The Crepe Myrtles are Blooming.

I sometimes feel overwhelmed by life's burdens.  Just the other day I was driving alone in my car and I realized, in that moment, how small I had made my world.  I had spent 20 minutes driving yet all I could think about were the things causing me stress.  I hadn't thought about the other people on the road with me, considered whether I was driving carefully, or even troubled myself to consider solutions to my worries.  The reality is, I was worrying about the same things that eat up most of our worried minds: the future, plans, finances, saying the wrong thing, so on and so forth.  I was allowing my past and my future to consume my present and could feel the discomfort spread: first my chest, then my stomach, and then my head. Then something special happened - I glanced to the left and saw a blooming crepe myrtle.  

I don't have a green thumb or know much about trees, but I remember living in an apartment complex about a decade ago that had sidewalks lined with crepe myrtle trees and they were beautiful, though not year round. From then on, I looked forward to seeing the first blooms because it happened so quickly and they filled the world with color - white, magenta, red.  I also associate it with the beginning of Spring, which for me is an easier season to love than Winter.  

But this isn't really about the beauty and wonder of crepe myrtle trees or Spring, but rather, having something to look forward to, especially during tough times.  Luckily, the things that you and I worry about most of the time are not things that are life threatening.  They bring us fear due to uncertainty and lack of control, and we can feel this fear in every ounce of our body, mind, and relationships.  The stress can't kill us, but it can feel paralyzing.   

I'm a bit anxious by nature, so I've collected a number of different coping mechanisms to help when I'm feeling overwhelmed or panicky.  But there are circumstances where I know my mind might be a bit more worried until the passing of an event, such as waiting on the results of something.  And in these conditions, I rely on another set of skills to keep me grounded and at peace.  I ensure that there are things in my day and life that I enjoy, such as taking five minutes to meditate with the crepe myrtle trees.  When I have a busy day scheduled, I treat myself to a breakfast and fancy coffee or plan a dinner I can look forward to throughout the day.  When I know a couple of weeks will be more stressful for me, I carve out extra time for my friends and plan ways to pamper myself during the week (hello epsom salt bath on a Wednesday).  I've learned to be gentle with myself.  

We need not feel all the worry all the time.  So find (or rediscover!) the things you enjoy and make time for them, especially when life asks a lot of you. Your body will thank you, your mind will thank you, and your people will thank you. 

 

The Inner Peace Pie

Hey, did you hear it's Valentine's Day? Fun fact: I once talked my dad into sending me flowers in college on Valentine's Day.  Fun fact number two: I was once seeing a guy and he hung out with someone else on Valentine's Day.  So, maybe we weren't dating?

Relationships can be confusing and having a day that capitalizes on our emotions can just feel like the worst, so, naturally I want to discuss spirituality. Why? Because I think the overall quality of our relationships is directly proportional to the state of our spirit.  

I used to struggle with the concept of spirituality because I didn't know what it meant, but I now understand it as a state of inner peace and I keep my understanding of this simple.  As humans, our spirituality and, thus, inner peace is defined by three things: the relationship we have with others, the relationship we have with something bigger than ourselves, and the relationship we have with ourselves.  So many of us spend Valentine's Day and dozens of other days each year feeling empty and lonely, even people with partners, but there is an easier, softer way to spend this day.  

There are a couple of sayings in the recovery community: hurt people hurt people and you can't love someone else until you learn to love yourself.   Of those three things I listed earlier, we sometimes spend a disproportionate amount of time focused on our relationships with other people and even then, we may only be focusing on one relationship with one person.  Our spirit cannot thrive this way and inner peace will remain fleeting or illusive if we don't begin considering these other areas.  

When was the last time you considered, "how's my relationship with myself?"  Do I express gratitude and engage in self-love or am I hyper-critical and unforgiving of my mistakes?  Accepting our humanness and flaws while celebrating our talents and achievements is essential if we're seeking inner peace.

What about your relationship with something bigger than us?  For some of us, this may be God and for others this may be nature, the universe, a support group, or music.  Having a secure relationship with something bigger than ourselves provides us with a sense of safety and hope while also serving as a means to connect us with others. 

Lastly, we cannot forget those who are there for us when romantic love isn't - our friends and family.  Do you treat these relationships as a gift? Or have you learned to take for granted these special relationships?  We're social creatures and need people we can count on to be there for us and to do so, we have to be there for our people too.  

I believe we all want a piece of the inner peace pie.  Take a slice - you deserve it.  

Source: Photo by Huong Ho on Unsplash

I'm not perfect and can't fix you

I've thought about this post probably 50 times in the past week.  The thing is it's public, and the thought of managing a blog makes my heart go pitter patter, but not in the fun, romantic way.  But I believe personal expression is one of the easiest and most therapeutic things we can do for ourselves, and I have thoughts to share with y'all.  

You may be wondering about the title of this post, but what I really want to discuss is the idea of resiliency.  Each one of us have both risk and protective factors woven into our identity: things that work for us or against us in life.  The fewer risk factors we have and the more protective factors we have, the better prepared we are to manage stress in our life.  The problem is that we have very little control over the risk factors we have because they begin making an impact when we're children.  Based on my risk factors, I shouldn't be living the life that I'm living.  I should be more anxious and less successful. Wait, what? I should still be plagued by thoughts of "I'll never be good enough," but I'm not, because of resiliency.  We cannot forget that we all have things in our life designed to protect us and harnessing these, along with a little hope and gumption, decreases the power of our risk factors.  

I want you to breathe a sigh of relief when reading the title of this post.  Perfect means unrelatable and robotic.  Perfectionism also breeds procrastination and giving up.  And though you may feel broken, you are not.  I don't believe people become broken because of their emotional health problems.  I believe we become versions of ourselves that lose hope and suffer, sometimes for a really long time, until we're ready and willing to do something different.  

Source: Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash