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Posts Tagged ‘stress’

All my life I have struggled with naming my emotions. As a child I was not allowed to be angry. Raised voices were a “no-no” in my house. We were to be bright, happy yet silent as children, an interesting combination.

As a child I learned to be a pleaser, and if my Mam or Dad were angry/upset, I would do everything I could to make them happy; overachiever, overworking, entertaining, being the clown, etc.

Growing up, if I was presented with an angry or upset person my first instinct was to make it better for them. Recently, I’ve found myself feeling a heightened sense of outrage at the injustice I see around me. I am experiencing emotions, without really understanding what they are.

For example, this morning I was driving in the village and as I approached one of the two intersections with traffic lights, I had the green light, so continued through the intersection. At that exact moment an elderly man was making a right hand turn against the red light. He did not see me. Thankfully I was able to stop before we collided.

As I sat in the intersection he gave me a disgusted look, yelled “bloody women drivers” and waved me through. I had stalled my car on an incline, so it took me a few seconds to get the car running again. Instead of waiting for me, he continued on his way, making a sharp right turn at the next street.

I was fuming, and felt that I had every right to be angry. But it wasn’t until several hours later that I could actually name the emotion of anger. I had every right to be angry. But I also had every right to be grateful that we did not collide and nobody was injured…other than egos and pride.

Lately I am realising that the predominant emotion I am feeling is anger…almost to the point of rage. By nature I am a caring person. I take satisfaction in doing for other people. It is in my vocation to give emotionally, spiritually, etc.

I believe part of the reason I am now on a medical leave is because I am feeling such great anger and frustration. I feel that many of the people in my life, especially in my immediate family, are taking much more than they are giving. Instead of seeing that I am doing for them because I want to, I am feeling anger that they are not reciprocating and/or they are not appreciative.

I am not supposed to do things to receive thanks. And yet, right now, it is something I need.

Why is that?

I am, by nature, an optimistic, balanced, happy person. But not lately. I’ve been surly, miserable and downright snarly. I raise my voice much more often, I feel an emptiness inside and I’m looking for something to fill it. Most often, it’s chocolate. But the thing is, the chocolate isn’t filling the void. It’s expanding my waistline.

Slowly it is dawning on me that I am looking for everyone else to make me happy, instead of seeking to make myself happy. I want everyone to behave the way I feel they should; instead of accepting them for who they are.

One of the most destructive enabling behaviours is the phrase “It’s just the way s/he is”. There is a parishioner who is a bully. He shouts, insults, bangs his fist on the table, in order to be heard and to get what he wants. It is hard work to deal with him. And when I challenge him on his bullying behaviour I am taken aside and told “It’s the just the way he is”, or “he’s much better than he used to be”. Neither of which are acceptable.

I believe that everyone should be held accountable for their behaviour and that everyone should do their best to understand how the other person is feeling. Seldom is this behaviour extended to me and, I have to admit, it upsets me.

Slowly but surely I am realising that there are very few things I can control. The only emotions I control are my own, especially once I name them and own them.

The Canadian Mental Health Association came out with this great chart meant for children, to identify what it is they are feeling. I think I need one for my office, so I can identify what I am feeling. It’s strange to be 46 years old and unable to identify basic emotions.

Life is a learning curve and lately the curve has been steep.

If I were to make a list of the things that make me happy they would include taking a bike ride through the village; walking the dogs; doing yoga outside; yoga inside; dancing around the house like a fool; writing letters to friends; reading a novel; writing in my journal; taking a warm, soothing bath with epsom salts and baking soda; blogging.

As I look at this list, I realise I don’t do any of these things as often as I should.

I will do more things on that list on a more regular basis.

Starting now.

Some realisations that have come to me are: My happiness does not depend on anyone other than me.
I have every right to be angry and express that emotion. Further, I can express anger without guilt. I can disagree with someone without being a bad person. And if that person thinks I am a bad person, that is their emotion to own; not mine.

I do not have to be held hostage by a crippling fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. It never stopped Jesus. And aside from the crucifixion, it worked out alright for him (in the end).

I have been mired up in anxiety, angst, frustration, anger and rage. It’s time to do, say and live in a way that makes me happy.

That’s not selfish; it’s self-care, and self-loving.

So that will be what I focus on for the rest of 2014…and perhaps longer than that.

Starting now.

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Waiting…

not something I do well. But something I find myself spending much more time doing lately.

I have been at the doctor’s office more in the past couple of months then I have in the past few years. Blood tests, referrals, etc. Waiting and more waiting.

