Friday, April 29, 2011

Spiritual Living - The Power of Prayer

I was telling a friend how much I miss the old Relief Society Spiritual Living Lessons and so I decided to try and find a way to incorporate it into my life and what better way than by blogging my own lessons I learn through spiritual living.

Even though this is really my daughter's spiritual living lesson, I was a part of it and I just really wanted to share these stories.  Here is the first one:

Several month's ago my daughter and I went shopping with my niece at Marshall's.  We found some really cute things, made our purchase and started to walk out of the store when my daughter realized that her jacket was missing.  Apparently, she had draped it over her arm and now it wasn't there.  We asked if there was anything in lost and found, but it wasn't there.  She looked back in the dressing room, nothing there.  Then we looked all over the store several times and still we couldn't find it. 

We stopped and said a prayer asking for help to find the jacket (this was a new, and really cute jacket that we had recently bought at Kohl's so we really wanted to find it).  We continued to look everywhere we had looked before again.  We looked for a half an hour and still nothing.  I told my daughter to say her own prayer and I did the same.  In my personal prayer I asked that she have an opportunity to see the power of prayer.  We started down another aisle, and she found it under one of the clothing racks.  We were so grateful to find it and me especially for her to experience an answer to her prayer.

This is the second experience that I wanted to share:

My daughter has been working on her Junior paper, which is due today.  It is part of her culminating project that she has to pass in order to graduate next year.  I have been helping her with the project by reviewing it for corrections and encouraging her when she would get frustrated and discouraged. 

Last night she was on the final stretch.  She had just finished her conclusion and then her screen went black.  We tried unplugging everything, pulling out the battery and putting it all back together several times and still nothing.  Of course, she started to freak out.  I hurried and called Mike Dempsey of Mike's Help Key who is our computer repair man.  It was about 9:15 pm and I felt weird calling late (my own personal rule is to not call anyone after 9:00 pm) but this was an emergency.  No one answered so I left a message. 

I turned around and looked at my daughter and she was crying.  I said that we needed to seriously get on our knees and pray.  I said the prayer and when I finished I told her to listen for the answer and then the phone rang.  We just looked at each other with shocked looks on our faces and then I ran for the phone.  It was Mike and he said his son could help us right then.  We drove over there immediately with her dead laptop.  He worked his magic and we came home with her documents on a memory stick (we left the laptop for them to work on later).  She finished up her paper on my computer and was done around 11:30 pm which wasn't bad considering everything that happened.  On our way home from Mike's, I had said to her that if she didn't have a testimony of the power of prayer by now, this experience should have taken her over the top!

I know these experiences aren't as amazing and profound as some people's experiences, but for my 17 year old daughter, both of these moments were very important to her.  Both of us came away from these situations knowing that our Heavenly Father truly does care about each of us and the things that are important to us, no matter how big or small.  I truly believe that the power of prayer is very real.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Breathe Strategy - Feel Your Emotions

This has been a tough few weeks for me, especially the last few days.  My son left this morning for a 2 year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  As I type this he is still on his flight to Brazil.  He left our home this morning at 7:00 am.  He caught a 10:45 am flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas, then caught the next flight at 7:50 pm and will arrive in Sao Paul, Brazil at 7:40 am tomorrow morning. 

Last night we met with our Stake President, President Rodarte, and Adam was set apart as a missionary and the moment the words "you are set apart as a full-time missionary . . ." came out of his mouth I couldn't help the audible sob that escaped from me.  Tears rolled down my checks, I could not hold in my emotions.  I couldn't believe it was official, that he was really leaving and my heart was breaking.  I let the feelings flow instead of trying to lock them inside as I would have done in the past.

When we got home all of us were feeling the emotions and for the longest time we all just sat together in silence and cried.  Then this morning when my son and husband left for the airport the tears flowed again.  My daughter was crying and was really upset so I let her stay home from school.  After they drove away, we crawled into my bed and cried together. 

