Sunday, November 5, 2017

4 Tools You Need To Persevere, No Matter What You're Going Through

Happy Self Care Sunday, my friends!  I hope you are all having a restful and relaxing weekend.  It's pretty gloomy out my window, but I still see so much beauty, and for that I am grateful.  The trees are certainly losing their glorious leaves, everyday more, and I know my favorite season is coming to an end.  Fall will be fading into winter soon, and the dazzling display of color will shift to a quiet, white stillness that comes with freezing temps.  Still, even in the season of hibernation and stagnant growth, there is beauty to be found.  There is purpose, there is order, there are things worthy of celebration.

And while many of you may be rushing to deck the halls - I see you, people who have been listening to Christmas music since the day after Halloween! ;) - I know there may be many others who dread the holiday season and winter for various reasons.  It's not all carols and decorations, ski trips and presents for those who may be aching over the loss of a loved one, feeling isolated, or super stressed.  Allow me to be the first to tell you this season...whatever you are feeling is ok.  You are entitled to feel how you feel.  But may I also have what you need to get through this day.  And the next.  And the next.  You can persevere through whatever you are going through, and yes, even find a hint of beauty in the gloom.  

I read a lovely quote by Anne Lamott (who teaches me so much about life each time I pick up one of her books) the other day that speaks to this very same end.  She says, "It's funny:  I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools:  the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience.  But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools - friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty - and said 'do the best you can with these, they will have to do.' And mostly, against all odds, they do."  

It's so true.  As children, we spend our time watching the big people around us, wondering how they keep it so together (or later...why they can't keep it together, but that's a post for another day) and think maybe they have something we don't have.  Maybe they have a bigger hammer of wisdom than we do.  Maybe my sandpaper of patience still hasn't come in yet (truth be told, I'm still waiting on that one!).  We observe others handling life better than we feel capable of, and maybe, even as adults, we wonder: when am I going to have the right tools to deal with this?

So today, if you'll allow me, I'd like to explain how each of the aforementioned tools life actually hands you can help you persevere no matter what you're going through.

Friendships.  Whatever you are going through, having someone to shoulder the load with you, or at least sit with you as you weather the storm is absolutely priceless.  We are made for deep connection.  Our souls delight when we look into the face of another person and find empathy and love, rather than the judgement we fear so much.  Friends are absolutely essential to getting through tough times.  The next time you are feeling down, don't go it alone.  Reach out to a friend and be vulnerable.  Be real.  And if you feel lonely, like you don't know who to reach out to...start by getting connected somewhere like a church, club, or even take a class to meet some people.  If you don't have anyone near you, FaceTime a friend who lives far away.  Don't believe the lie that they don't want to hear from you, or that you'll be burdening them if you tell them how you're really doing.  After all, that's what friends are for...and chances are, you would do the same for them.  

Prayer.  Prayer is an oft-neglected tool for many people.  Many people don't consider themselves "religious," or think, "I haven't been to church in years."  My dear friends, you don't need to be or think or do anything to pray.  Prayer is simply talking to God.  Prayer may help different people in different ways, but to me, the essence of prayer is realizing two things:  I'm not alone, and I need help.  Knowing that God is always there and always listening, even when my favorite humans let me down (they are, after all, only human) is more comforting than I can aptly describe.  Acknowledging that I need help is healthy, wise, and helpful...once I acknowledge my need, I am prepared to ask the One who actually can help to intercede on my behalf.  It's astonishing how many times in 35 short years He fact, He has never once failed me.

Conscience.  How can conscience help you when you're going through tough times?  This powerful tool enables you to call upon your inner strength, your inner wisdom that tells you what is right and what is wrong.  When your circumstances feel overwhelming, your sadness too much to bear, your conscience tells you the next right step to take.  Your conscience is, as Jiminy Cricket said, your guide, your reasonable mind.  When you feel trapped by too much emotion, call upon your conscience and ask:  what advice would I give my best friend in this situation?  Then follow that advice.  See?  You have more answers than you think you do.

Honesty.  Honesty helps you take a long, hard look at how you are actually doing and come to terms with it.  It may not always be pretty.  You may need more help than you first imagined.  You may have to humble yourself more than you are comfortable with to get the help you need.  But that is ok.  Because, as the old adage reminds us...honesty really is the best policy.  Only when you are completely honest with yourself and others do you fully possess the power to change.  Keep track of your thoughts, moods, and behaviors using a thought record or a journal.  Be objective and then do something constructive.

I hope these words can encourage you if you are hurting.  I hope you will keep them tucked away and remember them next time you are.  Above all, know that you do have the tools to persevere through whatever it is you are experiencing...yes, they may be rusty and bent, but even against all odds, they truly do work.  


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