Monday, March 29, 2010

THE SHADOW OF WORRY

“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” ~ Swedish Proverb

            Definition of worry: To torment oneself with disturbing thoughts. 
          Historical context of the word, worry: to strangle

            We are often plagued with troubles and concerns. The healthy approach is to practice problem solving. The unhealthy thing to do is to worry. All too often we slip into this destructive pattern, tormenting ourselves and allowing a situation or circumstance to strangle us.
            Financial problems, relationship grievances, children worries, job frustrations, health fears, the current political climate, you name it, we have plenty to be concerned about. But we should never worry!
            So what is the answer? I don’t know them all, but the following works for me—most of the time!

·      Tell yourself the truth. Worry plays on the monkey bars of our minds with “what ifs” and “could happens” We play out every horrible scenario, conjure up images, script dialogue, and rehearse it over and over in our imagination. Then if that isn’t bad enough, we create another possibility. When it comes to worry, we are all novelists.  Don’t go there! Stay in the day you are in and tell yourself the truth for that day because we do not know what tomorrow holds.
·      Find the source of your concern. When our house burned in 1995, we took a fire extinguisher course (a little late, don’t ya think?) The instructor started a fire, handed me the extinguisher and I aimed at the flame. He stopped me, turned to the other participants and said I had made a common mistake. I tried to extinguish the problem—the fire—instead of the source of the fire. If I had aimed at the wood, I would put out the fire. Get your mind off the jungle gym and discover the source of your problem. For the times that there is a “niggle” in the back of your mind that annoys you like a pesky fly, but you can’t identify it, write down everything that is bothering you. When I do this, I can identify ALL the things bothering me and I see that things are not nearly as bad as I thought.
·      Get a plan of Action. I had a friend who suffered an autoimmune disease that made her allergic to everything! Even cooking odors sent her into seizures. It started in France while eating seafood. She became deathly ill in the restaurant and was rushed to the hospital. The doctors had no idea what the problem was or what to do. I remarked how frightening that must have been. What she said to me has stayed with me, “Linda, I told myself right off, ‘you need a plan.’ My plan was to get home to the US and I worked the plan.” She went on to say that was how she coped with life since. Ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do to mitigate the situation?” If you’ve lost your job, do you have a current resume’? Do you need to apologize to anyone? Do you need a second doctor’s opinion and a treatment plan? Is there any way to cut your current expenses to help your budget?
·      Talk to someone you trust who will tell you the truth and give wise counsel. Often times others can identify things we cannot and give suggestions we’ve not thought of.
Being concerned is normal. Problem solving and goal setting is healthy. But as Leo Buscaglia said, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”



      

Monday, March 22, 2010

THE WONDER OF IT ALL


“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” ~ Walt Streightiff

One of my grown sons made the comment the other day that he missed his childhood. I get that. Life was so much simpler when we didn’t have to go to a job we hated in order to provide for our family, worry over our children, being frustrated with our government, fear terrorist, the list goes on and on.
           
What’s happened to us is that as adults, we have lost our wonder. For a lot of people, life is a swirl of pain, worry, frustration, monotony, with a few bright spots sprinkled here and there. But children view the things around them with curiosity.

I watched my grandson, Judah, last Saturday. He has just found his hands. His expression was pure wonder and curiosity as he examined them with large almond eyes and his mouth in a perfect O. He was so amazed with something I take for granted. Even now as I type with my hands, I do not give a thought about how they obey the electric circuit my brain sends them to press the keys to form these words.

Neal and I “download” every night before supper. We talk about our day, or about the thoughts that pass through our minds. Last night we discussed “light-years.” (He is a scientist) Did you know that light travels 186,000 (300,000 kilometers) per second? That is 5,865,696,000,000 miles (94,608,000,000,000 kilometers) per year! The light from our closest star, the sun, travels 24,902,909,498,880 miles (40077347984565.54) to warm our planet. It would take 70 years to cross the Milky Way! And in 1999 the Hubble Space Telescope estimated there were 125 billion galaxies across the universe!

Let your mind loose to dance across those numbers.

I watched a young boy walking home from school, backpack full of books. When he passed under a large oak tree he stopped and stared up into the canopy. He stood there for a long time before continuing on his way. Of course, I was curious over what he saw and I walked outside to check it out. I noticed something new. Even though all the leaves were actually the same shade of green, the light and shadows cast the illusion of spring greens, Kelly greens, olive greens, and dark forest greens.

Why am I writing this to you? We need to give our minds a break. We need to take some time to recapture the wonder of our childhood. Even if it is just a few minutes a day, it is good to go outside and observe nature through the eyes of a child and be amazed. Sure, we know how things work, but do we really? How does a bird’s DNA tell it how to build a nest? It isn’t like the daddy bird takes his son under his wing and chirps, “first you choose this kind of branch.”

This week, become a blank slate and enjoy nature. Even if only a few minutes during your lunch break. Walk outside and look about you.

I like to “people watch.”

People are the same in that the majority of us have two arms, two legs, ten fingers and ten toes. But every one of this earth’s 7 billion people has different fingerprints. Because of the complex structure of the capillaries in the retina, no one has the same retinal pattern; even identical twins do not share a similar pattern.

Life can be hard. Do yourself a favor and take some time this week to be a child. It is my hope that you make this a habit in your life; to play, be curious, and observe nature without conclusions, but rather with amazement. 

This week, recapture your wonder.




Monday, March 15, 2010

PRACTICING PATIENCE





“Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” ~ Dr. Laurence J. Peter
                   




Last week we looked at “exercising” patience with circumstances and how, if we responded right, we would actually become stronger. Circumstances can be hard, especially the ones we cannot change—the ones that we have no choice but to “power through.”

Patience with people raises the bar to a new level. There are some real jerks in our world, aren’t there? The co-worker who steals our ideas and presents them as his or her own. The  person at school who is bent on making you look like a loser. The spouse or roommate who is in the perpetual bad mood and makes you feel you cannot do anything right. AND the teenage—oh my goodness—getting through that phase makes us eligible for sainthood. All I can say is, it is a good thing they came as cherub-like babies or else the human race would have disappeared a long time ago.

Patience with people comes from practice-practice-practice. It also comes from trying to understand with it is like in their shoes. We don’t know what has happened in their formative years to bend them into who they are today. We don’t know what their life is like now—home-life, health, financial matters, fears, insecurities, and sorrows.

Another thing, have you noticed how people are different, but somehow strangely the same? Some are like fiery General Pattons. It is their way or the highway. They are always right even when they are wrong. It is never their fault. But on the other hand, they are great leaders, quick thinkers, and they get things done. Some are like the breeze. Playful, exciting, and fun. But they are also messy, disorganized, and scatterbrained. There are those like a bubbling brook. Easy, refreshing, reflective, but also slow, lazy, and lack motivation.  Finally, there are those who are grounded. They are the ones who shoot down great ideas with all the things that could go wrong, and they have the charts, graphs, and research to prove it. But these people are dependable, accurate, and trustworthy.

Understanding that people are “hard-wired” a certain way helps with patience. I recommend Laurie Beth Jones’ book, The Four Elements of Success, to help understand the people in your life. Although the book is focused on team building at work, she points out that families are teams. In it she uses  the visuals of earth, wind, fire, and water, to help understand our personality types. Another good book is Florence Littaeur’s book, Personality Plus. She goes into depth on family dynamics. I like to use them both.

If we take into account that people have different life experiences and personalities , it will help us to practice patience. Picture a stick of dynamite with a long fuse. Let’s say someone lights yours. You have a choice to let that fuse burn until it reaches the explosion point or you can grab the scissors of patience and cut the fuse before it reaches that point.

At first, this is hard. Those of you who are General Pattons may consider it impossible. But with practice it can be done. And if you think about it, cleaning up after an explosion is harder, more time consuming, and really things are just not the same even after the repair work is done. To make things better, you have to start all over. It can be done.

Let’s all get a pair of scissors and put them where we will see them often to remind us to cut the fuse. I recommend children’s round tip kind. The pointy ones may be too much of a temptation, if you know what I mean!

