Tuesday, October 30, 2007

When Life Throws You Stuff . . .

Tammy over at Just Enough, and Nothing More asked yesterday, "When Life Throws You Stuff, What Do You Do?"

It's a great question, and I was tempted to answer over at her blog, only the more I thought about it the longer my answer got, so I figured I keep her comment section short and write a post here.

Life has thrown a lot at me over the past year. In the last 12 months I've had major surgery, I was diagnosed with a chronic disease (3 months after the surgery), my grandfather died, and my mom went through a long illness and died. That's just the really big stuff. Needless to say, my life today is far different than it was a year ago.

But little stuff (and medium-sized stuff) flies at me all of the time. My children have on-going special needs (and more than that, they need to be loved). I have needs. Papa has needs. My grandmother is now a widow and my father a widower. I have siblings. I have friends. Somehow it all gets managed, and we all get most of our needs met most of the time.

Still, things can come at me from out of nowhere. Things that have been stewing and brewing can come to the surface and require immediate attention. Changes have to be made, relationships shifted and pruned, tears shed. Sometimes I choose the things that come at me, purposefully.

My first reaction to stress is to get anxious and try to avoid it. Typical flight response. I hate conflict, I hate being busy, I hate making anyone upset (and I hate being upset, which is one reason I end up with so much emotional conflict). But it happens all the time, because I am human, and as a good friend put it, life is messy (well, she said MESSI, which is Multiple, Emotional, Simultaneous, Surprising, and Imperfect).

Second reaction? Control. Can I fight the situation? Can I make a schedule or plan? Can I make a list? Can I apologize and take back everything I said, even the stuff I meant?

See? Flight or fight.

What I am learning, oh so very slowly, is to flow with whatever is happening in my life. Even if it is messy, or painful, or overwhelming. When I feel like I have too much to do I need to either accept the situation and find a way to do it, or I have to figure out what I can let go. The stress does me no good. When I am in a painful situation I need to let myself feel the discomfort, and only attempt to fix the things that are mine to fix. Some things are going to be painful and I can't avoid it.

That said, when life is throwing me lots of busy stuff I do my best to find my way back to rhythm. Focusing on the big things helps me feel that some things are manageable. The days of the week pass. We sleep and wake. We eat. Laundry is done and the house tidied. Birthdays and holidays come. Breathe in, breathe out.

With keen observation I can feel the rhythm of each day, each week, each month, each year. Allowing myself to breathe into that makes it easier to plug in all of the other stuff, and to figure out what doesn't need to be there. It isn't perfect ~ sometimes I spend a lot of time pursuing something only to figure out that it doesn't fit. Sometimes things that used to fit don't fit anymore.

I like to make plans. I went to a session that Tammy offered at the CHN EXPO this year, and she mentioned making the schedule, and sticking it in your back pocket. It's there if you need it, and if you find a different way to get where you need to go that's fine too. So I still make plans, I just try not to stick dates on them (well, except for NaNoWriMo . . . wait, I never actually blogged about that) and I accept that we might end up doing something else.

Making plans is useful. I need to know what the priorities are. I also have to intimately know myself and each member of my family, and I need to know our rhythm so I can add new things where they are going to fit best. Mid-mornings I can easily carve out an hour for myself; after quiet time I know the boys need my focused attention. By the way, that is the reverse of what all of the Waldorf/Enki educators (and many other educators and so-called experts) say the day "should" go, but it is our reality.

Basketball season started tonight. Bear with me, this does have a point. My first reaction to the start of basketball season is denial and fear. I don't want it to be here. Papa is a fan, I'm not. This means that during basketball season we don't spend as much time together in the evenings as we do other times of the year. I don't expect Papa to not watch basketball. What I finally realized was that I didn't have to sit out there with him, mindlessly surfing while he watches. So I let him know that I don't want to watch, and he accepts that.

Basketball is part of the rhythm of our year. Papa doesn't watch each minute of every game, but I do have more time to myself, especially on nights when the games are more interesting (to Papa) or critical in terms of outcome. So, in the fall I write more. I read more. I take long, hot baths, bake, create, and a hundred other things that I often don't feel I have time for during other times of the year. Sometimes I sit with Papa and I knit or crochet while he watches. I just let it flow. I don't get angry and try to control the situation. I don't pout. I don't get depressed. I recognize it and move with it. Instead if denying or controlling the situation I see it as a time where Papa's needs are met (because he loves basketball) and mine are met too (because I need to spend time with myself).

I can apply this same thinking to other things that come my way. Don't fight, don't flee. Accept reality, accept the needs of other people, don't be a martyr, make it work. Rhythm and flow. When life throws me stuff I usually move into a tailspin, but eventually I right myself and find my rhythm again.

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