Usually what happens when I am severely stressed is that I go to ground. I block out the world and go into preservation mode. This means that I do only what is necessary to sustain my life and those around me. I cook meals, make sure everyone is fed and cared for. That is it. I do some escaping into books and try to keep as low of a profile as possible. I stop doing anything. Even though I know it helps or is good for me.
However, that type of reaction is no longer possible. Now I have other things that need to be taken care of. I have school work. I have responsibilities at church. I have other things that need my attention and can not hide in my cave. In all fairness it has been five years since I have experienced this kind of stress. And changing my reactions to it has been hard.
I was just starting to begin a type of yoga practice that was helping. I will just say for the record that yoga and I have been circling each other like cautious adversaries for years now. And we had just recently begun to have conversation. And even though I know that yoga helps in times of stress for me. It is very hard to stop the preservation mode once it starts. I have however stopped it though not before it began to establish itself. I am still doing things, going out, went on a double date with my son’s in laws (who also happen to be good friends), and gone on interviews for internships. It is that last one that has sent me into this new stress mode.
The one thing that I did not back away from was the mindfulness and meditation. Well, my form of meditation. Sitting in the sun and watching the birds at the bird feeder. This did not stop my body from reacting to the stress with the usual self defense mechanisms but it kept me functioning and going forward with the interviews. ( I could live with out the clenched jaw and the lack of solid food that the jaw pain brings.) I am even writing today, which totally flies in the face of hiding.
And like all things there is a cost. I am willing to pay that price. Because being out in the world and living. Not hiding away and waiting for it to be over so I can finally rest. Is so much better. It is so much better to be breathing in the warmth of the sun with friends than to hide at home. I am going out into the world and experiencing the stress and the pain and the confusion. I am hoping that each day is better. And it usually is. There is always something good. Even with the bad things that happen. There is always good things.I think about those good things while I watch the birds, play with my daughter, read to her and with her, bake, and just breathe.
So even though I am getting tired of just drinking my meals or eating soft food. The tension is lessening as I move forward and keep going. I am letting go of the defense mechanisms that I do not need and trying to find peaceful ones to take there place. Because I have a lot more to offer the world if I am in it (evenly painfully) than if I am hiding away in my cave. Yoga and I will have that conversation again today, and I will watch the birds, do my reading, and live in the world.
I have been on a mini vacation for the past few days. I had the opportunity to stay in a beautiful cabin by myself. I promised myself that I would bring no work with me. I would only bring things that would help me relax. And i did.
It was hard. I had my computer with me and my e-reader. I brought my idea of comfort food, since there was a full kitchen. And my comfy clothes. I spent time relaxing. There were a couple of times that I caught myself from doing things that were even remotely non relaxing. But I held fast. And I began to relax.
Here is the thing. I don’t relax. It is very difficult for me to let my body relax. For years my body has been in a constant state of preparedness. Prepared to do battle and to defend itself at a moments notice. Relaxing is a thing that very rarely happens. For instance I am sitting with my youngest watching a very calm movie and yet when I thought about my body I realized that I was completely tensed. All my muscles were tensed and ready to spring. They are almost always like that. Even when I sleep. If isometric movement could make someone really buff I would be. I wake up with all my muscles tight, I stretch to get them to release. So relaxing is a BIG thing,
I decided that the best way to go about this was to learn from the relaxation masters. My cats. They sit in the sun, warm by the fire, eat and sleep. So that is what I did. I sat in the little sunlight that was there. I took naps and ate. I also went online and did fun things, like fill up my pintrest page and look at what everyone else was doing. I did not read the news articles and I did not do anything that would not add to the relaxation. And it worked. Somewhat. I have my doubts as to whether there will come a day that I will be at complete relaxation but this was close. Even my shoulder which is so tensed from stress it has been pulling my arm out of socket, eased.
In the morning I go back to my life. A slightly more relaxed person. I have found that I need to create the place to relax. And to do so without the guilt that I should be doing something productive. It is time to take my relaxation seriously. It is time to stand down from all the things that kept me ready to fight. Because those things do not exist anymore. There is no good reason for me to be battle ready at all times.
So, tomorrow when I start back into my life I will do so with a little more peace and the knowledge that I can in fact relax and that i do not need to fight those monsters anymore. I will learn to be a master of peace and relaxation. I will learn to be a cat.
I remember Saturday mornings as cartoons and cereal. Getting up early before my parents and watching the cartoons. I am old enough to remember watching the Beatles cartoon that was on Saturday mornings. I also remember watching Schoolhouse Rock in between the cartoons. Which is how I memorized the Preamble to the Constitution. I still have to sing it in order to recite it however. It never made the transition from song to just words. I found out how a bill became a law and other fun facts. I loved conjunction junction and my favorite number was “8” because of the skater. And I loved that alone time on those Saturdays when I managed to get up before everyone else.
There was also that horrible morning that I overdosed on peanut butter toast. I can still not eat warm toast with peanut butter. Just the smell…ugh. But the best part was being able to pick the cartoons. Having siblings always made watching your favorite cartoons problematic. There was also the time we were moving across country and were traveling on the first Saturday of the cartoon season. There was one new show that I wanted to watch and only was able to see the first ten minutes. I of course have gotten over that.
Saturdays have changed a lot since then. Now we do not have television. We have a television but we receive no stations. So it is pretty much whatever we have for movies. I have a large family, eight children. Some are grown and moved out. Some are still here. The morning is usually spent racing to get at the left over pizza from the night before. (Friday night is homemade pizza and movies night) And then time spent teasing each other and playing games. Similar to my Saturdays as a child minus the cartoons.
Some days it is nice to reflect back on the good times I had as a child. There were quite a few. And it is nice to think about the good times and not always the horrible or the bad things that happened. Today, watching the snow and listening to my children interact with each other, sometimes loudly, is a good place to be. Physically, Spiritually, and mentally it is a peaceful place.