Have a great week, with no collateral damage!


Monday, March 08, 2010

THE PAIN OF PATIENCE

“Patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is active; it is concentrated strength.” ~ Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

Patience is a multipurpose thread sewn into the fabric of our lives. It makes us strong— and yet soft. It holds us together and gives us the ability to cover others.
The weaving of patience is intricate and sometimes difficult. The needle pricks and stings. But in the end we will enjoy the masterpiece it has made of our lives.

Patience with Circumstances

I once had an heirloom fig sprout that came from my grandmother’s tree. I planted it in my yard and babied it until it actually had a few leaves. In a way, it kept my grandmother close.

Our yard was large and Neal bought a riding lawn mower. I don’t know what happens to a man’s psyche when gas fumes and wheels get together, but he mowed that yard like he was in NASCAR. I heard him fire up the engine and my first thought was, fig tree!

I ran outside and frantically waved my hands but his focus was on that first lap not on me or on my tree. It was gone. Cut off in the sprig of life. Everything screamed its over and I believed it.

But nature is patient and determined. What I didn’t know is that life continued where I couldn’t see, hidden in the darkness of earth. My fig’s roots continued to grow strong and one day, barely visible in the grass were two tiny fig leaves!

My tree survived and grew. Not only was it like having my grandmother close by but it also reminded me that things are not always as they appear.

Patience has to be exercised.

I’ve been strength training. It’s hard. I can think of a lot more fun things I’d rather be doing! But after a few weeks lifting weights gets easier, that is until five more pounds are added to the barbell. I grunt, sweat, grit my teeth (hey, we are talking about ten pounds here!) and want to just drop those stupid weights and quit. Sometimes I do, for a little while. But the truth is, I can’t quit. And the end result makes me stronger.

Patience is a lot like that. I’ve been grappling with one circumstance for twenty years. It is one of those “one step forward, two steps back” kind of things. And over the years the waltz has continually danced backward. I want to quit and sometimes I do. But not for long. I can’t.

I cry out, “How long will this take?” The answer? “As long as it takes.” I have a choice. Will I exercise patience and let it make me stronger? Or will I quit? Either way, just like the fig tree, it will eventually work out. The question is what will I become in the process? Will I allow my life to be darkened or deepened?

Patience is an active practice that flies in the face of circumstances. It gives us the upper hand, the victory within our souls. And remember, that is where life resides— not in our circumstances.

Next week: Patience with People 

Monday, March 01, 2010

LAUGH!


“What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul” ~ Yiddish Proverb

For those of you who do not know my husband, Neal Apple, he is one of the most efficient, intelligent men on the planet. Every thing in his world must have order and purpose.

One Saturday morning he decided to run some errands. He called  after he left and asked me to look up an address and to get right back with him. I hurried to the computer, found the address and called him.

No answer

I tried again and he answered, sounding a little exasperated and said he’d call me back in a minute. I got a little miffed. After all, I didn’t take that long. Jeez!

What I didn’t know is while he waited for me to get back with the address, he stopped at Sonic and bought an ice cream cone. While pulling out, holding the cone in one hand, the phone in the other, and trying to shift the car, I called.

Neal finished shifting and answered the phone—at least that is what he thought he was doing—but he used the wrong hand and stuck the ice cream cone in his ear.

I still laugh when I think about that. I’m laughing now. It feels so good to laugh. But there are a lot of health benefits as well. Listed below are some of the things laughter does for us. It:
·      Lowers blood pressure
·      Reduces stress and stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline
·      Triggers the release of endorphins
·      Improves alertness
·      Relaxes the whole body
·      Boosts the immune system
·      Turns our focus away from anger and other negative emotions
·      Protects our heart and gives us a physical release
·      Improves our perspective
·      And connects us with other people in a social setting

This week I urge you to try this form of stress management. Find something funny to watch, read, or listen to and laugh. Share jokes with friends and laugh with them. When you stick and ice cream cone in your ear, laugh at yourself!

I’m including some YouTube videos to get you started. I also invite you to participate on the Inspire Discussion: Share Something Funny!

Have a “hilarious” week!