Posted in Rambles

Coming to Terms with Social Anxiety

A few years ago, in a small group at my church, I was sharing prayer requests with two other ladies. I told them about my feelings of loneliness, and that I was often too afraid to approach people, which was a necessary step if I was going to make any friends.  One woman’s eyes got wide, and she said emphatically, “I know exactly what you mean!  I feel the same way.”  The other woman looked puzzled and asked us quite genuinely, “Why?  What are you afraid of?”

I learned two things from this exchange.  First, I wasn’t the only one – there were others who had the same problem.  And second, there were people who did not fear social situations at all, and in fact, found it difficult to understand why we would.

The second woman’s question was difficult for us to answer.  What were we afraid of?  Everything.  Nothing.  I don’t know.  Maybe it was, what others would think of us.  Or whether we would offend them.  Or that we didn’t know how to make conversation, or what to do if the situation got awkward.  All we knew for sure was: it was terrifying.  And debilitating.

Early Experiences

My first memory of being intensely socially anxious occurred in Grade 5.  On a beautiful spring day, it had been postulated that our class “may” go outside at some point and join an older grade for a game of football.  In my mind, there were several problems with this idea.  I was smaller than the other kids, and feared getting pummeled.  I had never played football before, didn’t know the rules, and would surely end up looking like a fool.  Being around older kids, especially in a competitive, sometimes aggressive situation like team sports, struck fear into every part of me.  And finally, I would surely be the last one picked for teams. Even if the picking were randomized, I was fairly certain no one would want me on theirs.  I would feel like the biggest loser in the world.

Thankfully, the proposed game of football never occurred, but its very possibility had ruined my entire day.  I remember sitting on my plastic school chair, heart pounding.  Slightly faint.  Slightly nauseous.  Willing the day to be over, and praying with all my might that we would just stay inside.

I could share other examples similar to these of the fears that I experienced during my school days.  Unstructured recess times when I didn’t know what to do or whom to hang out with. Confrontations with other children when I felt intimidated and afraid.  Now, as an adult, I believe there could have been some proactive measures taken to create a more positive social environment at my school.  My stress may not have been eliminated, but it could have been helped.

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Naming the Struggle

Although I do not claim my anxiety to be at the level of a disorder, I believe that there is value in naming the struggle for what it is.

Social anxiety.  I have social anxiety.

It has become cliche, but is true about so many things, that admitting you have a problem is the first step in becoming able to deal with it.  For many years, I didn’t recognize what I was experiencing.  Usually, I have had at least one or two friends.  I am a functioning member of society.  I have completed schooling, gotten jobs, and worked with some success as an entrepreneur.  Growing up, I often played piano in front of rooms full of people.  I can public speak – I’ve delivered several verbal presentations and even taught a class of university students.

However, there are many commonplace things that cause me undue fear:

  • Talking to salespeople about products that I am unfamiliar with (for me, these would be things like machinery, vehicles, soil and gravel, etc.).
  • Placing restaurant orders over the phone.
  • Eating meals with co-workers.
  • Asking clients for payment.
  • Approaching superiors at work.
  • Attending large parties or social events, especially where I have to dress up.
  • Visiting my husband’s places of work.
  • Trying to understand people with very strong accents.
  • Singing in front of others (a particularly challenging one, for someone who has chosen music therapy as a career!).
  • Having groups of people come into my home.

Again, there are other examples I could share.  But the simple act of admitting to myself that these situations make me anxious, has increased my ability to deal with them.  In doing so, I am acknowledging and validating my own feelings.  It is the difference between telling myself, “I feel fear, and that is ok,” versus “What is wrong with me??  I suck.”  (A pretty big difference, right?)

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Strategies to Cope

Yes, I’m socially anxious.  And if I own up to it, I can make a plan of how to survive the situation.  I can take a deep breath and say, “It’s ok.  I’m ok.”  I can develop thought patterns that prepare me to interact in a more relaxed way.  For example, I have come to think of other people as my “brothers and sisters.”  Not only is this biblically accurate, but it postures me to converse in a comfortable, familiar, and kind way, because I’m thinking of them as my siblings!

