Monthly Archives: May 2014

Stress

For the past year I have lived fairly stress-free. I haven’t had too much pressure in my life as I’ve been discovering more about myself and where I want to be. I’ve had it easy – I lived with my parents, worked part time, volunteered and had no real responsibility.

It was a time for me to regroup and refresh. But it got to the point where I was bored. I didn’t feel challenged. I needed more.

I needed to get back to reality. I got a full time job which I have been at for just over two months. And last weekend I moved into my own place.

Things are good. I like my job. I love my new place. Living on my own again has made me feel alive, and I am loving getting settled in and having things exactly how want them.

But with reality comes stress. Jobs can be stressful. Budgeting is very stressful. Finding time for the every day things like laundry, grocery shopping, bill paying, cleaning, etc can be stressful.

I am not complaining. I love that I am doing all of this for myself again. I love feeling challenged. I love organizing my day and prioritizing my needs.  I love figuring it all out.

But it can be stressful, for ALL of us. And stress can be a very dangerous thing.

The stress of my week manifested itself physically yesterday. A situation came up at work (after an already difficult week) that required immediate action and had a short deadline. I jumped on it immediately because I am the type of person who doesn’t panic in a stressful situation, but instead dives in and figures out how to handle it and get in done. I generally thrive under pressure.

And the situation turned out well.

At this point it was 2:30pm and I had not had lunch. I ran out to grab something to eat and as I sat in a drive-thru I began to feel stabs of pain in my back. Realizing how tense my body was, I tried to relax it.

I got back to the office, sat down to eat and sharply turned in my chair to make a joke to my co-worker. I froze. Pain went shooting across my upper back. I gasped. My co-workers suddenly surrounded me because they could see something was really wrong.

I couldn’t move. Breathing hurt. Smiling hurt. My eyes filled with tears us to the severe pain.

Then my face began to go numb. Half of my lip stopped moving when I talked. My eyes and cheeks twitched.

Fear took over. A panic attack began.

Luckily my company cares for seniors and my boss is a nurse. She helped me out of my desk chair and into a lift chair (designed for seniors who have trouble getting up), where I rested for half an hour.

Then I went home (driving was difficult), popped some pain killers and spent the rest of the evening in bed.

That was all caused by stress.

Stress is dangerous.

And we live in a culture that not only creates it, but encourages it.

Something needs to change.

Stress can cause unbelievable harm to a person’s body, mind and soul. It can cause heart attacks, depression and change one’s personality.

We constantly talk about the dangers of alcohol, drugs and diseases such as cancer. But what about the dangers of stress?

And what can we do to lessen the stress of life?

First of all, we can give ourselves a break. We put so much pressure on ourselves to accomplish everything, be the best constantly and never quit. These are great goals, but when they takeover and become stress, we have to know when to step away.

We have to be able to let ourselves off the hook, knowing we did our best.

We also need to think about how our stress affects others. I have one co-worker who stresses quite easily, and when she is stressed she begins to yell and snap at everyone.

That in turn causes me stress. I don’t believe there is ever a reason to yell at someone – it doesn’t accomplish anything. And there is no reason to snap at people either; that just creates a tense work space.

We all need to learn when to just breathe. We need to learn to day “ok, I’ve  done my best and that is all I can do.”

Life is too short.

Don’t spend it stressed out or in panic mode.

Stress will always come. It is unavoidable. But we can choose how we respond to it. And we can know when it is time to let it go.

Let the unnecessary stress in your life go.

Tomorrow is a new day. It is a new start.

All you can do is your best and that IS good enough.

Advertisements

Dancing in the rain

Last night I was wandering around a gift shop and came across this saying on a picture:

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

I thought about this all last night and for much of today.

And it’s an idea that I have been trying to embrace for the past year. This saying just finally put words around what I have been trying to do.

Storms are going to come. Some storms are tame and last momentarily. Others are of tornado proportions and cause unbelievable damage.

