. Bullheaded.
  2. Characterized by perseverance; persistent.
“Bullheaded”.  Hmmm.  Ok, maybe being stubborn isn’t always a good thing.  But, “characterized by perseverance; persistent”… that’s a very good thing.  In my opinion, it refers to perseverance twice in the same definition because persevering isn’t easy to do.  It’s at least twice as hard as you’d expect.
Hey, that means I qualify!  I’m stubborn!!So, now what?Well, I just keep going.  At some point, the answer is going to present itself.

Consider storms.  Storms can seem like they go on forever but they always come to an end.  So do the storms in our lives.  Some just take longer than others.

  I’m glad I don’t know how long this storm is going to last.  It makes it easier to persevere.

I’ll leave the final quote to Napoleon Bonaparte.  I’m pretty sure he knew what he was talking about.

Here’s to persevering and to eventually sharing the victory.  Until then, I’ll keep on, keeping on.  Per severe.

Stress test…

Stress.

Doesn’t it seem like it should be a four letter word?

What if I suggested it doesn’t have to be?

Most of us have fallen under the illusion that stress is an inevitable part of life but the reality is that it’s possible for us to manage stress rather than having stress manage us.  Like everything else that we’re successful with, it’s a matter of implementing little changes here and there which will slowly but surely reduce the negative impact of stress in our lives.

Wouldn’t you like to be more relaxed, healthier, happier, more content?

Me too.

That’s why I recently made a conscious effort to start incorporating things on this list into my life, just to see what would happen.  To be honest, at first it seemed like just another ‘to do’ list – and that felt like stress in and of itself.  But, as time went by, doing some of these things began to feel like second nature, and I started to notice a positive difference in my stress levels.  Dare I say that more days than not now, I feel refreshed, not stressed.

It’s a great feeling.

Being less stressed has freed me to be more creative, to pay more attention to the things I want to pay attention to, and to make more progress at working toward some of the goals I’ve set for myself.

When stress manages us, it’s like a ball and chain around our ankle.  When we manage stress, it’s like we find our wings.

Has anyone else noticed that life is a four letter word, and stress and death aren’t?  Who knows, maybe four letter words will start to get a better rap.  After all, there’s a first time for everything.

When it comes to stress, let’s resolve to pass the test!

– Wake up 15 minutes earlier
– Prepare for the morning, the night before
– Don’t rely on your memory…write things down
– Repair things that don’t work properly
– Make duplicate keys
– Say ‘”no” more often
– Set priorities in your life
– Avoid negative people
– Always make copies of important papers
– Ask for help with jobs you dislike
– Break large tasks into bit sized portions
– Look at problems as challenges
– Smile more
– Be prepared for rain
– Schedule  play time into every day
– Avoid tight fitting clothes
– Take a bubble bath
– Believe in you
– Visualise yourself winning
– Develop a sense of humour
– Have goals for yourself
– Say hello to a stranger
– Look up at the stars
– Practise breathing slowly
– Do brand new things
– Stop a bad habit
– Take stock of your achievements
– Do it today
– Strive for excellence, not perfection
– Maintain your weight
– Plant a tree
– Learn to meet your own needs
– Become a better listener
– Know your limitations and let others know them too
– Throw a paper airplane
– Exercise every day
– Get to work early
– Clean out one closet or drawer
– Take a different route to work
– Leave work early (with permission)
– Remember you always have options
– Quit trying to fix other people
– Get enough sleep
– Praise other people
– Take each day at a time…you have your whole life to live
– Take time out to just ‘be’ everyday
– Do one thing at a time
– Stop thinking tomorrow will be a better today

Got change?

Change has been a major theme in my life in 2012.  I lost my beloved dog, Max, to cancer very suddenly on Easter Monday, and I was laid off just as suddenly four days later. The remaining changes began mid-June, when I separated from my husband and moved three provinces west to Alberta.  Since then, I’ve gotten a new address, new job, new car, new church, new friends, new wardrobe, new hairstyle, and new hair colour.

Years ago, it was popular to complete a checklist of all the major changes that had taken place in your life, tally the score, and then see where you fell on the stress scale.  It didn’t take a checklist for me to recognize that, at least on paper, my stress levels were off the charts.  But, while I went through a phase of intense stress, I persevered, and came out the other side, emerging into a place of great peace and happiness.  I wouldn’t want to relive the past few months but I’m deeply grateful for them because, otherwise, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

As much as we wish it were otherwise, there’s often no gain – or little gain – without pain.

I think change has gotten a bad rap because it’s assumed that change = stress.  All pain and no gain (an urban myth).  So change tends to inspire fear.  What fear accomplishes is that it keeps us paralyzed, determined to avoid change at all cost.  The longer we give into fear, the more it grows until, before long, we find ourselves firmly ensconced in our comfort zones.  Comfort zones are misleading because the very word “comfort” inspires warm and fuzzy when, in fact, the longer you stay there, the more it becomes your prison.  Life becomes very scaled down.  The sky is no longer the limit… the ceiling is.

Think of it in terms of football.  Players love to make it to the end zone because that’s where the touchdowns are scored.  It’s where the gain is.  The rest of the field is where the pain is.  But just image if the players decided they were never going to leave the end zone.  It would lead to a very boring game.  In fact, it wouldn’t even be possible to have a game anymore.  The players would be left living in the past because that’s where the action was.

That’s one of the ways you can tell who is in their comfort zone a little too securely.  They’re largely left living in the past.  Or living vicariously through other people.  Their world has shrunk until it fits into all too comfortable dimensions, effectively cutting off change, and eventually even the possibility of change.

This often happens, at least to some degree, to people as they get older but it happens to younger people too.  The constant is that they experienced negative and unexpected change at some point.  Maybe they lost a job, failed in university, had a failed relationship or marriage, went bankrupt, etc.  But the common thread is that fear paralyzed them into thinking that if they just stay in their comfort zone from that point onward, they will never have to experience that sort of  change again.  Even if it’s true, at what cost???

The best things in my life have come from change.  At the very least, the world is constantly changing, whether I like it or not.  I can either embrace some of that change or get left behind.  Become irrelevant, dated, out of touch.

The way I see is that I only have one life to live so I want to live it to the fullest.  I want to take chances, make changes, try new things, keep an open mind, push through fear, and focus on the positives.  I want to be hopeful, joyful, optimistic.  I want my best and most interesting years to be the next 50 and not the last 50.  I don’t want to be defined by walls or ceilings but to be continually reaching for the stars.  I don’t want the question to be “what if” but “why not”.

So, have I changed anybody’s mind?  I hope so.  It might mean taking a total change in direction from time to time but the benefits of change will far outweigh the negatives.  It’s time to change it up!!!

“I have accepted fear as a part of life, specifically the fear of change, the fear of the unknown, and I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back, turn back. . . .” — Erica Jong