I had to get some routine blood tests done a few weeks ago. And it turned out that there was some abnormalities with one of the tests. So I had to have the tests done again. And wait. Then wait some more.

I find myself in the position of waiting for a specialist only to find that paperwork wasn’t faxed from one office to another. I did what I could do to make phone calls to each side and eventually everything was straightened out and I got the appointment.

So now I have to wait for the appointment and then a possible procedure.

So as we sit back to enjoy a “long weekend” I get to spend some of it waiting. Again.

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There is a phrase in the Church “Christ is risen, the clergy are dead” and this sums up most clergy I know, myself included. We labour (with love) to make sure the bulletins are done, homilies are written, congregation is cared for. We fuss and fret over the liturgies, trusting that those who attend will be fed.

By the time Easter Sunday rolls around, we are usually pretty tired. The Alleluia may not have as much verve and pep as it should have, but it’s the best we’ve got.

I spent three hours, the Saturday before Easter, in the stylist’s chair, getting my hair done. This is highly unusual for me. My usual time in the chair, including chatting is 30 minutes. Five to ten minutes more if I get my hair washed first. I was experiencing something I’ve never done before; a hair tattoo. It’s a labour intensive process, but incredibly amazing.

My stylist and I had talked about a resurrection hair tattoo for Easter Sunday. The tattoo itself didn’t take very long, but the colouring and shading took plenty of time. By the time he was done, he was very pleased, and so was I. And so were the customers in the salon. It’s certainly something that stands out, but as I can’t see it, I don’t worry too much about it.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and I was especially pleased at the children’s reaction on Easter Sunday. I have been stopped while out, so people can ask about it. And I explain that there are three crosses, a tomb and a pair of wings. And they “oooh” and “ahhh” and tell me how awesome it is.

The three hours I spent in the chair I should have been relaxing, but I was thinking about all the things I had yet to do to get ready for Saturday night’s service. Everything did get done, but I did not take good care of my sprained ankle. And come Sunday morning it was swollen and paining. By the time the two services were finished, I couldn’t feel my left foot. I took off the brace, iced my foot, rested it and tried to nap.

We went to visit my in-laws for supper, which was awesome, and I elevated my ankle as much as I could. Since then I have slept as much as I can, while returning to the pre-Easter craziness. I took Monday off, but on Tuesday I had three home communions. I was supposed to go to a meeting in the city, but I was too tired and ankle was too sore. So I sent my regrets and stayed home.

Friday is traditionally my day off, but the church is having a bake sale tomorrow, so I spent most of the morning baking cupcakes, scones and cookies. The cookies are staying at home as I scorched the bottoms. The cupcakes and scones are at the Church. My Beloved brought supper in and tonight I am catching up on laundry that should have been done two weeks ago.

What I need to do is take three weeks off and rest. But there’s too much to do for me to make that happen. I am anxious about some upcoming doctor’s appointments and medical tests. Something inside me tells me that I will be taking time off to deal with my medical issues, whether I want to or not, and that will be what it will be.

So for now I struggle through, doing the best I can, taking it as easy as I can and trying not to beat myself up about not getting everything done.

The lesson I really need to learn is to let go and let God. If the bulletins don’t get done, it’s not a big deal. Right?

One step at a time. One day at a time.

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I’ve had a rough couple of weeks…sleeping poorly, eating badly, not getting enough exercise. This past week I’ve been weepy, and that’s not me. I don’t like losing control of my emotions, especially in front of people. This morning my beloved and I had an appointment with our marriage counsellor. She asked how things were going and I burst into tears. Never a good sign.

We chatted for a while about stress levels, fatigue levels, etc. She asked my beloved a lot of questions, and he expressed concern. My plate is always full, lately its been overflowing and I know I need to take some things off it, especially things that are not life-giving.

After quite a bit of conversation she expressed to me that I most likely I have adrenal fatigue. I came home and looked up the symptoms. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. Talk about a Holy Sh!t moment.

I looked at what can be done for adrenal fatigue I was not surprised that there’s no easy fix. Its going to take about a year to heal myself. It means cleaning out my cupboard, clean up the foods I eat. Add a couple of supplements to my storehouse. And set down some things that are not healthy.

I decided to resign from a Diocesan committee that I have been a part of for six years. The past couple of years I have not felt like I am contributing much. So I decided to step down. Once I am well I may decide to return to the committee, but I may not.

Right now I need to care for myself. Rest more. Stress less. Laugh more. Eat better. Keep juicing.
Move more. Work smarter.

