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I have my stress before I even have my coffee.

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Did I have to turn 50 before I figured that magic out? Many days, well- to be more honest, actually most days, I find that I have my stress before I even have my coffee. I cannot imagine that this is how it is supposed to feel when we wake from a restful night and greet a brand new morning. Especially, a morning that we are told to greet with a grateful heart and a smile on our lips. Maybe you are one of those people, and if you are, I applaud you. Truly I do. I am not one of those people. It is not for lack of trying. I try every day to dig deep and to find that nugget of joyous gratitude just to be thankful to be alive. But those days seem to be far and few between, especially lately.

You see, I believed the lie. The lie that if I met my Mr. Right to spend my life with I would wake up each morning feeling the magic of simply being alive- together. Met one, then met a few more. That turned out to be a lie. Then I believed the lie that if I had a great job that I wanted to race out the door each day to get to that then I would wake up each morning ready to sing my happy to be alive song. Found that.. well, sort of. Turned out to be a lie. And I believed the lie that if I became a mom and had sweet little ones to fill my soul that I would wake up every day jumping out of my bed eager to make memories happen. Had two.. absolutely great kids by the way, but that turned out to be a lie. So was the house. The right city. The right friends. The right faith. The right diet. The right recovery program. The right medication. The right pair of shoes. I am exhausted just running through that list of lies. Somehow... I don't believe I am the only one sitting on this stress island wondering when my ship is gonna come in and carry me off into my magical life where only sunshine, rainbows, and happy thoughts exist.

Now before anyone gets all up in my grill about gratitude, thankfulness, praise, faith and all that jazz- just hear me out. I am a firm believer in every one of those things. I do believe that God created me with a plan and purpose, that he marked my life for greatness beyond my human comprehension, and that if I have faith the size of a mustard seed that whatever I ask will be mine under heaven. The only giant gaping hole in that magic land is that my time is not God's time, and my plan is definitely not His. That has been made abundantly clear at many turning points in my life. I prayed for a husband, I had two- almost three. I prayed for babies, I was allowed to only keep two. I prayed for money, a home, a new body, a brand new mind, a healed heart, a shiny new car... really, all kinds of things. And every time God came through. Maybe when I prayed for money I had a Mega Bucks jackpot in mind but God in his grand design made sure the power stayed on. Or maybe when I prayed for a new body God gave me the strength to put down cigarettes to save my lungs. And just maybe He gave me a whole lot more than the things I have asked for or can even see. I know I have survived things I should have never been able to walk away from alive. And I have recovered from things that could have easily ended my life. But even with that up and out on the table, I still spend a lot of hours most days dining on stress so thick I can chew on it. So how does that even happen when God, time and again, has come through- even in my darkest hours to comfort, to provide, to protect, and to keep me breathing? Let's go back to the lie.

I have found that there are many people, even more when they decide to be honest about it, that want to know the answers. They want to know will things work out- will my family stay together, will that job offer come through, will my ticket be the winning number? In and of itself, these are fair questions to want answers to. We all want to know that our next step, choice, or door that we push open is going to be a good one (or the best one) for ourselves and everyone involved. Not only do we want to know, we need to believe it. And why do we need to believe it? Because if we don't, that means we have to accept that life is not fair. That life is hard. That people will fail us, jobs will end, money will run out, bills will pile up, spouses will leave us, health issues will persist. Isn't it a whole lot easier to walk down the aisle believing the lie that every single person who gets married will stay married than to face the harsh truth that at least 50% of all marriages end in divorce- knowing that yours could become one of those 50%. And why is it so much easier to look at the loss than the gain? Maybe you are one of those people who got married to stay married, but maybe your spouse somehow wasn't. It happens. Is being in that 50% casualty so bad? I have witnessed many second- and third marriages, that far exceeded whatever magic that first marriage held. Those spouses came out on the better end of that 50%. Do you think if they had known their marriage(s) might end in divorce that they would have went through with it anyway? Maybe so. But maybe not. If you knew that you would lose a child, would you quit trying? If you knew that your business would fail, would that keep you from hanging your sign on the door? I would hope not. The point I am trying to make is that maybe we are better for not knowing the answers. I challenge you to look back over times in your life when you dreamed, prayed, waited and believed (maybe even pleaded) for something that did come true. Now don't ruin it by looking too far through it. It can be a slippery slope to be so overjoyed when you reflect back on something truly wonderful that came into your life only to replace that feeling with thoughts of it's untimely and painful death (literally and figuratively). And when I say this, in no way- on any level, do I mean for that to be received in a hurtful way. That is not my intention at all. Losing someone (or something) you love is one of the most painful, life-shattering experiences that someone can ever walk through. Grief doesn't begin and end at the loss, it becomes a companion of sorts in all colors throughout the rest of your life. My question to you is this, if you had known beforehand that the loss would come, would you have changed any of it? Would you still wish to experience the truly wonderful moments you were able to have? The truly wonderful is what gives us the courage to face another day, with or without someone in it. With or without the house you thought you would have, or the money you thought you would be making, or the family you thought you would still be a part of. There are no guarantees. Ever. And sometimes that makes it pretty damned difficult to want to get out of bed.