In the past I would have held in my emotions, especially around my children.  I didn't want them to be sad or to worry about what I might do with my emotions.  But I have learned to feel my emotions, to breathe through them and share them.  I love this quote from Melodie Beattie's book Co-Dependent No More:

If a feeling comes our way, we feel it, acknowledge the sensation then move on to the next step.  We don't censor, we don't run from, we don't talk ourselves out of feeling it, we don't pass judgment on the feeling, we experience it, we allow the energy to pass through our bodies and we accept it as our feeling.  Then appropriately respond to the feeling.  Then we decide what, if anything, we want to do about the feeling.

Letting my son go this morning was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but sharing the sadness that I was feeling with the rest of my family made it so much easier to live through.  I believe the appropriate response to how I am feeling is to keep sharing it.  First I shared my feelings in my journal as well as my immediate family.  I also talked to several friends about how I was feeling.  But most important of all, I trust my Heavenly Father to watch over Adam for me.  Only 730 days until he is home and every moment that I am sad and miss him, I'm going to feel it, acknowledge it and let it pass through me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Basketful of Gifts

Years ago one of my neighbors was telling me about a book she was reading, "Raising Your Spirited Child" by Ross W. Greene.  She was getting some really good information to help her raise her own spirited child and wanted to share some of it with me.  She told me about a method the author suggested for dealing with behavior problems which is to divide various behaviors into three different "baskets."  Basket A includes the behaviors that you can never be lenient on such as hurting someone, being destructive to property, etc.  Basket B includes behaviors that are important, but could be negotiated.  Basket C includes behaviors that really aren't a big deal to let go of if need be.  Her son has a form of Autism and she told me that when he is having a good day they focus on his behaviors in all three baskets.  When he is having a really bad day they let go of the behaviors from Baskets B and C.

I hadn't thought about this conversation in years, but it came to my mind this morning.  As I was thinking about it I thought that I could create "baskets" of my own, but instead of categorizing behaviors I could categorize tasks.  With my Breathe Strategies, you would think that I already know what I need to do for myself to relieve my stress and move through my emotions, but for some reason following them every day is a real challenge for me.  When unanticipated things happen in my day or when I'm having a low day, all those strategies go right out of my head.  I was talking to my husband yesterday about finding a way to remember to at least do the bare minimum of these strategies so that each day I am doing something to help myself let go of emotions and stress.

This morning when I came up with the basket idea I was contemplating what I would "put" in each basket.  I was thinking that Basket C could be the tasks that in my ideal day I could accomplish.  Basket B would include things that are important for me to do, but I could move around to different days if I needed to.  And, finally, Basket A would be the things that no matter what goes on in my day I need to do them because they help me relieve my stress and deal with my anxiety and depression.

Here is what I have come up with so far as possible tasks for each of my "baskets":

Basket A - prayer, scripture reading, journal writing, connecting with spouse and children, meditation, 15 minutes of exercise (such as walking on the treadmill or doing Wii Just Dance), and one thing that I want to do that makes me happy

Basket B -  connecting with friends (either by telephone or email), household chores, church work, writing blogs, a minimum of another 15 minutes of exercise, the basic needs for running my Close to my Heart business, creating stamping or scrapbooking items and other fun activities

Basket C - appointments, home projects, extra activities for my business, service projects, additional exercise and fun activities, etc.

The important thing is that every day I do at least one thing in the emotional, physical and spiritual categories to support my well-being.  When I'm having a bad day or when my day gets really crazy, I know that if I only do the tasks in my A basket, the tasks that fall into my most basic Breathe Strategies, that I will be better off.  I realize that other days I'll be able to add in tasks from the B and C baskets.  

My husband was teasing me that now I've gone from "boxes" to "baskets."  I told him that the good thing about baskets is that generally they don't have lids.  I guess by visualizing my emotions in baskets instead of boxes, I can't hold them in, they will be free to move in and out.  And each of the Basket A tasks that I accomplish will be like giving a gift to myself, and at the end of each day I know I will have done what I need to do for myself because my basket will be full. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Overflowing with Love

When I first started therapy I was trying to explain to my husband how I felt inside.  The only analogy that I could come up with was that I was like a garbage can and I had been shoving my emotions in it for years and years.  And just like real garbage cans, there comes a point where you can't shove down any more garbage and it starts to overflow.  Like the garbage can, I just couldn't keep shoving down my emotions any longer.  It's as if my body was the garbage can, my unexpressed emotions were the garbage and I was just too full.  My body couldn't hold in any more feelings, it just didn't have the strength. 

