Monthly Archives: August 2017
This has been a difficult period in my life. There have been many stressors – work, family, faith, church, and money to name a few. After an ever expanding amount of stress, I think I have reached a low point. It is now time to pick myself up.
Many of us have people we can share with, people who can help us to grow, change, tolerate, or overcome. I also have these people. My biggest problem is that when things get bad, I often lash out, or talk to the wrong people. Sometimes even close friends, confidantes, or people who are in the listening profession do not really understand what you are doing, where you are going, or what you need. People love to help. People love to give advice. But do they really listen?
When I finally have my moment to share with the right person, I realize all the damage I have been doing to myself and others in my frantic search for help. At that point, I find I am ready to grow, to change, and to pick myself back up. In other words, the straw finally breaks the camel’s back.
As I look at my current situation, I see things I cannot change. I cannot earn more money, nor can I change the way others behave. I cannot change the people who have authority in a given situation. I cannot turn back the clock to a better time. I cannot rid the world of the bullies, the people who make the rules, or the careless ones who do their own thing at another’s expense. I cannot make people act or do what is right. From this I see that 4 of the named stressors are completely outside of my control. All I can do is learn to live with a situation, work around a situation, or rise above a situation. Given these choices, I need to look at what is, and what can be. This also shows that I need to address the one stress left in that list over which I have any control – my faith.
My faith has been weakening lately. My prayer practices neglected. I have allowed stress to become an excuse for my lack of prayer. As I consider this, I know I need to act. The horrible part is that I am unwilling to act. I like having these excuses – or at least it seems as though I do. What caused this decline? I have to admit that the stressors outside of my control contributed heavily. A recent occurrence really threw me for a loop. But there was another cause – an inability to focus. I always deal with stress by finding ways to distract myself. I already had a distraction and I increased my use of that distraction. This may ring true for others as well. My distraction is a common one these days. Facebook. In particular, the Facebook Bird Misidentification Page. I love the snarky attitude and snappy, sarcastic humor of the people I have “met” through this page. I can – and sometimes do – spend hours reading through the posts, snorting coffee through my nose, or dissolving in a fit of laughter. Sounds good, doesn’t it? The problem is that I find my ability to focus on simple tasks like reading a book, or even getting up to move laundry, is just too much effort, requires too much concentration.
For Lent, I cut back Facebook use to one hour per day. That is still too much, but it did help a bit. I am reading again, however I am still using excuses far too often to do the simple things I need to do to bring myself back up. I guess now that Lent is over, I need to continue to cut back on Facebook. It will be difficult, it is a trap with no way out for me. As of tomorrow morning. I will be down to 45 minutes a day on FB – and I will use a timer to remind me. Next, I will take that extra 15 minutes and spend it in prayer of one form or another. I will also reinstate my evening journaling – a practice I have had for more than a year that has been completely neglected in my current state.
Now, for those stressors I cannot control. This will be more difficult and require more thought. I need to see ways to rise above the wrongs, the acts, the irritations. I need to find a remedy that works for me; to help me to be happy again.
I think I reached a breaking point today. I recently began to do the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises again and it is different this time. I am more committed and more open to whatever results may come. Today’s prayer session for the exercises was particularly stressful. For these exercises one must commit to one hour of prayer a day as well as journaling and an evening examen. These sometimes go smoothly, and sometimes are a struggle. Generally there is a passage of scripture or spiritual reading to go with the day’s prayer period. Today’s scripture for me was Philippians 3: 7-16.
For whatever reason, I used just the first line of this scripture passage: “[But] whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.” I had read what came before this line a few days ago and that is what struck me. I contemplated Paul’s Damascus awakening, or as it seems to me, Damascus Journey. I know where and when I had my Damascus moment, it was what came after that which interested me. The road after one’s Damascus moment is kind of important. You can’t just have a conversion without continued movement down the road you have been given.
Without going over my road for the last more or less 20 years, I have to say that lately the road has not been great or what I would have wanted it to be. Prayer began to go away in late fall 2015. I struggled with that and really did not know what to do. My pastor changed parishes and I could not feel comfortable with the changes at my parish. My prayer continued to flounder – and it only got worse. Fortunately I have a great spiritual director who patiently keeps me on track, despite my struggles.
The road from the Damascus is never smooth. And, certainly mine has not been. But since sometime in 2016, I began to see the “signs of the times” in our country and grew more and more anxious. This did not smooth my road in the least. The events in November of 2016 only made the road harder. Now I wake up each morning with a compulsion to check the news, and with trepidation because I am in fear. I worry for the environment, I worry for the poor and oppressed, I worry for anyone who is considered “other,” and I worry that we will be at war. It has been a very difficult time for me and I feel constantly compelled to speak out against what is going on. The phrase often used is to “speak truth to power.” As my language skills went downhill, I adopted this: “Speak truth to Bullshit.” I am trying to clean up my act.
I see nothing wrong with speaking out. I do not believe ANY of us should stay silent or ignore the news. We do not have that luxury. My issue is how I say it. I love all those memes that support my beliefs. I love to share them. I love to share properly vetted news stories. I share my fears. I share my anger. I share my position. Sadly, this only results in an increase in anger as I watch people who cannot understand my thoughts or position, or cannot believe well-reported stories, or who urge war, discrimination, hatred, and many evil behaviors in this country.
I cannot help who I am or who I have become. I believe in justice, mercy, kindness, and honor. I am not a believer in unilateral bombing of other countries nor in non-peaceful ways of discussion. I am deeply hurt by the current level of hate that is spewing across the news these days, and the deliberate turning away from the truth by yelling “FAKE NEWS” when one does not like what one hears.
Somehow, I need to continue to speak truth to power and not be pulled into impossible arguments with those who cannot hear me. Somehow, I need to clean up my act – verbally and behaviorally. While I will not be silenced, I need to be judicious.
Pray for me.