I had a rough week this week.
No real rhyme or reason, and specifically, the things I could say about what made it a terrible week are nothing that most people would consider “earth-shattering”. When I reflect on what contributed to my sadness, my anger, my anxiety, and my heartache this week, they really don’t matter in the grand scheme of life. They aren’t much compared to some of the horrific circumstances that are plaguing someone else. But I’m not someone else. I’m me. A unique, individually designed human being that God created. So I believe that He cares. However trivial someone else may think my frustrations and challenges are, they are personal to me. And I believe that a God that knows the very number of hairs on my head cares about the head, the heart, the body and soul of each one of his individual creations.
In my despair, I poured out my worries to an extension of God in my life: my priest.
She told me, “First, you must take care of yourself. Pray and meditate. Breathe. Scream at God. Spend time with nature. Renew yourself. Pray for the courage and strength to get through each day.”
And it is in those simple things that I do find renewal. And peace. And hope.
Take care of myself. Part of the reason I have been in such a down state is because I have not properly done that lately. I have been lax about what I put in my body, made no time for working out a couple of days this week. When I neglect my own health for the sake of what’s convenient, I always pay for it, one way or another.
Pray and meditate. I wish my prayer life was strong. But it’s a lot like exercising in that it requires discipline. Prayer and meditation together require stillness. And stillness is hard, so hard for me. I have been in perpetual motion since I was a child. It’s very, very difficult for me to make myself be still, and drown out distraction, and focus on higher things.
Scream at God. Ha. I have done this a lot over the last 18 months or so. It sounds so disrespectful to even say that it’s an option. But I am certain that He does not take offense at our limited understanding and only looks at us as we would look at a tired, overstimulated child, saying, “There, there. Abba loves you. Come let me hold you.” Sometimes we just have to throw our fit. Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we don’t want to stamp our foot and say, “But it’s not FAIR!”
Spend time with nature, renew myself. This morning, I brought my coffee outside and sat on my patio. My first inclination was to pick up my phone, scroll through the news, through Facebook. See what was happening in the world. Then I remembered my priest’s words. I put down my phone. I looked around. It’s a cloudy, cool morning. The last day of April. The grass is getting so green. I breathed in the fresh air. Noticed the vivid colors of my beautiful flowers. Heard the multitudes of birds. Amazing how even a few minutes of nature can center a person. Renew us.
Pray for the courage and strength to get through each day. Jesus himself taught us to pray for our daily bread. And I don’t think he meant literal bread. He lived here. He knows the struggle of humanity. Of trying to stay compassionate when you want to just ignore, of loving our neighbors, and our enemies, of putting one foot in front of the other. He knows. And even HE had to pray. All the time He prayed.
I try to live in the here and now. But my future-minded self often sabotages me.
My daughter is ending her elementary years. Each and every day, she grows up a little more. And she’s watching me. Emulating me. And that’s a lot of pressure. Especially when I don’t ever, ever want her to repeat my mistakes. Settle for less than her full potential. Stop chasing after her dreams. But at the same time, I know that if she can discover a devout and true faith, marry someone who is her best friend and loves her unconditionally, and know each and every day that she is surrounded by love, that would not be settling. That would be a discovery of her true potential: to love and to be loved. To appreciate the little things that really do make up the big things in life.
I had a rough week last week. But it’s over. It’s a new day. One with no mistakes in it. And there is opportunity. There is hope. There is love. And if I fail to embrace it this day, I have only myself to blame.
Our choices make us who we are, more than our abilities, our personalities, our circumstances. So the last bit of priestly wisdom I focus on is the most simple, yet most complex of them all: Breathe.
When we take a breath, our bodies are doing complicated and intricate activities. Just to keep us alive so we can take another breath. And with each breath, we have an opportunity to choose joy or fear, hatred or compassion, hope or dread.
With this breath, I choose joy.
With this breath, I choose compassion.
With this breath, I choose hope.