At some point the garbage flows out freely no matter how hard you try to shove more in.  There is nothing you can do, there just isn't any more room to shove down the garbage or, in my case, my emotions.  They demand to be dealt with.  So that is what I have been trying to do, deal with past emotions and feel and move through daily feelings.

In the beginning I often wondered why I was even going through this, why couldn't I have just kept going the way that I was?  I survived for 44 years living this way, why couldn't I just keep going along the way that I had in the past?  But I realized that you have to deal with the garbage in an overflowing garbage can or it rots and festers and, just like the garbage, my feelings had been festering for years.  Until I was ready to see it, I didn't realize how those festering feelings were affecting me.  I thought I was fine, but I wasn't, these emotions were affecting my health and relationships.

I have learned that it is safer and healthier to let emotions flow and feel them instead of hiding them and pretending I'm okay.  I don't feel so much like I have festering emotions inside me as much any more and I decided it was time for a new icon.  I wanted something better and more positive to overflow.  Instead of garbage and blocked emotions, I wanted love to overflow. 

One of the things I learned is that when you are Co-Dependent you give from an empty place inside and I didn't want to do that anymore.  I wanted to give from love and to do that you need to first feel love inside.  How do you feel love inside?  You love yourself!  So whatever I came up with needed to have love flowing from it.  I thought about it for a long time, then I finally came up with a wishing well.  In my mind, I could see myself filling up that wishing well with love for myself.  Then as the well would fill up with love (I saw hearts flowing up and out of the wishing well), it could overflow with love to those around me.

I printed up this wishing well, along with some hearts, laminated them and hung them up where I could see them.  As I recognize moments when I am showing love, I hang up another heart to have a visual reminder of how I am now overflowing with love.  No more giving from an empty place inside.  No more festering emotions.  No more overflowing garbage cans. In its place is a wishing well overflowing with love. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Breathe Strategy - J.O.Y.

I previously wrote about how I found joy again (see blog entry "Breathe Strategy - E is for Enrich"), but this J.O.Y. is different.  This stands for Just Own Yourself.  So often I find myself trying to carry other people's problems, challenges, pain, etc.  This acronym is a reminder that I came up with to remember that joy is found when I carry my own problems, not other's.  As I have learned to step back and let the people I love do for themselves I see how it strengthens them.  I am ready to help if they ask me, but standing on the sidelines and encouraging them is more beneficial, for all of us.

Just owning myself is hard for me and my husband can see when I am not doing it.  Recently he was asking me about maybe needing to increase my depression medication dosage.  I countered with, "but, I've been sick, so, of course, I would be down."  But then as I thought about it, it was more than being sick, it was:  Spring Break so my daughter was home, both my husband and son had work off,  my parents were here from out of town for some appointments, numerous activities and, I have been sick.  There has been a lot going on.  But as I was thinking this morning about my husband's comment, suddenly I realized what was wrong with me, its almost as if I have been holding my breath, waiting for things to settle down.  Instead of breathing into each moment, finding some time for myself and owning my self-care, I just held my breath and waited, hoping to get what I needed some time. 

The morning my parents arrived, I woke up with a sore throat.  By the weekend I felt awful, the worst sore throat I think I have ever had.  My husband had been called in to work so only my father and son were home and I had them give me a Priesthood blessing.  I don't really remember the words, I just knew in that moment what was going on.  My body, in its own weird way, was trying to protect me.  Normally with my parents, I become the caretaker, but because I was sick I wasn't able to do that.  It was as if my body was sick to protect me from becoming my usual co-dependent self where my parents are concerned.  Instead, they were taking care of me (well, to some extent, my mom was sick too), my dad was doing my dishes and taking out my garbage.  We had some great talks about the things I was doing and learning in therapy.  I was able to enjoy the time with my parents, but not do any co-dependent caretaking.

Well, that was an improvement, I wasn't being co-dependent, but I wasn't being independent either.  Normally, every morning I have quiet time to myself where I read my scriptures and write in my journal.  My daily time to "Be still" became time to talk to and do things with my parents, kids and husband.  This isn't a bad thing, it is a good thing.  The problem was that I didn't "own" myself and take time somewhere else in my day for me that I need to remain balanced.  I wasn't taking "care" of everyone else, but I wasn't taking "care" of myself either.  If I go back to my teeter-totter analogy (see blog entry "Joy is in the Bouncing") I needed to "teeter" to spending time with my family, then "totter" to spending time with myself.  I just "teetered" so to speak and completely left out the "tottering."  There is no fun, or J.O.Y. in just "teetering" you need the "totter" as well to feel the full joy in the experience.

As I contemplate all of this, I see what my husband is seeing.  Even though my parents have gone back home, my daughter is back at school, and my husband and son are back at work, I'm still "holding my breath."  I do give myself credit for not being "co-dependent" during this time period, but I still have a lot to improve on.  I need to remember that no matter who is around, or what is going on each day, standing still and holding my breath isn't really living.  Every day I need to remember that J.O.Y. is what helps me feel balanced, move forward and breathe.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Plugged Up Emotions

One day I was reading a book called Addiction to Perfection by Marion Woodman and I came across this passage:
Our bodies have become so rigid and so plugged with unexpressed emotion that there is no room in them for creativity.  If you doubt this, think of how many toilet dreams you have - plugged toilets, overflowing toilets, toilets you can't get to, toilets in the middle of the living room, toilets with outrageous contents.

I remember thinking how ridiculous that was and then I thought , "wait a minute I have had several 'toilet' dreams over the past few weeks."  The more I thought about it, I remembered more of these types of dreams.  I had many dreams of overflowing toilets, but more often than not, it was clogged toilets.  A few days later I had a dream that I needed to throw up and ran to the bathroom where there was an incredibly small toilet and in the dream I thought how there would be no way this little toilet could handle what I felt coming up from inside of me.

I have learned to pay attention to my dreams over the last few years.  And, in particular, I know that when I dream about clogged and overflowing toilets, I have some emotions inside me that want out.  I try to pay attention to the dreams that I remember when I wake up in the morning.  I will write them down and as I write I can usually determine what the dream meant.  Sometimes I may have to check out a dream dictionary like if I'm not sure.  I had one dream that truly altered me, it was life changing and devastating at the same time.  I would like to share this dream some day, but I'm not ready yet.

Not too long after figuring out what dreaming about overflowing and clogged toilets means, I had another dream that started with a clogged toilet.  It was in the middle of a store and as I looked around, at the back of the store against the back wall was a row of white file storage boxes.  There were quite a number of them and they were all clean and white.  I knew the boxes were mine and so I started taking them out to my car which is when I woke up.  That dream bothered me for weeks.  I knew the boxes in the dream meant something, but I just couldn't figure it out.

Weeks later before a Craniosacral Therapy appointment, I said a prayer asking for guidance on what the boxes meant.  While I was at the appointment, the therapist was asking me some questions and as I answered she said, "you are so disconnected from your emotions, it's like your emotions are all boxed up."  I knew in that instant that it was my emotions I had in those boxes.  I think I've mentioned before that I have always had a problem with blocking my emotions, well, I wasn't just blocking them over the years, I was completely "boxing" them up so they couldn't be seen, heard or felt.

I told the therapist about the dream and that I now knew what the "boxes" were thanks to her intuition.  She wondered if I could pretend to open the boxes and look inside.  I couldn't do it, I was too afraid.  I was happy to imagine holding the clean, white boxes, but there was no way I was going to open them, not even just pretending.
I haven't had a toilet dream for awhile and I have since created a physical version of the boxes that you can see in this picture.  They are made out of cardstock and made from the "scrapbook in a box" pattern.  I've done a little work in them and that was very hard.  I created collages on some of the back pages and wrote how I felt as a child including all my fears and insecurities on the opposite pages. 

One day I will create more collages about how I took those fears and insecurities and carried them on into my adulthood.  My goal is to finish the boxes with how I have helped myself move past all these problems.  Until then, I just take little peeks here and there.  I had to laugh the other day as I was telling my therapist that I had my "boxes" in a safe place, in another box.  We really did laugh, my boxed up emotions are in a box.  Unplugging my emotions and letting them be out and free is definitely hard for me, but laughing at myself is a good step.