Other strategies that I have used include thinking ahead about things to say, or questions to ask a person, in case a conversation grows stagnant.  Allowing myself to become curious about another person is a great way to think of discussion topics.

When a get-together is planned at my house, I prepare as much food as I can in advance, and my husband helps with cooking on the day of, so I have less to think about while entertaining guests.

And perhaps, the most powerful step that I have taken to deal with my social anxiety, is striving to accept myself for who I am.  There are entire books that could be written on this topic (and probably have been), but for myself I will simply affirm: I am who I am, and who I am is perfectly fine.  One of the first times that I felt the Holy Spirit speak clearly to me, do you know what He said?

He said, “It’s ok to be you.”

Obviously, this was (and is) something that I needed to get into my bones.  Because my fears do not stem from disdain for others, or for being with them.  To the contrary!  I, like any other human being, long for genuine connections with others.  My fears are based in a (faulty, nagging, festering) belief that I will fall short.  That I will be found, sorely, lacking.

And whatever coping strategies I may learn, or use – it is only a restorative work of God, in the deepest part of my soul, that will ultimately bring me healing.

What kind of social situations, if any, cause you anxiety?  What’s your earliest memory of this?  Do you have pointers to share on how to cope?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Momming Hard

5 Little Pick-me-ups for Tired, Introvert Moms

(Yawn.)  “I’m tired!”

I say it so much, I’m tired of hearing myself say it.  And everyone around me probably is too!

Being tired is often just the normal state of being a parent.  If you’re also an introvert, parenthood can be particularly exhausting.  You need quiet, alone time to recharge your batteries.  But your children (especially the younger ones) may need to be around you basically from sun-up until sun-down.

In the past few weeks, I’ve really enjoyed the slower pace of not having to rush to the bus stop and preschool in the mornings.  I’ve enjoyed lazy mornings around the breakfast table with my boys, and countless walks and bike rides.  However, I have missed the few hours of alone time I would usually get during the week when school and preschool are in session.  Nonetheless, there are some simple strategies that I have been using to keep myself going as best as I can.

Sleep

Umm…duh, right?  But hang on there, just a second.  Like me, you may feel guilty for grabbing a cat nap in the middle of the day if your kids are sleeping or away at school.  But, does that nap leave you feeling replenished and in a better mood?  Are you still able to sleep the following night?  If you let yourself, could you fall asleep right now?

If your answer was yes to these questions, and you are an otherwise healthy person, could it be that you are functioning in a state of sleep deprivation?

I was shocked, when I became a mom, at how much sleep I had to sacrifice.  And not only for the first three months, as I was led to believe.  For years after children are sleeping through the night, parents are awoken for a plethora of reasons such as bad dreams, potty breaks, bed wetting, sicknesses, and random bumps in the night that snap you awake and into “parent mode” for no good reason at all.

Eventually, it takes its toll.  There’s a lot of catching up to do.

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given regarding motherhood was: “If you can take a break, then do.” You can’t take a break, nearly always.  Your kids need you, and you want to be there for them.  But when the house miraculously falls silent, and there is a pause in the constant demands on you, by all means – take it.

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Rest

This point may seem redundant, but it flows from my previous one.  Sleep is great when you have that luxury, but for some kids the napping stage does not last long.  Which means that your napping opportunities are cut short as well.  And even if you have one child who naps, chances are, you have another one who doesn’t or who naps at a different time.

Even if you cannot sleep, there may be a chance for you to sit down during the day and close your eyes for a moment or two.  I use screen time very deliberately with my kids.  Most weekdays, I will turn on the TV for them after lunch for about an hour (which is the time of day that I find myself hitting a wall).  After finding a safe show for them to watch, I’ll sit down somewhere and close my eyes.  Closing your eyes is key here – put away the devices, reading material, and whatever else you may want to occupy yourself with, and close your eyes.  You don’t have to sleep, but chances are you may drift into a slight doze.  I find that even 15 or 20 minutes of this will leave me feeling more refreshed than I was before.

