Overwhelmed

I think a lot. I observe myself a lot. For an introvert, this is normal behavior. For extroverts, this is foreign territory. That’s one of the reasons I write — to help those who aren’t used to looking inside begin to understand what they don’t usually perceive.

Today I’m going to talk about something that is almost constant in my life: a sense of being overwhelmed.

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To Whom Much Is Given

I grew up believing that I was gifted. As I have matured, I am less likely to accept that label. As I child, I was fed on the dreams of others — and developed the belief that I would do great things in the world. My name would be in the history books for doing something amazing for the good of everyone. I would, through my efforts, gain all the other signs of success: a large bank account, opportunities to travel the world, etc.

Instead, I am a middle-aged woman who is building her second marriage, digging out of the poverty that so often accompanies divorce, and feeling the pressure to make up for “lost time.”

I have also discovered that I need about 10 hours of sleep each day. I used to try to get by on five or six hours (which led to the stress-related illness that ended my teaching career). In my head, that means that I am now at home being lazy for most of the day because I’m sleeping instead of being productive.

A New Mindset

Changing thought patterns that have been mine since childhood is a slow process. My husband is awesome and is supportive as I try to figure out how to balance my physical and mental needs with my dreams.

Meanwhile, I have to fight back the sense of being completely overwhelmed, of living far below my potential, and of wasting all of the opportunities that I have been handed in life.

It’s a delicate process, and most days end with me reminding myself to focus on everything I did that supported my top priorities in life. I can feel all of the harsh words and criticism that I used to unleash on myself crouched and waiting for the opportunity to pounce. I still have to remind myself to flush the self-berating thoughts out of my mind.

I still have to force myself to step back from trying to do it all.

There isn’t any magical formula, diet, or pill. We all have to be patient with the process.

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What strategies do you use as you move toward a better you? Comment!

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The One or the Many?

Today I’m reflecting on a conversation I’ve had because I think that it’s a conversation most of us have had in the past month or two.

Why does society seem to be dissolving into violence and chaos so quickly? What’s going on?

I’ve touched on some ideas before, and I still believe that a one-size-fits-all solution exists. We need better solutions for mental illness. We need to more completely understand best practices for building relationships. We need to honor the sanctity and pricelessness of life. We need to be willing to look around and reach out to others — and that means more than just the small group of people that are like us. We need to see building diverse friendships as an adventure and not a threat.

But, I think there’s more that we’re missing.

While I cannot point to any period in the history of Planet Earth in which true Utopia existed, some principles and mindsets found in society made things easier and gave people a firmer framework on which to stand.

For instance, in the pioneering days of America, we had violence. We had clashing cultures, and we had outlaws. We saw people working with all of their might to scratch out a meager existence for a dream — the dream of the freedom afforded by a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

That dream created a mindset of community. It indoctrinated people think beyond themselves and to consider the greater effects of their actions. It wasn’t foolproof, but it helped.

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The Problem of Me, Myself and I

When we look at our life through the lens of “what’s in it for me,” or “what am I gaining from this,” we actually put ourselves in a state of constant conflict with everyone else. That’s because we assume that everyone else in the world is looking at life the same way we do. Instead of seeing potential allies, we see rivals. In a dog-eat-dog world, the dog with the most moxie gets the biggest piece of the pie. Dogs may hunt in packs, but they eat as individuals.

Fortunately, we have higher order thinking abilities than dogs have. We can see the benefits of working together, collaborating, and trying to be fair in distributing the benefits. We may not ever completely agree on the definition of fair distribution, but we can at least sit down and discuss it. We can even compromise when needed!

 

How are you working to help solve problems? Share in the comments!

Balancing Dreams with Reality

In some ways, my life has been chaos since late January. It seems that every time I feel like I’ve got a plan for making progress and managing my time, something gets in the way. In January and early February, those “distractions” were mostly related to my duties at my church. In late February, my husband and I miscommunicated and it took about two weeks for me to be able to turn the “oops” into “ok” — even with his help. Then, as March was beginning, my mom went into the hospital with pneumonia. (Thankfully, she’s fine now and finishing her recovery at home.)

My dreams include learning Spanish, writing music, and starting my own business. I’d love to become one of the “big wigs,” at least in my own little suburb of the U.S. I have these visions of what my home and my life will look like when I’ve “arrived,” and I’m eager to get there.

Instead, the reality is that I live in a small home filled with unfinished projects, and my living room is in such chaos right now that I’m embarrassed to have anyone visit.

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Experts would say that I need balance and boundaries. I need to carve out “sacred time” that is for me and my dreams and not let anyone or anything interfere. That sounds awesome, but I’ve never had life work that way.

So, I have decided to work on my mindset. I have decided to layer my priorities.

Top Tier Priorities

I have learned that making a difference for good in life requires integrity to high moral standards and it also requires making connections. I tend to think of Mother (now Saint) Teresa as my example. She made a huge difference for good. She did it without fanfare. She did it by getting personally involved when there was a need. She knew and loved the people she was trying to help.

Of course, since making a difference for good is my top tier priority, it fits that I will have to put other things aside when something at my top level “pops up” in my life.

Second Tier Priorities

Honestly, this is largely what I would call personal advancement. This is where my efforts to increase my physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial health fit in. This is the clean house, daily exercise program, gardening, starting a business, and most of the rest of my life fit in.