I can do it. And I will.

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I have just come home from an 8 day retreat in the eastern part of the province where I live. The weather was extremely cold. We had an ice storm that kept us indoors for an entire day and that was alright. While I was away I did a lot of resting, praying, meditating, some journalling, some cooking and generally, trying to rid myself of the anxiety and stress of the past few months.

I came home to a disaster area of a house. The kitchen was a mess, laundry in the dryer, bedroom floor covered in detritus, bathrooms a mess. I was not a happy camper. I am frustrated that I work to keep the house clean and tidy. I cook healthy meals as often as I can and I care for my family. When I go away all that goes out the window. Nothing gets put away, there’s a trail of crumbs and flour on every surface.

I know I should be grateful for a family at home and food in the fridge. And I am. But to me, it’s disrespectful to not clean up after yourself…especially when you know that the person coming home will clean it up.

I know I should leave the mess for the ones who created it, but I can’t stand the mess. So far today, although struggling with a migraine, I have swept the bedroom floor and made the bed. Have done two sinks full of dishes and cleaned up half the kitchen. I still need to finish the kitchen, then the dining room and the bathrooms will wait for tomorrow afternoon.

My whole life I’ve lived by the rules. I’ve changed myself to be who people want me to be. I am tired of always being the one to bend and stretch. I want to have my needs respected and honoured. And a clean house, in my humble opinion, is not that big a deal. To me, it would be a lovely way to welcome me home. A clean kitchen, the bed made, laundry put away. That would make me happy.

My beloved teases me that I’m the only person he knows who insists on cleaning the house before I go away. When I was single, I would leave the house clean and tidy so when I came home it was the same way. It’s more difficult to do when you’re married, but really, does it have to be?

So now that I’ve had a chance to vent, I will make myself a cup of tea and clean off the dining room table. It will be grand once it’s done, but it does bug me that it has to be me that’s doing it.

I feel like stamping my feet and shouting “It’s not fair”. But of course, I can’t do that…can I?

The good news is my homily is nearly ready for tomorrow. It’s the Baptism of the Lord. One of my favourite holy days in the Church. The message will be simple, but hopefully profound.

And after Church I will bring my house back in order. it might not be fair, but it’s life.

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It’s the time of year when so many people say “I can’t wait for this year to be over, next year is going to be so much better”. And what does that really mean?

Yes, 2013 has been a tough year for the community in which I live. There have been so many deaths and looking out at the congregation on Christmas Eve at 7:00 pm I had a catch in my throat through nearly the whole service. Looking out and seeing the families who are at their first Christmas Eve service since their loved one died. And feeling lost. I understand that feel very well.

On the radio and all over the internet, there are top 10 lists and “Best Of” lists and montages of 2013. Many people find it necessary to make Resolutions, as though the new year isn’t really a new year unless there is a list of often unattainable resolutions. THIS is the year I will run the Boston Marathon (and yet, getting up to the fridge during commercials makes one winded). THIS is the year I will lose 100 lbs (and yet not change eating habits or exercise in any way). THIS is the year I will meet Mr or Ms Right (and never leave the house) etc.

For me, resolutions are a recipe for disaster and I refuse to make them. What I do, instead, is look at my lifestyle from time to time, usually every 3 – 4 months and see where I am physically, spiritually, mentally, etc and decide if there are changes I should make or new habits I should incorporate. And then I do them.

Putting pressure on one night, New Years Eve, is crazy. It’s too much pressure. And it sets us up to failure. How many gyms has fantastic “resolution” specials, and by the first of February they are back to near empty? How many people have gym memberships that are virtually untouched? How many of us have exercise equipment that collects dust or holds unworn clothing?

This year I refuse to bend to pressure to make and share resolutions. I will live my life as healthy as I can. I will continue to reduce stress and to put myself higher on the priority list. I will be more diligent at taking care of myself and my family. I will continue to stamp out negative talk and self-shaming chatter, in my head and in the mouth of my daughter. There will continue to be no room for H8 in my house, and plenty of room for LOVE.

I still struggle as a food addict. I still have days when I hurt. And yet, these addictions and abuse do not define who I am. Or what I do. They are a part of my life, and likely always will be. And the living will be in the tension of finding the correct balance. Some days will be easier than others, just like always.

Live your life, love who you are. Make adjustments because you want to, not because of society’s pressure to do so. Eliminate H8 and love with all you are and with everything you have.

THAT is how we will change the world. Not with resolutions, but with love.

