Category Archives: Stress

A Cautionary Tale

Three days ago, my computer locked up. This was a problem because I was in the middle of posting grades for my university students, and my impotence with the situation sent me into a dither. Thank God for the Geeks, who found the problem after a quick diagnostic. I had a simple software incompatibility. They fixed me and I’m back in business. Grades were posted on time, thanks to my dear friend Ron, who loaned me a laptop with all the software I needed and understood. But what if Ron hadn’t been available? What do we do when we’re suddenly without computer? No calendar, no ability to work, no email, and a not-exactly-current backup.

Fortunately, my tale ends well, and I’m making plans to prepare for the next time this happens, for surely it will happen again.

But let me tell you another story.

In September, Al and I went on a cruise. We made it to the cruiseport to check in well ahead of time, only to find 2,000 people sitting in chairs, waiting. The cruise computers were down. We waited three hours before being allowed to board. Needless to say, everybody was low-blood-sugar testy, as we all anticipated going aboard for lunch. Fast forward a delicious ten days, and it’s time to leave.  We get to the airport and the airline’s computers were down. This delayed our flight. We get to Chicago, to Immigration/Customs and guess what? Computers were down. This made us late for our connecting flight. We race to the gate that is listed on the big Departure board. The flight has already boarded, but the gate attendant opened the door for us and let us race down the jetway to the plane, but someone was sitting in our seats!

Guess what? This plane was going to San Francisco, not Portland. The computer on the Departure board had it wrong. We had to run, again, to a completely different concourse to catch our flight, which was, conveniently enough for us, late.

We got home all right, and against all odds, our luggage arrived with us. The whole thing has now become a squirmy memory of difficulty in traveling, particularly international travel. But more than that, it seems like a portent of events to come. A very squirmy thought indeed. And that was just one day of travel for two people.

We are horrendously dependent on technology. This in itself is not a bad thing, except that I expect that we’re horrendously unprepared for an internet meltdown. This country, and perhaps the entire world would momentarily grind to a halt.

Would that be a bad thing? Maybe not, unless you’re stuck at O’Hare airport in Chicago. Or worse.

It’s worthwhile to give a thought to our personal dependence on this technology.  I’d love to hear your conclusions.

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The Tao of Yarn

Anyone who knows me knows that I knit. In fact, I’m kind of a knitting maniac. Not a day goes by without yarn handling of some sort. I make yarn, spinning it out of beautiful, silky fibers. I knit garments and things. Warm things for children and old people, fashionable things, utilitarian things, things of beauty, filled with the peace that I feel when I’m knitting.

For the last two years I’ve been knitting and/or spinning twice a week at a yarn shop in town, Textiles A Mano, run by Laura Macagno-Shang, a delightful woman of amazing expertise and artistic talents.  Inspired by her and the other spinners and knitters, my knitting has gone from mundane, meat-and-potatoes knitting to creating incredible laces, intricate cable networks and dozens of warm things for the Relief Nursery, a local charity that helps out parents and their children from newborn to six years old.

Most of the things I knit are given away to family, friends, or charitable organizations. I keep a few special things, of course, but it seems as though the minute I cast on a project, a person comes to mind and I begin to think about that person, meditate on his or her situation, and pretty soon that warm garment becomes first a thing of comfort for me and then a thing of comfort for the recipient. But this is not a blog post about what a great knitter I am. It’s about how we can all do little things to enrich a life.

Something as simple as a warm “chemo cap” for those going through treatment. Something as simple as a pair of baby booties for a friend’s new grandson. Something as easy as a set of felted coasters as a wedding gift. These are not items of great value, but I believe that they send good, healing heart-energy into the universe that is multiplied over and over and over again. When we give gifts from the heart, from our creativity, we affirm the recipient’s worth, we spend time in creative contemplation, we engage in constructive prayer.

And that is always a worthwhile endeavor. It adds love to the planetary consciousness.

