This post began as a reflection on what made up this C-minus day. But as I wrote it soon became apparent that it wasn’t what was occurring as much as it was my reaction to it. And what I absolutely forgot to do, proactively or in response.
I’m sharing a bit more in this post due to my desire to write with greater transparency. So, let’s take a look at how trials, struggles, challenges, whatever you prefer to call them, can culminate into a no good, very bad day.
Last Saturday was one of those days. Or perhaps…
One of THOSE days.
The kind of day that when reflected upon makes you wonder…
… how experience gained from years of life’s trials seems to evaporate.
… why some brain cell synapses rebel and give each other the silent treatment.
… why Noah didn’t swat those two mosquitoes?
It wasn’t a life-or-death day (well, almost for the dog…. Ok, PETA. Kidding!). Or a day that involved surgery or some other wickedly uncommon, intense trial. For these reasons and many more, I’ve much for which to be thankful.
So I don’t mean this to be a mere litany of complaints. Or, like, “Whoa is me! I need some pity, stat!” I’m considering what I didn’t do. And what I may’ve done instead.
I’ll not bore with lengthy explanations. Instead I’ll lean on our shared humanness to fill in the blanks between these “need-to-dos” and feelings. Since we all have something we’ve been through, are going through or–I’m pretty sure that as long as we’re breathing–we’ll go through, I imagine you may relate to something here.
Blog: 30-day promise. fail. again.
Truck: maintain. oil change. brakes. clean.
Food: grocery shopping. coupons. save.
Finances: increase. efficiency. how.
Work: client website. hours. coding. inefficiency. frustration.
Me: lack. exercise. break. fun. haircut.
House: short sale. process. loss. confusion. lien. conclusion. when.
Moving: pack. boxes. clean. pack. sell. donate. pack.
Rental residence: where. when. which. how.
Kids: attention. enjoy. time. fleeting.
Mom: memory. fading. change. loss. visit. grieve.
Divorce: anger. self-exploration. flexibility. loss. grieve. forgiveness. respect. acceptance.
Grade on this short to-do list? Feels like a C-.
As I sit here writing this, the thread of loss that runs through it really struck me. Makes me think: just how satisfactory a job does busyness do of keeping it covered up, at least for awhile? That’s rhetorical, I think.
Writing is revealing. Yeah.
A quick application of these items to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale maxes out in the high triple digits. According to it, the prophetic “At Risk of Illness” looms. (Well, that stresses me out! I’ve always wondered why they didn’t add a disclaimer that says, “Use at your own risk. If your score tops 300 points, tack on another 100 for the additional stress we’ve caused you.”) But I digress.
So, can I have an opportunity to ask, “Yo, Teach … the dog ate my homework, yeah that’s it, I need a little more time to turn it in. Or how ’bout a do-over? Extra-credit? c’mon, ANYTHING?”
Not in real life.
Although, thank God, there are many situations in which we’re given numerous opportunities to apply what we’ve learned, other times second chances are more elusive. Opportunities rush by. Doors slam shut (or may close quietly, without even a creak). Kids grow up fast. People die. Due to this, the prospect of pain can be paralyzing as it employs denial, and busyness. Yet in light of this, certain questions can be motivating. And that certainly can produce a sense of importance of the present.
So, really, when it comes right down to it, it’s not just a day. It’s life, an ebb and flow. As in Ecclesiastes 3, a time….
A hills and valleys time.
With that in mind, here are 5 things that might’ve been good to remember:
Don’t fear change, embrace it.
-Anthony J. D’Angelo
Accept the valley. The uncertainty or loss. Take the risk to face, and feel, the feelings. Grieve, if you need to. Change is difficult. If you climb out of the valley too quickly you may end up right back in it. By being proactive in embracing the trials, and working through them, you can become hopeful again as the vistas again come into view. All things come to an end, even times in the valley.