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The past few days have been extremely emotional – on the verge of horrendous.

Last Thursday the Church was packed to overflowing as we gathered to celebrate the life of R. A man well-loved and never forgotten. He was 85 years old and died from ALS. He had a full and rich life, serving his country, his community. Marrying his sweetheart for 48 years and raising two sons. He was, as the Bible says, “old and filled with days”.

His Celebration of Life was, indeed, a Celebration. The Church was filled with gales of laughter as we remembered what a practical joker R was, and how he always found a way to make us laugh.

When the Church service ended, I went to the Cemetery while some folks from the Church tidied up. By the time I returned from the Cemetery the Church was locked up tight…with my keys and cell phone inside. It was one more practical joke from R. For the record, I did get back in the Church, about three hours later. And it is a story I will remember and will always laugh as I tell it.

Sunday was our Remembrance Sunday service at the Church. There was a wreath that had stayed from R’s Celebration of Life. We have a white styrofoam cross that we pin poppies to after Communion to change an instrument of hate and destruction into an instrument of peace and love.

During my homily I told the story of my Grand-dad whom I have never met. He was wounded in the First World War and suffered for the rest of his life from neurological issues. He married his sweetheart and had three children, one of whom became my Mam. But he was always a broken man.

I also told the story of two friends of mine. A clergy couple out on the East Coast of this Country. She is a priest in Halifax, and he serves as Chaplain aboard HMCS Toronto. Theirs is a love-story for the ages; a testament to their faith, love and commitment to each other, and to God.

Sunday afternoon we gathered to say goodbye to Baby H. The Church was filled with young people in shock, sobbing uncontrollably and looking for answers. A few members of the Congregation came to offer their prayers and support to the family; as well as to seek peace and comfort themselves. In short, there was a Church filled with people looking for answers.

It felt like they were all looking at me.

I had nothing.

No words. I tried my hardest to write an authentic homily, but everything I tried sounded hollow and unconvincing. “He’s in the arms of Jesus”. Yes, but he should be in his mother’s arms.
“He’s gone home to be with the One who Created him.” Yes, but he should have gone home to his brother.

For the love of God, he was 28 DAYS OLD. Not enough time to learn to speak, never mind have a full life and die “old and filled with days”. Children are not supposed to die before their parents. It’s not fair. It’s not right.

And then it struck me.

I didn’t have to say anything. My words would not be the salve that would soothe. The Community would extend their heartfelt support to each other.

At Baby H’s baptism I brought a candle, the intention of which was to light it when he got better and went home. He didn’t get better so the candle remains unlit. As I began the service on Sunday I lit a new baptism candle from the paschal candle (which signifies new life) and let it burn through the service and during the reception.

The readings were all chosen because they dealt with children, commissioning and being still in the silence. God wasn’t making an appearance in the machinery beeping and chiming. God wasn’t making an appearance in my raging against the wind and the pain. God was in the stillness, where God always is; and I needed to remind myself, as well as the Congregation; that sometimes we need to simply ‘be still’ and be in the presence of the Sacred.

As usual I wasn’t wearing shoes. I had intended to mention why before the service began, but forgot. Several people asked me about it afterwards and I told them why. They nodded as though they understood.

Today was Remembrance Day, one day after Baby H’s funeral.

The weather was horrible, it was cold, wet and sleeting. The crowd huddled together, comprised of men and women, young and old, children and seniors. Umbrellas covered strangers and friends, and we united to Remember those who laid down their lives, those who returned wounded, those who served and continue to serve in the Armed Forces.

We laid a wreath at our small town service for LGBT Members of the Armed Forces, past and present. The wreath had a rainbow ribbon on it and the purple sash said “Lest We Forget”. Poignant words indeed.

So much loss over the past while.

So much pain.

So much emptiness.

So much fatigue.

And so tonight, as I work far too late, I look out the window at the snow that is gently falling. I have just eaten something that I know I will feel badly about in the morning, but right now I need comfort.

Tomorrow is going to be a quiet day. I will return the house to order. I will do some computer work. I will nap. I may not even get dressed. And let today be a snow day. A Sabbath Day.

The title of this post is When Words Fail, but I’ve written nearly 1,000 of them.

I think, what it all boils down to, is being brave enough to be authentic. Of being caring enough to be vulnerable. Of being human enough to feel and to show those whom you serve all of these things.

We may not have the magic words. We likely have the same questions as you.

We may not have the answers. But we do have each other.

Thanks be to God.

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