What can you do today to make the life of a loved one — or even an acquaintance — better?

 

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Filed under Beauty, Joy, knitting, peace, Prayer, Social Consciousness, Spirituality, Stress

All About Stress

I read some interesting things about stress yesterday.

First, it shortens your life. Duh.

But the interesting thing this report said is that your body constantly lives in the now. If your mind lived in the now, there would be no stress, no conflict, no tension.

I’ve always thought that we control our own level of stress, but I’ve never considered it to be this simple an equation before. If my mind is too busy thinking about what just happened or what might happen, then I feel stress, as my body is trying to pull me back to the present moment, which is where I ought to be anyway, paying attention and appreciating my life. The further into my history I dwell, or the further into the future, the more stress I feel.

Knowing the source of the stress/tension should make it easier to correct.

Another reason to live in the now.

In gratitude.

One day at a time.

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Filed under Discipline, peace, Possibilities, relationships, Spirituality, Stress, Twelve Steps

Too Busy

I’m too busy.

A variety of things have converged on my schedule for the last three weeks and for the next three. This six week period is the busiest time I can ever remember. This is when my training of “one day at a time” really comes in handy.

But really. What does “too busy” mean? Too busy to do what? To meditate? I make time for that. To appreciate my husband, my home, my health, my life? I make time for that. To work in the garden, to play with the dog, to buy groceries? I make time for all those things. To have lunch with my girlfriends? To read? To study? I make time for those things, too.

When I say I’m too busy, what that means is that I busy out my schedule just enough so that I don’t have time to do the things I find most distasteful or inconvenient. I don’t enjoy bookkeeping chores, so I put those off until it becomes a project, and then it looms larger and I would rather kill the beast than to have the bulging file folder stare at me a single minute longer. There are other things I don’t particularly enjoy, and my excuse is: “I’m too busy.” But that’s no excuse at all.

Except for right now, of course. Right now I really am too busy, but there is an end date to this crazy time, and I swear upon all that is holy in my life, that I will never let my schedule control me the way it has these few weeks. I don’t like what it does to my mental health, or my physical health. I tend to not exercise (low priority…). I make mistakes, and then I have to clean up after myself, adding more stress and using up more daylight.

I heard the other day that if you want to live in the material world, you have to speed up, and if you want to live in the spiritual world, you have to slow down.

A friend sent me a link to this fabulous timer. I’ve downloaded it to my desktop. It serves either as a timer or as a random reminder. Every morning I set it to go off randomly every 7 to 15 minutes, and when the gong sounds, I sit back, close my eyes, and take a moment for myself, to remember that I am a beloved child of God, no matter what. This helps slow me down and reminds me of what’s important.

Are you too busy? Or is that just a good excuse?

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Filed under peace, Possibilities, Spirituality, Stress, time

Back Amidst the Noise

Too much noise. Too much stuff.

That’s what I concluded after two days of silence.

It took a good four hours to still my chattering mind, but after a full day of silent meditation, reading, knitting, thinking, praying, I had a very interesting night, of not tossing and turning, but just gentle contemplation and quiet resting. A storm raged outside, so I was snug in my little lakeside cabin, feeling grateful and calm. Sometime, apparently, I fell asleep, because when I awoke, it was morning, and I felt calm and refreshed.

I took a long walk in the weird storm aftermath, and watched the turbulent surf. Then I came back to town, met Al at his jobsite and broke my silence with an “I love you.” Then we went to lunch and talked about how to bring more silence to our lives, and how to simplify so we have room for more quiet, more calm.

The more stuff we have, the harder we have to work to maintain it, insure it, worry about it… you get the idea. The less stuff, the more peace. Enough should be enough.  

I read three slim books. Inviting Silence, Stillness, and Listening Below the Noise. All were excellent. Inviting Silence reminded me that it’s difficult to hear the voice of God amidst the din; Stillness talked of enough being plenty, and too much is what makes us noisy; and Listening Below the Noise taught me that nothing is so important that it can’t be addressed the following day. In nine years, the author never missed a day of silence, which she takes on the first and third Monday of every month. Everything else can wait.

I have plenty of solitude in my life; I’ve long known how my soul needs solitude. But silence is new to me. No radio, no music, no talking… it was refreshing, and made time for good reflection. I had many things to ponder.  With a clear, calm mind, many of those decisions that have to be made are not really decisions at all, as the solutions are obvious.

Bottom line: I will make room for silence in my life on a daily basis. I don’t need to go on a retreat for it, I just need to make it a priority. And I will, because the gifts therein are worthwhile.

If you want to do a silent retreat, I suggest: 1. Have an intention. 2. Make a plan. 3. Bring activities. 4. Be open to whatever happens.

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Filed under peace, Possibilities, Spirituality, Stress

Dealing with Anxiety

Fear of the unknown is the worst. Well, it’s really the only fear there is. If we knew what was around the next corner, unless it was life-threatening, there wouldn’t be anything to fear. But this not-knowing…

It seems like our lives are always in the hands of someone else: a boss, a partner, an application, a teacher, a diagnosis, the weather. Wondering how they (or it) will affect our lives while we stand by helplessly watching and worrying, is the stuff of anxiety. That’s silly, isn’t it? To worry about things over which we have no control?

In fact, I have to continually remind myself that I have little control over anything. My attitude is the only thing I really have control over, and I’m not entirely in charge of that, either.

Right now I’m worrying. I have anxiety. It’s not life or death, but it’s important to me, and it’s out of my hands, and I am absolutely powerless to do anything but fret.

What a waste of time and energy this is. 

I’m going to go to my quiet place and spend some time in contemplation. I’ll try to reason my way out of this. 1. What’s the worst that could happen? 2. Is the person into whose hands this has been given competent to handle it? 3. How important is this, really, in the greater scheme of things?

The answers to all of those questions are obvious and make my worrying seem silly, yet they did not entirely alleviate my stress. 

Perhaps it is merely a rhythm. Perhaps we need time to be stressed out so we appreciate those times when life seems to be running smoothly. It’s the yin and the yang. The darkness and the light. There is no joy without a little grief. There is no spring without the winter.

Maybe I need to contemplate this instead of dwelling on my uncertainty. Maybe I need to appreciate this time of doubt, knowing that it is temporary, and there will be more confidence and a good lesson learned on the other side.

I’ll work on it, because today, I can do little else.

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Filed under disappointment, dreams, goals, Stress

Two Keys to My Kingdom

Many years ago I read an essay that said, “If you have more than two keys on your key ring, your life is too complicated.” At the time, my key ring was so heavy I was afraid it was going to damage the ignition of my car.

Today, for the first time ever: Two keys. One for the house and one for the car. 

And I have to say, my life is a lot less complicated.

I’ve had keys to storage lockers (the last one surrendered this afternoon), to my mother’s home, to post office boxes, to other peoples’ houses, to other vehicles, on and on and on.  Lots to keep track of. Lots of responsibility. None of it necessary. The only other key I employ on a regular basis is for my bicycle lock, but I keep that in my bicycle ditty bag. It doesn’t count because it’s not on my key ring.

Another indication of a life too complex is the amount of mail that arrives on a daily basis. There was a time when it took me an hour a day to process the mail. If I left town for a ten-day writing conference or retreat, I had ten hours worth of mail waiting for me when I got back.

Made me want to not come back.

Today’s mail brought one bill and an advertising flyer.

A life simplified.  Nobody owns me any more.

And because I don’t have all that flurry of questionably meaningful activity and responsibility, I have the time to concentrate on the important things. Study. Family. Leisure!

How many keys on your keyring? What would you have to give up in order to get down to two?

It’s a worthy goal.

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Filed under goals, Joy, peace, Possibilities, Stress, Symbols, time