We can’t avoid these storms. And unlike the actual weather, we can’t often predict them. Life can go from sunshine to lightening instantly. It can go from calm and peaceful to raging winds and terrifying thunder.

A storm can crush you.

It can knock you over.

It can flood you.

It can damage everything around you.

But what is important is how you react to that storm.

Will you run for cover? Will you hide until it passes? Will you let it control you?

Or will you stand strong and try to find a reason to dance in the rain?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that when your life suddenly goes to hell that you pretend nothing is wrong. Or that you ignore any problems that are facing you, hoping they might disappear if you just act happy.

What I am saying is don’t let the storm take you out. Don’t let it take everything good in your life from you. And even when everything is a complete mess and all you want to do is crawl into a hole, take hold of something good and don’t let go.

Even when things are really bad, there is always something good. Focus on that good thing.

Embrace it.

Let it be your strength to get through the storm.

And let it be your reason to dance.

The storm will pass and the sun will come out again.

While you are waiting for it, dance in the rain.

Beauty

What is beauty?

When we look at the Western culture’s definition of beauty I think it’s quite twisted. Society deems beauty as thin, fit, flawless. We look at celebrities who are considered beautiful who weigh barely more 100 pounds, have perfect, silky hair, skin without scars and an ever present tan.

I do believe that through some current celebrities and models, the definitions of beauty are changing for the better, but there is a long way to go. Advertising taunts us with products to make us look better, be better, and find our ‘best selves’. There are hair products for shiny, fuller hair. There are make-up products to cover up flaws on the skin, brighten the eyes and make us prettier. There are diets and fitness equipment/exercises that will make us lose weight and tone up.

All of these things are plastered on TV, magazine covers and across billboards. All these things that will make us look better, make us beautiful and desirable.

But ultimately the message that is being sent is ‘you’re not good enough the way you are’. You’re too fat. You’re too ugly. You look bad.

And as a result people are struggling with eating disorders. They are putting themselves in debt to buy more make-up or get cosmetic procedures done. They spend their finances on special foods for the latest diet (that won’t work). They fall into deep depressions because even after doing all of this, they still don’t feel good enough. They’re still told they could look better, they could be better.

Self-esteem plummets. Self-worth decreases.

And all because we’re trying to fit into some unrealistic mold of what beauty is.

Let me tell you what I think beauty is.

Beauty is the mother, with no make-up and in her sweat pants, rocking her child to sleep at night.

Beauty is the friend who texts you during the day just to see how you’re doing.

Beauty is the stranger who holds the door at Starbucks when your hands are full of drinks for everyone at your office.

Beauty is the neighbour who shows up at your door with soup when you’re sick.

Beauty is the gentleman who calls you just to say thanks for doing your job.

Because beauty comes from within. It starts inside of us and shines through us. Beauty is happiness. Beauty is being positive. Beauty is finding the best in everything and everyone.

Of course outward beauty exists. I am not denying that. Some people are naturally very attractive people. But it is what is inside that determines whether or not they are beautiful.

I have never considered myself physically beautiful.

At a young age I was bullied for my appearance. I lived in place where my race was the minority and I was made fun of because the veins in my skin were visible. Every day someone told me I was ugly. This happened for about a year.

So I believed them. I looked in the mirror and only saw what they said I was. Ugly. That word stuck with me for more than a decade. It was how I viewed myself, how I described myself. There are still times, nearly 20 years later that I look in the mirror and believe what they said.

I don’t have the outward beauty that makes others look at me. Heads don’t turn when I walk into a room. I’ve never been the girl that guys are always chasing after. I couldn’t be a model. I’ll never be cast as the ‘hot girl’ in a movie.

But I am beautiful in my own way. I am beautiful as a precious child of God. And I do what I can to create beauty around me in my attitude, how I treat others and how I serve others.

You are beautiful too. Just the way you are.

Embrace your beauty and share it with the world.