Third Tier Priorities

This is pretty much everything else. The truth and the reality are that I won’t be spending any real time at this level.

 

Conclusion

I find that understanding my real priorities is freeing. It doesn’t take away the frustration when the plans I thought I had for the day or the week are suddenly rearranged by an unforeseen need from higher priorities, but it does help to lessen the amount of frustration I feel. In fact, I was able to relax while I spent time with Mom in the hospital and feel gratitude that I still have this time with her and that life has worked out that I have the time to give.

 

So, do you try to balance your life or understand your priorities? Have you found a way to do both? Share in the comments!

Sometimes You Walk through the Pain

This post started as a random thought while I was working out this week. I’ve been battling tendinitis/fasciitis in my left foot since September when I tried to ramp up my running speed too quickly. I ended up having to ride a bike for 4-6 weeks, to walk a half-marathon instead of running the marathon I was training for, and (most recently) to nurse pain and stiffness in my right hip from my body’s attempts to compensate for the foot.

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I found myself in an imaginary conversation and thinking,”Sometimes, you just walk through the pain. You can tell that you’re not making things any worse, and you know it’s going to take time to finish healing. So, you just keep walking.”

I was struck by how much I do that in other places in my life — starting a business has forced me to face painful, self-defeating ideas that I’ve harbored for years, for example. Leaving my teaching job is another example — I cascaded into a full-fledged mid-life crisis as I lost a huge part of my identity. But I kept walking (at least figuratively) and I found that the pain decreased, my stamina and my will increased, and things are turning out ok.

So, when life hurts, try to do a quick assessment: if you just keep moving forward the best that you can, will you make things better or will you make things worse? Is this just something that needs to pass with time? If it will just take time to shake it off or if taking action will improve things, just keep walking! Be patient, you may have to go slower than you want, but you will make progress!

Have you found yourself seeing metaphors in your life? Share in the comments!

Stress, Cortisol, and Gratitude

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As usual, I have managed to lose the original source of the idea, because I didn’t write it down and I found it several weeks ago. I’m pretty sure it was a YouTube video, which really narrows things down, right?

The idea is pretty simple: stress creates cortisol in our bodies and cortisol has multiple effects on us. Within several seconds of encountering a stressful situation, our IQ (intelligence or mental abilities) is cut IN HALF. (If that’s not the correct figure, it drops significantly.)

In short, stress makes us stupid!

To me, this means that living in a constantly stressed-out state means that we are living in such a way that we can’t use our full mental potential, and we are making decisions and doing our work as if we were much dumber than we really are!

So, what if we can’t all do like I did and walk away from a stressful career?

It seems the answer is gratitude.

Somehow, finding something to be grateful for at that moment and about that moment short circuits the stress cycle, and allows us to maintain our mental abilities.

It takes practice, and it can take a shift in our outlook on life. Challenges become opportunities to grow and to learn new skills. Illnesses might have to become opportunities to slow down and/or to strengthen relationships — especially if you become the caregiver. We have to take a creative look at each situation to find the good and feel grateful for it.

Has your life been enriched by gratitude? Share how in the comments!

You Can’t Be Normal!

I-Tried-to-be-normal-300x256Yes, this is a very tongue-in-cheek image, but I think it drives home an important point.

Somehow, humans seem to be born with this desire to be normal, to fit in, and to be like everyone else. It’s called a sense of belonging.

The problem is when we don’t choose carefully what type of group we belong to. Normal is average. Normal is regular. Normal is the cliched “dime a dozen.”

Look at the fruits of mainstream normality. Is that what you really want? Do you really feel that society as a whole is making the best choices?

If your answer is no, then you can’t be normal. It really will be the worst two minutes of your life. You have to choose to be exceptional. Abnormal. Above what is common.

Is it hard? You bet! You will be doing things that many people around you won’t understand your reasons for doing. You will stand out from the crowd. You will be different. You will have to work hard to maintain your resolve and reap the results.

So, what about a sense of belonging?

Create your own group. Find supportive people in real life and make them your friends, mentors, and masterminds. Connect occasionally with online communities filled with like-minded people. Be your own, new normal that brings out the best in you.

Change is in the Air

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Some who have read this blog or know me personally  are aware that I submitted my letter of resignation as a teacher on May 1, 2017. Since that time, I have been trying to “decide what I want to be when I grow up.”

In the next few weeks, I will be making that announcement. I’m sure there will be a few more announcements as I put all of the plans in place. As I do, I realize that I’m having to completely change my perception of who I am. I’m also going to be making a few changes to this blog.

Anyone Else Frightened?

Change isn’t comfortable. The things that we have always known and the things that we have always done become our comfort zone. They become to us like that favorite stuffed animal or blanket that we carried around as toddlers. It doesn’t matter how filthy and nasty it gets — it’s what we turn to for comfort and security.

As far as this blog is concerned, the changes won’t be that big. I’m mostly going to be working through a process of claifying my purpose for this blog’s existence, solidifying the message, and (hopefully) making it a little more interactive.

As for me? Well, let’s just say I hope I’m holding on to my hat tightly! I’m trying to convince myself that I’m ready to get rid of my worn-out, dirty “lovie” and move into the world with more wisdom, maturity, and confidence than I have in the past.