That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do something, anything, that provides a sense of accomplishment. Do a load of laundry. Really. When I’m feeling stressed about a problem, like finances, anxiety sends me seeking the big leap, a quick fix. But I miss the small, necessary steps that, in the long run, carry me farther, faster, and most often result in a better outcome. When you most don’t feel like it, make yourself take that next step on a path up the mountain. Then the next step. And the next step. And another. You may not see where it ultimately leads to and most likely it’ll look far different than you planned for. But if you don’t step out, in faith, you’re guaranteed to never enjoy the path, or the view, let alone arrive at the peak. Just take a first small step. And keep going.
Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.
Sometimes I think that if I sit there long enough, working it to death, it’ll come to me, and the problem will be solved. Instead I end up unable to see options due to the frustration that’s blocking them. Dale Carnegie suggests taking a nap. Go for a bike ride or a walk. During this past week I was baffled by a problem with a design. A bike ride cleared my mind long enough to be given an ah-ha moment that provided resolution. It doesn’t always happen that way, but a break frequently provides an openness, a receptive spirit, and a just-enough lifting of the frustration-based fog.
A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.
-John Henry Newman
Humanness. Faults. Imperfection. Feeling inadequate. Not having all the answers. I know, not easy, especially if you’ve years of well-honed experience. I’ve special expertise in “the shoulds.” I should be able to do that. I should be better off. It should be … perfect. Perfectionism, or compensation for a fear of failure and feelings of shame and rejection, can keep you chasing the too frequently elusive 10%; spending far too much time and resources in doing so. I know. Combating the need to please, to conform, to look good, to do what’s expected or “right” has been a personal, life-long struggle. It leads to learned helplessness, stagnation, decreased risk-taking, procrastination, and turning one into a self-righteous jerk at times (so I’ve heard). The valley’s are seldom perfect. But even the vistas also have their imperfections. Especially when we’re there, because we’re not perfect. So, confronting it comes through doing the opposite. Take a chance. For me, posting on this blog is one exercise in doing so. It’s nerve-wracking to reveal a more personal side, the face I tend to hide. In doing so I may anger, surprise, or disappoint some. Yet, I may share a commonality or a thought that may resonate with others. And it may not be perfect. But thankfully, acceptance gets easier the more you practice it.
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
– Albert Einstein
Make today matter. Do you ruminate over what the vistas were like “when you were so much younger then?” Do you stay in the past to avoid the present, or to beat yourself up with it. Although I don’t think you should dwell, I think it can be profitable to linger long enough to learn what you need. Some say don’t look back; don’t grieve it. But if you don’t explore the past, and grieve it, those emotions may continue to color your present. Perhaps you’re looking longingly at the vistas wishing that someday, somehow, you’ll be there. Or you may be foreboding about the future. These too can be avoidance. They say that 99% of what we fear never happens. Calmly bring your focus back to today. The “now” is all you have. Make now count, it’ll both improve your past and increase your hope for the future.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
No, not white flag surrender. But let-go-of-the-outcome surrender. We think we have the control. That if we’d just make this move or say these words or make a certain turn all would be wonderful. Right now, I’m watching an Indy car race in which there was a horrific, fiery 15-car crash. Because his wheel was forced into another, launching his car into the air and the top of his cockpit into the wall, Indy racer and this year’s Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon lost his life. He went into this race jazzed, with the prospect of a big pay-off by ending this last race of the season with a win. But, as with Dan, it’s not our call. In Proverbs it says, “We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it” (msg). For me, there are a lot of changes going on, and I do have a plan. But the message that’s hitting me right now is that I can make all the plans and take all the steps I want, but I need to surrender the outcome. And not just a little bit, but to totally let go. Where I end up, what it looks like, what I’ll need to confront, accept, or experience ultimately isn’t my call. That’s life. And I experience it with greater calmness when I surrender. The few times that I’ve done this with major issues in my life have I been absolutely amazed by the outcome. My plans were no match. Valleys come in spite of my attempts to avoid them and I’m blessed with beautiful vistas in spite of my worthiness to experience them.
And, like on this particular Saturday, it just might help to take some time to remember this.
If you made it this far, please let me know if something resonated with you! Do you do something differently? What else works for you?
These move-related posts seem to be adding up to an unintended series. So, here are the others:
1. Making An 11th Hour Move
2. How to Remedy a “C-minus” Day. Or, 6 Things I Forgot
3. Unbelievable Coincidence
4. Turn The Page