Monday, April 17, 2017

The Weight of Worry

Last week I told a little bit of the story of my healthy and happy 17-year-old daughter who has suddenly over the last 4 months developed such severe joint pain that she sometimes cannot open a door, pour her own drink, pick up her laptop, climb the stairs, or even drive.  She has kept a remarkably positive attitude.  As her mother, I have tried to keep up a brave face, but I worry.  I worry because the doctors can't find out what is wrong.  I worry that every doctor we go to has no answers.  I worry that she is continuing to deteriorate faster than we can find help for her. I worry because she is in a lot of pain.  I worry, worry, worry.

On top of this I have another daughter who is also struggling a lot with completely different issues. Hers are much more invisible, but very difficult burdens to bear as well.

Still a third daughter is struggling with different issues still.  

This week I was feeling very weighed down with everyone's struggles, as we mother's tend to do.  We are programmed to fix and solve, and when we can't do that we tend to worry, and so I was.  My worry became so heavy that I began to feel depressed and helpless.  In turning to my higher power, God, I was reminded of a saying I once heard, that worry is like a rocking horse.  It goes back and forth, back and forth, but it never gets you anywhere.  All the worrying in the world does not change one thing, not one!  "Then what am I to do?" I asked.  God reminded me of a tool I have used in the past when burdens are too heavy.  As I remembered to use this tool I was able to let the worry go. When worry leaves, peace and relief take its place.  This has worked wonders for me over the years, as it did this week, and I would like to share it with you.

Get somewhere quiet and comfortable where you can be alone. (This part alone may be a challenge!) Close your eyes.  Imagine a sturdy box in front of you on a table.  Visualize what your heavy burdens look like inside of you.  Imagine taking them out of yourself and putting them in the box.  (The first time you do this it may take a bit to visualize, but don't give up, it works)  Visualize this happening in whatever form they come out in.  They may come out your belly button, your pores, your mouth, or whatever way your mind comes up with.  They may come out as a liquid, or in some other form.  Let your mind guide the visualization.  Continue visualizing until all the heaviness, pain, worry is out of you and has gone into the box on the table in front of you.  Visualize yourself sealing the box so nothing can get back out.  Visualize in detail.  Now visualize your higher power, whomever or whatever that is for you, standing facing you.  Picture yourself picking up the box and handing it to your higher power.  Visualize your higher power taking it from you and holding it for you.  You will notice that it is much heavier for you than it is for your higher power.  Notice that as that higher power holds your box it becomes smaller and smaller.  They will now be the caretaker of your heaviness, pain and worry.  They are going to hold it for you.  They are going to bear it for you.  It is no longer inside of you.  It is with them.  It is being taken care of.  Notice how much easier you can breathe, how much lighter you feel. The exercise is now over.  Open your eyes.  Take a few minutes to rest and feel the peace.

Sometimes I have the incorrect thinking that if I am not worrying, I am not properly taking care of my child.  What I have to remember is that my higher power is taking care of my child, and is much more capable than I am.  He is the right one to hold that pain.   The trick is not to take the box back, but to continue to let your higher power hold it for you.  I tell you this from experience.  Sometimes after I give God my box, I decide that I need to take it back and hold it myself.  I let go of trusting that it will be taken care of.  I forget how heavy the burden is.  If this happens, and it may, do the exercise again, and give it back.  Do this daily if necessary.  This beautiful tool will not change your situation.  It will not change what is hard.  What it will change is how you feel and how you function.  You can stumble around under the weight yourself, or you can give it to your higher power and feel peace and relief in your situation.

As I have used this tool this week I have felt the burdens lifted, felt lighter, happier, and been a better person, and so can you.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Defining Life

I have a daughter who has been suffering from some debilitating physical challenges.  In the last few months her pain and limits have become much worse.  Despite her unexpected challenges she has kept up an amazingly positive attitude.  I learned a great lesson from her a couple of weeks ago when I asked her how she was doing that day.  She said, "I'm doing great!  My body is having a bad day, but I'm doing great!"  I have pondered a lot about this statement.  Somehow this young teenager has been able to separate her painful trial from how she feels about her life.  She has not let her trial define her.

I have seen other people who have been able to do this as well.  I know another amazing young lady who has been a talented gymnast.  Because of an accident beyond her control while performing service for others, she suffered a severe back injury.  As a result she has had multiple painful back surgeries over the last couple of years.  She has not been able to return to gymnastics, one of her passions.  Despite these heavy challenges she consistently posts positive things on Facebook about how peaceful and happy she is, and the things she is grateful for in her life.  She never talks about the suffering she is going through.  She does not let her trial define her.

What I am learning is that I have a choice.  I have a choice about what defines my life, we all do.  We are not victims of life.  Yes, we may have overwhelming hard circumstances that we cannot control, but we still have the freedom to choose how we respond, and how we feel inside.

Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and author of Man's Search for Meaning has said, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."

The examples of those around me have inspired me to work to choose a positive attitude, to choose how I will define my life, not by my trials and circumstances, but by what I choose to see, what I choose to create, what I choose to think about.