The world needs your true beauty.

 

A Mother’s Arms

There is nothing more comforting than a mother’s arms. It is a safe place. A loving place. A place of comfort. A place always ready to embrace their children.

Our mother’s arms are where we run when as children we fall and bump our heads, where as teenagers we cry over mean friends, where as adults we find comfort after having our hearts broken.

A mother’s arms is place of security, joy, relief and support.

Moms are incredible. Mine sure is.

They are constantly sacrificing themselves for the needs of their children.

They hurt when their children hurt.

They celebrate when their children achieve or do something great.

They stand on the sidelines and let their kids shine.

They gush with pride over their children’s accomplishments, personalities and goals.

They are the first to arrive when their child calls out in need, whether it is to soothe a nightmare or a broken heart.

Mothers are gracious, understanding, and the hardest working people in this world.

They will fight for their children until they can no longer stand. They will jump in front of a bus to save them.

They would give up all the joy and comforts of life if it meant their children could be protected from harm and live happy lives.

I have been blessed with the most amazing mother. She is smart, sweet, generous, compassionate, loving, supportive, fun, kind…I could go on and on. But there are not enough positive words in the English language to describe how fantastic she is. She is beautiful inside and out.

My mom is so much more than the woman who gave birth to me. She is my closest friend, my inspiration, my confidant and my biggest fan. And I hope she knows that I am her biggest fan and will forever be.

Her arms have comforted me, encouraged me, supported me, lifted me and made me feel safe.

Mom, I thank you for all you have done and continue to do. Thank you for always being there and never giving up on me. Thank you for your encouragement and support.

I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

Puzzles

I love puzzles. I could sit for hours over a puzzle putting the pieces together trying to create the picture on the box. I find them to be a great de-stressor and I love the challenge it gives my brain. I have done puzzles when I can’t sleep at night and they’ve been great at calming my racing mind. Doing a puzzle gives me something to focus on and enables me to forget any craziness going on around me.

But what about the puzzle of life?

Life is a big puzzle. It is filled with pieces that we are constantly trying to connect together to create the perfect picture.

There’s the job piece. We all want a job that fits into our lifestyle, that we enjoy and that we can make decent money at. We want that piece to connect perfectly with our life outside of work.

There’s the friend piece. We are looking for friends with similar values and ideas. Friends that make us laugh, are there when we cry and will kick our butts when we need it.

There’s the residence piece. We have to decide where we want to live – what country, what city or what town. Do we want to live in a house, condo, trailer or apartment? In some cases that piece of the puzzle is determined for us due to finances, cost of living and where we are in life. We choose where to live based on those in our lives, such as family, or where the job we want is.

Then there’s the romantic piece. Some people are lucky and find the piece that fits perfectly in their puzzle at a young age and enjoy a lifelong happy picture. Others try various puzzle pieces looking for that one that fits. Some try to force a piece to fit with theirs, even though it clearly does not connect. Some find the perfect piece later in life. Many have more than one piece that fits perfectly for a period of time, but then the shape changes and disconnects.

Life is a puzzle. And it is a puzzle that is constantly changing.

A year ago my puzzle was broken apart, shuffled and the pieces were scattered on the ground. As I picked them up and tried to put them back together I found the overall picture had changed and the old pieces didn’t fit anymore. I had to begin my puzzle again, finding new pieces and slowly connecting them together. This is something I am still working on.

The life puzzle is an interactive challenge that is constantly changing and growing. Sometimes pieces that once fit perfectly suddenly won’t anymore. And there may be no explanation for it.

But instead of wasting time trying to force pieces in that no longer fit and ruining the whole the puzzle, let’s embrace the new pieces.

I have had to do that over the last year. It has been a challenge and an adventure. Some pieces have fallen into place perfectly, and some pieces I’ve had to try connecting in a few different spots. Some pieces I’ve had to throw away because they simply didn’t fit.

And that’s ok.