If you don’t want to place your children in front of screens, you can be opportunistic about those moments during the day when they become preoccupied with something for a while, and take a breather then.  If my children are playing nicely in the other room, I may lie down on the couch for a while.  Or if they’ve gone outside to the backyard, I’ll sit down with a cup of tea.  It’s easy for a mom’s day to stretch to the length of 12 hours or more, in addition to being wakened at night, with no days off in between.  Don’t feel like you need to spend the entirety of those hours on your feet.

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Exercise

Ok, I don’t think there’s a better way to get a tired person want to kick you in the teeth, than to tell them they should exercise more.  At least, that’s how I feel when someone tells me so!  However, as difficult as it may be to get going on this one, there is truth to it – as long as, like I mentioned before, you are otherwise a healthy person.  It’s like a little magic bullet.  Add fresh air to the mix for bonus points.  And take your kids with you, to wear them out as well!

Since doing school at home with my son these past few weeks, I have joined in on his Phys-Ed workouts when I can.  From him I’ve learned  how to do a “burpee” and a “squat.”  I’ve braved the wild world of a push-up, and realized how much easier it was to jump rope when I was 9 than it is now.  I’ve cycled against the wind.  I’ve repeatedly chased my 3 year old around our bay on his balance bike.  Each time, it has been a lovely jolt to my system, like some kind of wonderful drug.  “Just do it,” as Nike would have you believe.  And in my unqualified opinion – the more vigorous the exercise, the better the payout.  If you try it, let me know if you agree.

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Get Creative

A writer I follow named Deanne Welsh dropped a thought into my inbox last week that caught my eye.  Its heading was: “Is creativity sustaining you?”  And I would even ask, is creativity nurturing you?  For those who love to be creative (you know who you are), it can be incredibly life-giving to have some kind of free-flowing project on the go.  However, I would caution that if you impose burdens and restrictions on yourself for the outcome of said project, you can rob yourself of the joy it would have otherwise brought.

For example, my main creative outlet is this blog.  However, if I start to worry about all the problems or weaknesses in my blog – not adhering to a consistent schedule, drifting from niche to niche, low stats, etc. – I feel discouraged and my blog becomes a burden, instead of a joy.  Now, those things can be important for bloggers who want to grow their following.  However, what I am encouraging is to not let the outcome of your endeavors (even if they flop) steal the positive effects of creativity on your mental health.  As a music therapist, I am a firm believer in “process over product.”  That is, the experience of creating something can be just as important (if not more so) than the end product itself.

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Pray

My days begin with prayer; my days end with prayer; and I sandwich it in between whenever I can.  No, I’m not on some kind of strict, religious schedule.  Prayer gives me life.  It is my connection to the One who cares for me more than anybody else.  The only One who fully knows and understands who I am and what makes me tick.

I think prayer would be awfully boring if it were a one way street – talking to someone who never speaks back.  Thankfully, that is not the case.

“…his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:4b‭-‬5 NIV

The thoughts, feelings, pictures, memories, and impressions that the Lord gives to me as I pray or read my Bible are sometimes the only things keeping me calm and behaving as a halfway decent human being.  And even if I don’t really hear Him respond, I know that He is always listening.  Intently.

I have become convinced that God has a soft spot for moms.  This topic could probably comprise a blog post all by itself, but for now, I will leave you with one of my favorite verses.  It reminds me that I am not alone in parenting my kids!

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven.”  Matthew 18:10 NIV

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So, there they are – sleep, rest, exercise, creativity, and prayer – 5 things helping me survive (and sometimes even thrive) as an introvert mom.

Are you an introvert mom?  Do you have tricks or ideas to share?  Let me know in the comments section below!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

INFP, and other things

Oh, it’s been too long since I’ve written.  I feel as though I’ve gone from one kind of busy to another.  It used to be that we’d get ourselves packed up, dressed, and ready to go nearly every morning, and rush off to school, work, preschool, church, or whatever we had planned for the day.  Now, I stay home with my two boys, make sure my eldest does his school work, and try to prevent the two of them from fighting too much.  I focus on keeping them meaningfully engaged throughout the day and squeeze in as much housework or cooking as I can.  Honestly, I prefer this type of ‘busy’ to the former.  Being a recluse comes easily to me.  It has actually gotten me thinking about how I could change my lifestyle when this is (God willing) all over.  The irony, for me, was that when the pandemic cleared my schedule, I found myself breathing great sighs of relief.  (Perhaps I have been over-committing?)  I think it’s silly that it took a pandemic for me to realize that.

Many people are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test.  I am INFP, leaning very heavily toward the introverted end of the spectrum (above the ninetieth percentile).  “Notoriously difficult to get to know,” according to one description of INFP that I read.  Although I enjoy people and can always see good in them, being with others (and especially in groups) is exhausting for me.  Sometimes I feel that the rest of the world moves too fast.  They talk fast, they walk fast, they do everything so darn fast.  Social media, especially Facebook, move at the speed of light.  I feel barraged by information, words, and images, constantly, without the time to process or think deeply about everything, the way that I would like to.  This is why, at the end of each day, I shut myself into the bathroom and run a hot bath.  Did you see that episode of “Stranger Things,” where they used a bathtub as a sensory deprivation tank?  That’s what it is like for me.

Once, at a group I attend at my church, we were sharing around the table, as we often do.  A couple of very deep questions were asked by the pastor, and we were supposed to take turns answering them.  A lump formed in my throat immediately and my head swirled with thoughts.  Did I have answers for those questions?  Well, how long have you got?  I could write a book on each one.  I glanced at the clock, and looked around the table.  A handful more people to share after me.  Only about 15 minutes of sharing time left.  That would leave me with 2, maybe 3 minutes, to say my piece.  I thought about the other ladies.  They barely knew me.  Even the ones who have known me for years…how could I make them understand?  I blinked back my tears, and drew a breath.  “I think I’ll pass,” I said, “those are very big questions.”  Yup…notoriously difficult, to get to know.

Having this personality comes with its baggage.  It’s not that we don’t want to be known.  We do.  And, we see the easy closeness that other people share, and we envy them.  We feel the pain of exclusion when not invited…but, we understand.  It’s not their fault, it’s not ours.  It just is.

Having this personality also comes with its delights.  The tiny things of life bring great joy.  The sunrise, or the sunset.  A cup of tea.  The laughter of children.  A piece of art.  The sun on my face.  The world is rich, beyond belief.

And here, on my blog, I can share thoughts as slowly as I want.  Those who want to, will read them, while those who move at a faster pace, can breeze on by.

I’m sorry for my unexplained absence.  I’ve missed reading your posts too, especially those with whom I used to interact with regularly.  I think I have brain space to blog again, but my posts may not look like they used to.  I may give up on sticking to a schedule, or a particular type of content.  My posts won’t be edited or curated as carefully anymore, I don’t think.  It’s too much of a burden right now.  These days I need to write as my children talk to me almost constantly, and I need to stop every minute or two to tend to something.  So, the blog will be whatever it will be.

But, I need my blog!  I need my pen pals!

I will try to visit your blogs in the near future too.  Please feel free to comment below; how is everyone doing these days?  I would love to hear from you!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Why You May Feel Sad at Christmas (Part 2)

In part 1 of this post, I shared about the emotional struggles that I sometimes experience at Christmas time.  I identified two possible reasons why this may happen, and gave suggestions of how to cope.  To read it you may click this link:

Why You May Feel Sad at Christmas (Part 1)

Today, I will discuss three more reasons why a person may feel sad at Christmas, along with possible coping strategies.  Perhaps you will be able to identify with some of these ideas.

3. Changes over time create feelings of loss.

As people grow older, the dynamics of a family change dramatically. There are marriages, addition of children, and deaths.  Someone in the family may have grown ill.  Perhaps people have moved away, or choose not to be involved with the family any more.  Children may have left the nest.  Divorces may have occurred.  Parents may have grown old and are unable to host gatherings in their home, so alternate arrangements have to be made.  The home you grew up in may have been sold.  Maybe you used to always get together on Christmas Day, or always had brunch, or always gave each other gifts, and for some reason this cannot happen anymore.  All of these changes over time, normal as they may be, can create feelings of loss.  Christmas just isn’t the way it used to be…and that hurts.

I would suggest that you acknowledge the loss, and give yourself permission to mourn it if needed.  You may want to read this post, which discusses how the passage of time can lead to emotional pain.

Keep those old, good memories locked away somewhere, and treasure them.  You could reminisce by looking at photos or videos of past Christmases, or putting a scrapbook together to preserve them.  If someone you love has passed on, how may you cherish their memory?  Perhaps you could make a donation in their name.  Or create or purchase an ornament to place on the Christmas tree in their honor.

And finally, don’t let your grief blind you to the good things happening in the present.  Some time in the future, today’s Christmas may become the ‘good old days’ for you or your children.  Love your people while they’re here, as best as you possibly can.

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4. Expectations and hopes may lead to feelings of overwhelm.

The holidays have been romanticized to a level of perfection that is usually unreachable.  This is very easy to be drawn into, even if you strive to keep things simple.  There is so much build-up to the various events and trimmings of Christmas and New Year’s: the baking, the cooking, the gifts, the tree, the decorations, the parties, the gatherings, the sparkling eyes of children, and the thrill of romantic relationships.  In Christmas movies and jewellery commercials, each detail comes together with absolute perfection. However, this is not an expectation that is healthy to bring into real life.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, is there something you can cut from your schedule?  Although I love Christmas baking, there have been some years when I haven’t done any of it, and just bought chocolates instead.  Last year, for Christmas Day dinner, my family and I had taco salad.  We all enjoyed it, and nobody had to stress or slave in the kitchen.

If your gift-buying budget is small, perhaps you can cut a few people from your list.  Siblings?  Nieces and nephews?  Your child’s teachers?  Do they all need gifts?  Would a simple card suffice?  If appropriate, you may want to inform them in advance of any changes: “I’m feeling overwhelmed with Christmas preparations, and our finances are strained.  I won’t be able to buy a gift for you this year.”

Thankfully, I think that children in particular can be satisfied with very little.  They usually don’t need the largest or most expensive gifts to be pleased on Christmas morning.  We’ve cut back on what we spend on our kids, and I don’t expect them to be any less happy because of it.

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5. The holidays can be physically draining.

The children are home from school, so the house is busier.  You may be travelling long distances, or staying away from home.  Get-togethers with friends and family go on for many hours, and you go to bed later.  You have additional responsibilities such as shopping for and wrapping gifts, cleaning, decorating, hosting, cooking, and baking. Depending on where you live, it may be colder and darker outside, like it is where I am.  If so, you may not get much fresh air, sunshine, or exercise.  You may consume more sweets, junk food, and alcoholic beverages than usual, while not having time for your usual self-care routines. These things, taken together, impact your physical well-being and increase your tiredness, which can significantly impact your mood.

Perhaps this is a simplified answer, but a good sleep can do wonders.  If you get a chance to grab an early bedtime, or an occasional nap, go for it!

Regarding exercise – I have found that the most difficult part of getting active, or bundling up and going outside, is getting started.  But when I do, I feel physically better for the entire day!  If the weather is nice, I may take my kids tobogganing or skating.  If I’m just too wimpy to brave the cold, I enjoy about 30 minutes of brisk walking on our treadmill.  Do what works for you, and reap the benefits!

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My little snowman.  We had our winter’s first taste of Arctic air this week.  Crisp!

And since it is potluck season, remember that healthy foods are welcome additions to table spreads that usually contain an overabundance of fatty, sugary, carbohydrate-laden foods.  Bring a tray of fruit or vegetables, and watch it be devoured!  Maybe you’ll even eat some of it yourself.

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This list, of course, is not comprehensive.  But if you are struggling emotionally, I believe there is great value in acknowledging that fact, identifying what the causes may be, and taking whatever steps you can to address them.  Even when you do these things, however, the holidays may still be stressful and difficult!  All we can do is our best, as we try to focus on the blessings in our lives.

I pray that God will give you peace this season, and infuse Christmas with the kind of meaning that circumstances and emotions cannot deplete!

With the warmest of wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Why You May Feel Sad at Christmas (Part 1)

Before heading home from a family gathering, you take a drive with your husband and kids to look at Christmas lights.  Everything’s going fine.  Suddenly, however, you are flooded with intense feelings of sadness that catch you off-guard.  You stare out your window (supposedly engrossed by the beautiful views) and hope that no one notices the flood of tears coming down your cheeks.

It’s New Year’s Eve.  The kids are in bed, and it’ll be a low-key night for you and your spouse.  Snacks from the leftovers in the fridge, maybe a glass of wine, and fireworks on the TV – if you can stay up late enough to catch them.  But for some reason, you’re having a hard time keeping yourself together.  Every 20 minutes or so, you nonchalantly retreat to the bedroom.  There you lay on the bed, cry quietly until it’s out of your system, and return to the living room…hoping your spouse doesn’t see the red rims around your eyes.

Either of these scenarios sound familiar?  They do to me, because they are personal examples!

Many people feel sad, or depressed, during the winter months.  The holidays may be an especially challenging time.  The impression I get from what I read and hear on the topic, however, is that people who have recently lost a family member or undergone a traumatic event, or who are clinically diagnosed with depression, are most prone to struggling.

I’m sure that’s true.  However, I don’t really fit any of those categories – and yet, I struggle.  Maybe you, like me, have a pretty good life.  And yet, Christmas rolls around, and it’s just hard.  Overwhelming emotions blindside you.  Or your energy is totally zapped, and you can hardly accomplish a thing.  There may be many reasons for this, as every person and situation is unique.  However, I have compiled a list of 5 possible causes, and suggestions of how to cope.  Perhaps you will be able to identify with some of these ideas.  (I will address the first 2 points today, and will share the remaining 3 next Friday.)

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1. Buried or hidden memories and feelings are brought to the surface.

The holidays are a naturally reflective time.  Another year is ending, and we may find ourselves re-living strong emotions, or dwelling on memories of past events.  To top it off, we are surrounded by music, movies, and messages that are designed to tap into tender feelings.  Music, in particular, is proven to be strongly linked to memories.  Christmas songs that you hear every year may carry you back to your past in a powerful way.  This is sometimes uplifting, but it can also be painful.

As feelings or memories are elicited, it is usually healthier to deal with and process them directly, rather than dismiss or avoid them.  My favorite way of doing this is through prayer.  The Spirit of Jesus is always present to help me carry my emotional burdens; He has never failed me – not one single time.

Some people may find it helpful to talk things through with a trusted person or counsellor.  Others may prefer to write it out in a journal, or express what they are feeling through some other creative medium.

And let us not underestimate the power of a good sense of humour, to balance all of the emotive, wistful stuff.  Is there someone who can always make you laugh?  Spend time with them (my husband is great for this).  Or put away the tear-jerkers for a while, and watch a funny movie (“Christmas with the Kranks,” anyone?).

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2. Holidays bring us into the presence of family members.

Family members bless us and give us a sense of belonging, so there may be joy in seeing them again.  However, if you struggle with an unhealthy level of comparison, you may feel less satisfied with your life after seeing siblings or cousins who seem happier, better off, or more successful than you in some way.

Also, if your relationships with family members are not healthy, family gatherings can elicit negative feelings such as anger, sadness, or anxiety.  If there is so much division that you do not see your family members anymore, Christmas is a time when you will likely be reminded of this fact.

There aren’t really any short-cuts to dealing with weighty issues such as these.  However, on the topic of comparisons, gratitude and thankfulness – focusing on the things in your life that are going well and that you are thankful for – can be helpful.  Remember that you, and your spouse and kids, are uniquely and wonderfully made.  Your lives will not be the same as your siblings’ lives.  And that is totally ok.

Even when you are going through struggles that the rest of your family doesn’t understand or appreciate, remember that God sees you.  His purpose is to work good from the trial that you are experiencing.

Regarding difficult relationships, you may find it helpful to learn about healthy boundaries.  Boundary issues may be at the root of a whole host of problems.  Click here for my past post on relational boundaries, and a suggestion of a book to read on the topic.

Otherwise, if you can think of a kind, appropriate, reasonable gesture to extend to your family members, go ahead and do it.  (Without the expectation of receiving anything in return.)  A simple greeting card?  A short phone call, email, or hand-written note?  A small gift or helpful act?  Try not to worry about the spirit in which they receive it – only the spirit in which it is given.  If possible, spread your love in some small way, as difficult as the circumstances may be.  Even if the person doesn’t receive it well, you will know that you are trying to do the right thing.

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How about you?  Do you experience difficult feelings during the holidays?  What do you think is behind them?  How do you cope?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

And I look forward to touching base again next Friday, when I will discuss 3 more possible causes for sadness at Christmas time.

Until then…Warm wishes!

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

On Life as a (Severely) Introverted Mother

“On the last day of a golden summer…”

I remember with a smile those words, which began a Winnie the Pooh video (on VHS) that I used to watch as a child.

As a youngster, the end of summer was an emotionally intense time for me – fraught with both melancholy and nervous excitement.  Though summer was over, the fall would bring new experiences, responsibilities, and opportunities.

To process these feelings, I would slip away by myself.  I grew up in a house at the end of a long country road, which diminished to a set of tracks beyond our driveway turn-off.  The only ones who ever ventured down those tracks were the farmers who owned the land where they ended, the odd vehicle that had lost its way (or was up to no good), and myself.  If I were lucky, the farmer had made a few hay bales and left them laying around.  They were challenging to climb, and a conquest to sit on.  From the top, I could see across the fields.  The pasture had a few small rolling hills, which were odd and beautiful to my prairie-accustomed eyes.

There, atop the bales, beyond my parents’ property line, I felt independent and free.  Free to think, write, or imagine anything I wanted.  I loved the solitude.

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Now, at the end of my 35th summer, I wish I could go back there.  Just for an hour or two.  I miss being able to retreat to a solitary place whenever I want or need to.  As a mom of rambunctious boys, it can be hard to deal with my introverted nature.  The inescapable, dawn-to-dusk clamour of children, as wonderful as it is, has the potential of driving me to madness.

Today I have mostly sat, drunk coffee, watched my children play, broken up fights, prepared their meals, and fetched things for them.  Somewhere in between, I put in a load of dishes and helped to pick up toys in the basement.  I read a chapter of the Bible, broken up into several sections of about 5 verses each (because of constant interruptions), and journalled a short prayer.  I have not been industrious in any way.  I’ve done the minimum.

It sounds like I’m being lazy.  But in my mind, I’m just trying to stay sane.  Sometimes when I have work projects on the go, I need to stop every 2-5 minutes to tend to something with the children.  Hours or days of this will leave me feeling frazzled, at the very least.

So every once in a while, when I feel that I’m starting to get batty, I allow myself a day of only just getting by.  I complete the necessary duties, and let the others fall by the wayside.  In between the children’s events, I attempt to settle my mind, and process my emotions.  I know that at any moment, my stillness could be disturbed – and that needs to be ok.  However, each interruption will delay my ability to switch back into “work mode.”  (I suppose this is why it usually takes an entire day.)

As an adolescent, a friend once told me that I “think a lot.”  I tried to explain by likening the process to cleaning out our desk drawers at school.  After sorting them through, organizing them, and throwing out the junk, we are able to work more efficiently.

And that’s what I’ve been doing today.  Writing this post, actually, is a part of it.  As I complete these paragraphs, I experience a sense of relief.

Can anyone relate?  Are there other severely introverted moms out there?  How do you cope?

I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

The Night the Sky had Eyes

“Has eyes,” he said to me in his lispy, somewhat garbled, 2-year-old speech.  I leaned on the side of his air mattress and peered up through the screened ceiling of our tent, trying to gain his perspective.  Tree branches arched overtop, and twilit sky shone through their leaves, producing a mottled effect.  Two or three stars began to wink as the daylight faded.

“What has eyes, honey?  The sky?  The trees?  The stars?  No, they don’t have eyes.  I have eyes, see?  And you do.  But they don’t.”

“Has eyes,” he repeated in a whisper, tilting his head.

Whatever it was that ‘had eyes,’ it was sufficiently worrisome to prevent him from going to sleep.  And so it was decided, between my husband and I, to head outside and put the fly over the tent.  The air may have been perfect for a breeze, and the sky for gazing, but we would sacrifice them to avoid having to deal with a sleep-deprived toddler in the morning.

Throughout the camping trip, it was apparent that our young son had a decidedly unique way of viewing his experiences.  On the way to the campground, the old Ukrainian orthodox churches we passed, with their onion-shaped steeples, were ‘castles.’  The distant silhouette of trees against the horizon, appearing to move backwards as we drove past, was a ‘train.’

And perhaps the most surprising event came later on, at the beach.  I was pulling him to the shore after holding him up in the deeper water, when his feet brushed against the sandy bottom of the shallows.  He immediately flew into hysterics, screaming loudly and pulling his knees to his chest.  His facial expression and the calibre of his voice portrayed a terror that could not have been simulated.

“It’s okay, put your feet down!  That’s just the shore!” I called above the clamour he was making.  However, my words, to him, were empty.  The squishy, yet firm and somewhat slimy surface he had bumped into was most assuredly, in his mind, some horrific entity.  A giant fish, perhaps.  Or a sea creature.  It was going to eat him…or worse.

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We couldn’t help but laugh about our son’s reaction to something as harmless as a sandy shore.  And yet, I wonder if I am much different.

Like a scared child, I bump up against things I don’t understand.  I imagine things that aren’t there.  I over-estimate the power that they have.

Life is terrifying.  Am I the only one who thinks that?

But a voice, like a parent, calls above my chaotic thoughts.  Though I can’t always hear Him above my own screams, He holds me up when I’m too afraid to put my feet down.

I reach for this presence, when I cannot see the end of some enormous threat.  His sight is clear, and His demeanor is calm.  He doesn’t fault me for my silliness, weakness, or even my lack of trust.  He won’t drop me, just because I act like the toddler that I am.

Who or what do you reach for when you’re afraid?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Today Can Be Wonderful

Isn’t that a cheesy and idealistic title?  If you are like me, you will have passed right by.

Naturally, my tendency is to worry, and project imagined, negative outcomes long into the future.  I will wake up in the morning and think, “What am I doing with my life?  Will I ever be able to get a job after all this time spent at home?”  I will look at my kids and wonder, “Are we messing them up?  Are they developing to their fullest potential, or do they need more – vacations, extra-curricular activities, quality time…omega-3 fatty acids??”

At the very least, I’m not one to close my eyes and ignore the difficulties of life, in favour of a whitewashed, artificial, ‘positive’ outlook.

But a friend of mine recently told me about a technique she learned from a counsellor, that she calls 3-3-3.  Very simply, it is an exercise in which you thank God for: 3 things you can see, 3 things you can touch, and 3 things you can hear.  I tried it, and my mood improved.  I felt calmer.

I had practiced intentional thanksgiving in the past: thank you for my family; thank you for my health; thank you for my coffee maker; etc.  And yes, that helped too, but I felt there was something unique about the “see,” “touch,” and “hear” component.  What was it?

I think that by focusing on see, touch, and hear, you pull yourself out of your fearsome imaginings and bring your mind back into the present moment.  Back to today.  Look around you!  And listen, and feel – all of the things you have been ignoring, because you were so busy stressing about things that have not yet happened (and probably never will).

More than likely, you will come to the conclusion that: there actually are wonderful things all around you.  And no, not every day can be wonderful.  But many of us are privileged enough that the vast majority of days can be, if we will only open up our senses.  (Maybe sometimes, it’s good to be a little short-sighted.)

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There’s a woman living on my street who has the bubbliest, friendliest personality, and the most infectious giggle, that you could ever imagine.  She’s one of the first people I met when we moved here.  She’s probably the first person everyone meets!  Because, that’s just the way she is.

After our morning chats at the school bus stop, she will often send me away with an exuberant salutation: “Have a wonderful day!”

I have often heard people say: “Have a nice day.”  I’ve grown accustomed to it.  But here she is, with the nerve to speak of a “wonderful” one!

It got me to thinking.  Could today be wonderful?

And you know what?  Most days, I wake up to a fresh pot of coffee that my husband has brewed.  To healthy, joyful children bounding around the room and climbing up on my bed.  To warm sun on my face, or crisp, cool air in my lungs.  And to many other great things that I can see, hear, and touch.

I cannot know or control what will happen in the next 10 or 20 years.  But yes, today can be wonderful.  And probably, tomorrow can be too.

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34

Do you struggle to live in the moment?  I would love to hear your perspective in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa