On (Emotional) Strength Training

Be thankful for each new challenge because it will build strength and character.                                                                          ~Author unknown

“Shush!” I told my barking dogs, holding their leashes until my knuckles turned white. The three of us stood in the dark of the early morning, directly across the street from the staring coyote. Practically dragging my heavy dogs towards home, I hoped my past workouts made a difference so I wouldn’t let go. The coyote kept its distance but followed us, and my heart pumped out of my chest until we were safe inside the house.

Days later, I came home and let the dogs in the backyard. As I glanced out the window, Journey and Glory were suspiciously staring at the grass. I ran-walked out there, not sure I was ready for what I would find. “Did Glory teach you to eat poop?!” I asked Journey, who had something brown in his mouth (gross, I know, but HE doesn’t like that kind of snack). When he dropped it, I picked it up with my bagged hand, you know, the way only dog owners pick up these things. It squished, I screamed, threw it down and shuffled those animals inside the house, completely disgusted. When I went back, I saw a very slobbery and very dead mouse.

I called Brian and gushed about the sheer grossness. “Get the shovel and get rid of it.” He said, calmly. It took a while, but I launched it over the fence into the woods.

mouseA week later, when I opened the door to let the dogs out one last time before bed, I saw something scurry by me. I whipped around, and a little brown lizard was hanging out on the wall right inside the door. So, I called Brian (who usually dealt with these things) at work and told him what was creeping around our home. “You can wait for me to get home if you want.” Hmmm...what if it went into our bedroom?!

I even took a picture so he could see why I was terrified.

I must have been shaking, and I’m sure it was bigger in real life.

If others saw me spring into action, they might have thought something was seriously wrong (with me). I don’t know how long it took, but I was sweating by the time I trapped the lizard in my Fit & Fresh lunch container with lid. Journey hung out right next to me the whole time, despite my wild screaming, praying and positive self-talk.

By now, you’re probably thinking…she’s a dramatic, weak, silly girl. Well, after these situations, I was thinking that, too, and wondering when did that start? When did I start being afraid of little things? I lived alone before marrying Brian and took care of myself. I have handled a lot in my life, as a strong, brave woman. What was my deal?

I don’t know. Maybe I’d gotten comfortable. Maybe God thought I needed some courage and strength training.

Apparently, I needed to start with three pound weights and work up to the heavy stuff like: ongoing health issues and tests that showed more problems (nothing like cancer but still frustrating), trying to get pregnant (or even ovulate, for that matter), and times when I am just so tired of STILL healing from sexual abuse (I believe this hard work is never done). Oh, yes, and trying to sell our house.

Those things aren’t easy. Then, sometimes when there’s so much uncertainty, I get irritable, bossy and controlling, and that doesn’t help my marriage.

Then, I read something powerful by Anne Lamott.

When God is going to do something wonderful, he or she starts with a hardship. When God is going to do something amazing, he or she starts with an impossibility.

In the middle of these sometimes impossible situations, I’m grateful for the little things that have (re)built my courage. Seriously, though. I’ve had enough. I don’t want to bulk up from all this strength training. I’m ready for something amazing.

Space to Learn What I Already Thought I Knew

Right now, I’m in this funky place where some of what I was comfy and cozy with has been pulled out from under me before I knew what was happening. It’s a rocky place where there’s a multitude of questioning and desire for quiet–lots of time to think. My heart and mind beg for space as if I’m crammed into a box and can’t stretch and run and jump. When I have carved out time to do what I think I need (practically every day), my mind feels unsettled and races on to the next big thing without stopping to rest. This is foreign, and I’m not sure what to do with it.

I have to wonder if this all has to do with trust, here in this uncomfortable place. Trusting God the way I want to seems easy(er) when I’m okay with all that swirls around me. In this space, I’m having to learn how all over again.

I just so happened to run across this poem weeks ago when I thought I should tuck it away for another time. So glad I did. It’s exactly what I need right now, at this very moment. And you?

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

Like Oil and Water

But I don’t want to jump into something new!

Funny (or irritating really), this pattern I have noticed. It has become fact that when I post something, my words slap me in the face the next day or few days or over the past week. It stings a little and sometimes a lot, mostly because I feel like I have figured out some things.

For example, I called my last post Nothing Changes Unless We Do, so naturally, most of last week I wanted to rant and complain…about the change that was coming, ready or not.

I love my job working with children and parents and teachers. Like any job, there are good and tough days. For me, I am blessed that the good widely outnumber the bad.

However.

This summer has been amazing (as summers usually are). I have relished time for me, time to sleep, time to write, time to travel, time for friends to visit, etc., etc., etc. Over a week ago, I went back to work–to school in July.  I know, I know, all of you who read this and work year round have no sympathy, and I get it. Just try to understand.

I DO NOT like change.

Change and I just don’t go together like oil and water. Last week, I turned into a whiny, teary, dramatic weirdo. I was exhausted and felt annoyed, oh, about just everything. You know, it was like wearing a tight, itchy sweater with sleeves that are too short.

In less than a week, I felt overloaded by things I routinely would have done and haven’t (including a blog post) or all I hoped to do and still haven’t (blog post done!). Suddenly I felt like I was complaining constantly and worrying– tightening my grip around all I could. I must have apologized to Brian at least 10 times…and then turned around and had to do it all over again.

So, over the weekend, I realized again (as I do every time I go through this) that awareness is part of the process. Just recognizing that I need to be open to the change rather than fearing it is important. Then, opening my mind and heart, loosening my grip on everything, and asking God for peace and strength and direction make a world of difference. After all, the dread over the coming change is ridiculously inflated in relation to the actual event.

Yesterday was the first day of school for our students, and I loved seeing the smiling faces I realize I’ve missed over June and most of July.

I think I’ll go back tomorrow.

Get in Line!

“Get in line!”

About a decade of teaching elementary school reminds me of the no less than hundreds of times I’ve said this to my students. I expected a quiet line, straight and orderly–I guess because I was supposed to show I had things under control (in education, that’s called effective classroom management). Well, all that changed the year I had #8, who acted as if he thought he was Michael Jackson in more ways than one–dancing. attempting to moonwalk, grabbing…himself. Now that I think of it, he might have even tried the one glove (mitten) look. That year I had the student, who every teacher passed by me with a WHAT is he doing?!?!? look on her face. By the end of the year, I couldn’t care less if #8 was out of line. As long as he wasn’t doing anything horribly inappropriate, all was well in my book.

That year, as much as I yearned for quiet, peace and relaxation, things didn’t seem to work the way I wanted them to. I definitely have the tendency to always want things just right, to have my ducks in a row. It’s great to have a plan, work hard toward goals and to be organized. I like my house to be clean, be happy with my hair/ makeup and feel like I’m put together. In fact, I was the high school kid who had to have her bed made before she could begin typing papers or studying for tests. I also remember my brothers, sister, mom and I running around, cleaning, like crazy fools before someone was coming over to visit. Oh, and I used to put on full makeup before going to the gym. The bottom line is: being OCD about appearing to be put together just to cover up the fact that we are swimming in a sea of all things opposite is just not authentic.

My plans are challenged on a daily basis; it’s just part of life. Whose aren’t? At times, I don’t even feel as if my ducks have their feathers in place, so I fall into a fog of complacency and just quit trying. Don’t get me wrong–I’m all about looking fear in the face and doing what I thought I couldn’t do; however, I can be perplexed about these web-footed creatures when I’m struggling under that heavy fog. If they’re not where I want them, waiting a while for things fall into place might be the answer. Sometimes, though, there is so much waiting (to do things that I am in control of) that waiting = missing out. It’s as if putting things off repeatedly is somehow better than even trying because there’s the possibility of gasp!…failing. I’ve learned something through every failure, so why do I fear it?

Happily, I am becoming more and more comfortable with the dust bunnies mixed with dog hair around my house, essentially, I am becoming calm(er). I feel more at peace with who I am and where I am in life, too, so there is less of a desire to make everything perfect.  I’m planning ahead for when the ducks are scattered and going off in their own directions, to stand back and smile and then take the tiniest of steps forward out of the fog.

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