I’m going to keep working on my puzzle until the picture is complete. And when a piece changes shape and no longer fits, I’ll find a new one to take it’s place.

I encourage you to do the same. You only live once.

Busyness

We live in a busy world with busy people who are always bragging and/or complaining about how busy they are. We pull out calendars to try and schedule hang out time with friends or family. We are glued to our iPhones, blackberries or iPads checking what meeting, date or activity we have scheduled next.

Most people wear their busyness like a badge of honour. It comes across as boastful. “I’ve just been so busy!” We feel important if we have full schedules. It’s an ego boost to say we don’t have time for someone or something. We all do it. I’m just as guilty as the rest of society.

When we’re not bragging about our busyness, we’re complaining about it. “I’m so busy that I don’t have enough quiet time!” We moan that our busy schedules are causing exhaustion and that we can’t get anything done.

Busyness is a part of the Western culture. Everyone is running from one thing to the next. There’s work, family, friends, activities, church, dating, errands and more. It’s easy for the schedule to become packed and things to start to feel out of control.

But what are we missing in all of the busyness?

When we are constantly rushing from one thing to the next, we are missing what matters.

We are missing quality time with each other.

We are missing quiet moments of self reflection.

We are missing moments of laughter.

We are missing moments so just being present.

We are so busy scheduling our lives that we are forgetting to live our lives.

We get caught up in the insanity, and by the end of the week we’re too exhausted to go out for dinner with a friend. Or go for a bike ride with our children. Or go for a walk with our partner.

Our busyness is wearing us out. And most of the time,we’re not even enjoying the things we are rushing around doing.

I have learned that I need at least two evenings a week without anything planned. I need one evening of quiet where I can enjoy some alone time reading or writing. The second evening is for last minute plans with a friend or my family – a nice dinner, an evening walk, whatever comes up.

The way we live, with schedules always packed, is not healthy. It’s not healthy for us or those around us.

I encourage you to stop planning every second of every day. Make sure you allow free time to relax and refresh.

Enjoy time with friends and family, where you just be together.

Allow yourself quiet time alone. Don’t feel guilty about it. You deserve it.

Allow yourself time to just enjoy life.

Spend an hour staring up at the stars.

Go for a walk without a destination in mind.

Play a game of monopoly with your kids.

Stop and smell the roses.

Stop rushing.

Stop the busyness.

And just be.

Never send a hungry girl to the grocery store

On my way home from work I got a call from my mom to pick up an avocado for the quinoa salad she was making for me. I left work at 5:50pm and it is a 40 minute drive to Kingsville from my office. I got to the Kingsville Zehrs just after 6:30 and was starving by the time I entered the doors.

I was only supposed to pick up an avocado. But I figured since I was there I’d pick up a couple things I knew we needed. I had eaten the last banana this morning so I grabbed bananas. Raspberries were on sale so I grabbed some of those. The watermelon looked good, so that was added to the cart.

As I made my way around the grocery store, my stomach rumbling with hunger, my cart became fuller and fuller. $52 later I walked out of the grocery store carrying two full bags and a frozen pizza.

I had gone to the grocery store for one avocado.

But I was hungry and suddenly there was so much that I needed to buy.

Now that I am happily full, I am thinking about that shopping experience this evening and how it is a reflection of the way the Western world lives.

We always feel like we need more than we do. There is always something we have to have. Whether it is a new dress, new shoes, the latest iPhone, the newest video game, or a 52 inch flat screen, we feel as though we cannot go on with our lives until that thing is in our possession.

Our culture tells us we can’t be happy without the latest gadgets and trends. We are bombarded with advertising for clothes, electronics, cars, shoes and beauty products, and if we don’t have these things then we are missing out.

We use material things to make us happy, to make us feel valuable, to make us feel important. If we are in possession of the latest trends or hottest items, then we are somebody.