Me- well, at times, I don't especially care for where I am in my life right now (just keep'n it real). Over two years ago God transplanted me back into Central Oregon. Quick time lapse for you, I was born and raised in Corvallis. Moved to John Day for a short stint then moved to Prineville for 16 years. From there moved to Albany for another 6, then down to Southern California for 5. Then back to Oregon (for coming up on 3 years), most days still questioning, 'why here?'. I have had good days, bad days, great days, and terrible days- but at least for now, or until something changes, I am still here. Often times I try to remind myself of the power of gratitude. You know, roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear, gas in my tank, a job to pay the bills. But other times I get stuck under the weight of, 'WTH God? Do you hate me that much?' (still just keep'n it as real as I can). I spend more days unhappy than with a smile on my face. Most weekends are spent churning up enough emotional and mental stamina just to show up to work on Monday. I find myself very lonely for company more often than I like to admit to anyone. I believed, or rather convinced myself, that the old wonderful memories of all that I had missed here would suddenly flood my life and overwhelm my senses. That still has not happened. And the seasons I missed so badly that I would cry myself to sleep over when I got sick of perpetual Southern Californian sunshine, well those seasons are wreaking havoc on my joints, my head, and on my sanity. So, what do you do when this is your new reality? Do you force one foot in front of the other starting the second you open your eyes each new day? Do you dine on gratefulness until you feel so full you just might vomit? Do you just give up? You, like me, may be in a season of having your stress before you even have your coffee. Maybe the stress starts churning inside your gut before your feet even tip over the edge of the bed, much less come in contact with the floor, each morning. Stress, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. In fact stress is a very necessary thing as we navigate through our days. But how the hell do we get to a place of 'healthy' stress when our mind and body is churning and chewing on stress? Well, we start by acknowledging the truth. That stress is meant to be processed- not digested. Next, we find ways to allow the stress vapor to escape, even if it's just a little at a time. Sometimes I start with a 1 to 2 minute stress relief activity. I step outside my front door and take a deep cleansing breath in... and then release it slowly. I repeat as often as needed. I brew myself a strong cup of coffee and allow my mind to become empty of everything as I focus on the feel of the smooth, warm mug nestled in my hands. At times I increase to a 3 to 5 minute stress relief activity. I put on a song that reaches my soul, one that speaks to my spirit or makes me want to move my feet or hips. Sometimes I stretch my arms towards the ceiling and let the weight of the world escape through my fingertips. Other times I step outside and take a short walk- even if only to the mailbox, appreciating the fresh air and life going on around me. There are times it is helpful to just take the time constraint out!

Other simple stress relief activities that you might try are to buy a balloon that makes you want to smile every time you look up at it. Paint your toenails a color that makes your happy bubble rise every time you peek at them. Put on a cozy pair of socks. Kiss a furry pet - and let them kiss you back. Sit on the floor with a child and ask them what makes them smile, or giggle, or want to get lost in a story book. Drink a cold glass of water. Take a nap. Visit an old friend. Grab a box of chicken nuggets and park in front of a colorful storefront display while you eat them, dunking heartily into the sweet and sour sauce. Go to a library and breathe in the smell of hard bound books. Pop in a movie that clears your mind, and your heart- even if only for a short time. Grab a blank notebook and write about the things that you are grateful for in your life. Pick up your phone and call someone that needs to know that someone is thinking about them. Write a letter... using a pencil and paper (I know, right?!). The list is truly endless! Maybe a good de-stress tool for you is to make a list of those things that help you to allow the stress vapor to escape. Maybe a blank sheet of paper with a #1 through #20 is what works for you. Maybe you are someone that needs to doodle little cartoons instead of actual words. Maybe you resonate with magazine cut outs, glue, and a poster board. Maybe you are someone who needs to set a reminder on your calendar. Whatever your method, claim it and let it belong to you! And allow it to work it's magic starting today. And at those times, because they will come, when you find yourself having your stress before you even have your coffee, make the choice to just start over again! After all, we are intended to live life one day at a time, darlin' (big smooch!).

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