Saturday, July 2, 2011

Let's See---Stress or No Stress


I was just reading an excerpt from Stress is a Choice by David Zerfoss.  In it he states that sitting in church one Sunday, the minister spoke about life being made up of a series of choices.  That comment made him realize that his life, with all of the hectic schedules and activities, was a choice that he had made and was continuing to make.  He had chosen a life of stress.

Wow!  Why would anyone choose a life of stress?  Well, they wouldn't, if they really thought about it.  No one wants to live their life running from one thing to the other, not really.  No one wants to lay in bed at night, dwelling on this issue or that problem.  NO ONE!  But I would venture a guess that there are a majority of the people, in the United States in particular, who do just this.  Instead of laying down in their bed ready to relax and sleep peacefully, they've rushed all day long to accomplish all of the things they just must do, finishing  one last laundry load or work assignment, just before they fall into bed and finally they lay there thinking through tomorrow's schedule and all of the musts for the next day.  Then they complain because they couldn't get to sleep or they didn't sleep well. 

We act as if there is a big timepiece ticking away in our head and our life has become this big game of Beat the Clock.  We rush and rush from this to that, trying to do EVERYTHING and feeling as if we're accomplishing NOTHING.  We're less and less satisfied with our lives and find more and more people opting out of their jobs, their marriages, their entire families because they just don't feel fulfilled there.  If they could just find a new spouse, or a new job, or a new city in which to live, they would be so much happier!  But what they discover when they make those changes, is that the same issues that made them so unhappy in the old life, have just followed them to the new one.

Perhaps it wasn't the 'stuff' in the old life that was the problem.  It's just a thought, but maybe the problem was within themselves, in their choices.  We all know people who have spent the majority of their lives moving from one place or person or job to another and still can't seem to find the happiness they've looked so hard for.  No matter where they are or who they're with, there is still something missing. 

Some try to fill this void with things, like the one with the most 'stuff' at the end will win some big prize.  Some try to fill the void with travel and moving from place to place, again, as if the one who's done the most wins.  Some have spent their lives jumping from one job or career to the next, hoping that this will be the one that will finally fulfill that longing inside.

These "quick fixes" are similar to others that we may have tried:  alcohol, drugs, casual sex, know their names.  They don't solve the problem, but they provide a temporary 'fix.'  The problem is, you need more and more of these to feel better.  What started as a beer or two, has become an entire evening of drinking with friends.  What began as a one night binge, has now become an extra hundred pounds.   It is not for lack of searching that these folks are lost. Perhaps it's because they're looking too hard.  Maybe the answer was right there, within them, all the time.

We either learn to slow down and examine our choices because we realize, one day, that we're spinning  our wheels but we've not gotten anywhere, or because our bodies force us to.  We have heart trouble or cancer appears or mentally we just can't cope anymore.  Take a look at the number of people using anti-anxiety medications today.  In one way or another, we know this isn't working and we must make some changes.  If we do not, we will 'work' ourselves to death, literally.

It's when we slow everything down, that we begin to see more clearly and to understand.  It's not the giant leaps that move us forward, it's all the little tiny baby steps that make progress.  When you slow down, you're able to see the choices that you have made and also the choices that you could have made.  Remember, what you focus on, you get more of, so when you're focused on the next big thing, you're missing all of the little things that could provide the joy and love you've been looking for. 

There is an older movie that I first watched shortly after my divorce.  Something to Talk About had two of my favorite actors, Julia Roberts and Dennis Quaid.  If you haven't seen it, they are a couple with a young daughter living life, doing all the things they are supposed to do.  Just a few minutes into the movie, Julia's character catches Dennis's character kissing another woman on the sidewalk in the town where they live.  She finds him later in a bar with a group of friends and this woman, and in her nightgown, makes a big scene for all to see.  She then moves home to her families' horse farm and begins an examination of not just their marriage, but her own life, and she discovers that they both have become everything they swore they would never be. 

It's a funny, thought-provoking movie that seemed very timely to me, given my circumstances.  It made me think of all the things my new husband and I had promised each other and it made me consider how we had gotten so far from those promises.  It is so easily done.  We are so quickly swept up in the current of the world to believe that there is something bigger and better out there, if we just keep looking, when, in reality, if we would just stop and take a look at what is right in front of us, generally, it's pretty darned good. 

Stress is a choice.  Certainly, life throws things at us that can cause us to be stressed.  They are unexpected and they hurt tremendously, but how we face them is a choice.  And that choice begins in the decisions we make each day.  Will we choose the next big thing, or will we slow things down and examine the possibilities? 

I waited quite a few years for my son.  Becoming pregnant was not to be for me and my husband and we decided to adopt, also a long process.  So when our son finally came home with us, I wanted to cherish every moment.  It was then that I began to re-examine all the things I thought I wanted and I began to change my priorities a little.  I loved my work but it had to take a back-seat to him.  I realized that my time with him was short-lived.  Before I knew it he would be gone from my home and I would have all the time in the world to continue my other work.  Now that he is almost at the second decade of his life, I am so happy that I chose to be with him and to share so much in his first years of life.  I have very few regrets about my choice to spend that time with him.  I have many friends who are not able to say that.  I'm not saying they made the wrong choice.  For them, at the time, it must have been the best choice, but as they look back they wonder and they are sad.

I was visiting with a friend yesterday.  For many weeks now, we have been preparing and waiting for the flood that we knew would come from the release of water in several reservoirs to the north.  Yesterday, her home was consumed by the waters.  Their farm is not there anymore.  She was, of course, sad at the loss of the place that had been in her family for many generations before her, but she also listed all the good things:  they had time to prepare, the wedding that was intended for this year had been moved up and was done last year, her family reunion (always held at the farm) had been moved earlier to several places that would be drier and safer.  Her list went on and on.  Instead of choosing to focus on what she had lost, she was choosing to find some good things.  She understood that it was and is a choice.

Whether or not you are stressed is up to you.  I have people tell me every day that they haven't any choices, but when they stop, even if it's only for a short time, they begin to see that, in reality, they had many, they were just moving to quickly to see them. 

What will your choice be?  Stress or no stress?  You get to decide.

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