We turn to stuff to fill voids in our lives. A new outfit to make us feel attractive. A new car to make us feel important. We are trying to fill voids in our souls by purchasing.

It’s called retail therapy.

And it doesn’t work.

At first that new item will give us a temporary high. We’ll feel good about ourselves when people compliment our new outfit or gush over our new car. We’ll feel important as we show off our new iPad or new iPhone. We’ll feel current and hip.

But those feelings won’t last.

A new iPhone can’t comfort you when you cry.

A new outfit can’t hug you after a bad day.

A new car can’t love you back.

Our society is backwards. We try to fill the loneliness and emptiness with stuff. We try to find happiness in money. We try to erase the pain with possessions.

But what we are all desperately seeking can’t be found in a mall, department store or online. It can’t be purchased with money, debit or credit cards.

Because what we need is each other.

What we need is love and acceptance.

We spend so much time judging one another for what we have and don’t have. For what we say and don’t say. For what we like and don’t like. We spend so much time trying to one up each other and ‘out do’ one another.

What we need to do is love each other. Laugh together. Comfort each other. Support one another. Celebrate together. Cheer each other on.

What we need to do is stop trying to find our value in possessions, and instead find our value in each other.

We can waste our time claiming we need new shoes, a new car, a new camera or a new TV. We can spend our money, go into debt and try to find happiness in what we buy.

Or we turn to what we really need, and really want, to fill the voids in our souls.

Community.

Friendship.

Grace.

Forgiveness.

Understanding.

Acceptance.

Love.

Put your wallet away. Reach out your hand.

You’ll be amazed at how many reach back to grab it.

Possessions don’t matter.

Money doesn’t matter.

People matter.

Choose to focus on them.

 

Any Dream Will Do

Today I took my mother to see a stage production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. The show was excellent – great acting, music, and production design. It’s a production I’ve seen on stage before, years ago, and it was great to hear the incredible music again. But one song has stuck with me and made me think. The song is ‘Any dream will do’.

When we are kids we are constantly dreaming. We are dreaming about our future, and what we’re going to be when we grow up. We’re dreaming about getting a part in the school play, and what the theme of our upcoming birthday party will be. We let our imaginations run wild and the possibilities are endless.

As children we dream big. We dream often.

And we are excited to pursue those dreams and make them a reality.

Then we grow up.

We face reality.

Some of us are lucky enough to see our dreams come true.

But many of us put our dreams aside or simply stop dreaming all together.

We get stuck in the day to day stresses of life. We are too busy to pursue our dreams. Or we are held back financially. Or we get distracted by daily life and forget about our dreams.

There may be many reason why you aren’t pursuing the dreams you once had.

Maybe you tried to make your dream a reality and you failed, so you are afraid to try again.

Maybe your heart was broken and your desire to dream broke with it.

Maybe you have too many bills to pay and no funds to go after your big dream.

Maybe you don’t believe your dream can become a reality because you have seen too much  and know too much.

Maybe life has chewed you up and spit you out and you’ve forgotten how to dream.

When we are children dreaming comes naturally. The world is wide open to us and we believe we can do anything.

As we grow up and experience the real world, we face hardship, tragedy, heartbreak, disappointment and struggle. And each time we face one of these, our dreams start to fade. They start to seem impossible, un-reachable and unrealistic. We start to believe our dreams can’t come true.

But they can.

Whether you are 8, 25 or 67, your dreams can still come true.

Anything is possible. You just need to believe in yourself and your dream.

I recently began to dream again. Some of my dreams are big. Some are small. But all of them are possible. All of them could come true.

It’s easy to get discouraged in this world. It’s easy to let the stress, pain and struggle take over and to stop believing in our dreams.

But don’t let it happen. Don’t ever lose your dreams.

Even if you fail, at least you tried.

Never stop trying.

Never stop dreaming.

Big or small those dreams are important. They matter. They give us hope for the future. They give us something to strive for. They give us a reason to keep moving forward.

Any dream will do.