I've been making notes for this topic for quite some time. For several weeks now I've come across objects that meant a lot to me. At least, they used to mean a lot to me. I began to wonder why I was hanging on so tightly--even to broken mementos. My original concept was "letting go" which implies the release of non-essential holding/then relief. Last week I recognized a twist which alters the exercise and affects the results. The first scenario seems slightly negative. Why not a creative approach? How about making room or creating space to achieve a fruitful outcome?
The end of school is an easy time for a test. Changes are built into our schedules in the form of fewer obligations and longer, warmer days. Last year at this time I first considered ending my youth orchestra. Consuming much of my time for the past six years, the group was straining my resources. Membership and funding were down significantly last season. I asked myself a lot of serious questions but the crucial one was, "what would my life look like without it?" After deciding to suspend operations until January, another opportunity came out of the blue. It didn't take long to realize that working for someone else teaching elementary orchestra was more rewarding. I closed one door; another one opened.
There are physical ways to create space. Spring cleaning is a time-honored method for freshening a stagnant home. The change from winter to summer means it's time to put away the bulky boots and sweaters and haul out lightweight shorts and sandals. A new hairstyle or color might also make you feel lighter than air. There are also emotional ways to create space. The main one is….
Rest. Slowing down is a great method--if, you can do it. That's a big "if" for me. Orchestras, classes, commitments and students had wrapped. I had an opportunity to fine tune next season's workload and consider changes. This was my time to take a closer look at my choices. I should have had the time--instead I filled my schedule with exercise, errands, ...stuff. I realized I was spinning my wheels just as fast but with different tasks. In other words, I'd been running away from my breathing room and wasting precious time.
Too bad I had to figure this out the hard way. Instead of simply resting my body took over. Colds, back pain, foot pain--all literally knock you off your feet making sure you slow down. Apparently I really needed space because last week I injured my foot on a run. After the initial frustration and considerable pain I wondered if this was just what I needed. Fight it or accept? Continue to clutter my head or be alone with my thoughts? Now off my feet for a week and a half and counting there's time to soak in Epsom Salts and journal and think. I created space and now I have the space to create.
How do you cope with life's ups and downs? It can be a tremendous challenge to stay on track when you feel low. Through several years of trial and error I've developed my own personal tool kit of strategies. Coping strategies come into play for me when an entire month is over-scheduled or when I'm hurting from disappointment or loss. Wouldn't it be great if we could teach our kids some tools to help deal with the tough times they'll face now and as adults?
Here is my basic set of tools:
Take Care of Myself
Ask for Help
Be Gentle. This is number one on my list because it's the toughest for me to remember. When you live by the calendar and the schedule and the clock it's easy to push yourself too hard. And that's precisely why we need extra special self-care. For me this can mean anything from closing my eyes and taking deep breaths to taking the time to sit down and eat slowly. In the smallest way I try to slow my pace. In addition I focus on the voice inside my head and switch my internal soundtrack to a more forgiving channel.
Take Care of Myself. A recent addition to my tool box is separating my "want to do" list from my "should" list. This category also includes a few details that assure life is running smoothly in spite of any outside chaos. I regularly stock up on healthy foods so I have good choices available at home, in my handbag and in the car. Often I'll make a big pot of stew that I may end up eating all week. And I make sure I have a couple of fool-proof outfits in flattering colors clean and ready to go. That way I know I'll look better than I might feel.
Get Outside. There's nothing like taking a walk to keep me quite literally grounded. I may not always have enough time to work out or I may not even feel like exercising--but I can usually find the time to take a short walk or sit on the deck.Being outside helps show us where we fit in the world. While walking I can look down and see the tiniest beetle; then look up and see the expansive mountains--and know that all is well in the universe.
Ask for Help. This one has also been hard for me to learn. I started small--my journal is full of little prayers asking,"may I have help with that?" What assures me is I always receive an answer. After loads of practice asking God, now I reach out to people too.
Be Creative. Stress and loss and pain feel destructive. When I direct that negative energy towards creating I gain a positive outlet. For me, creativity can be small like placing wildflowers in a vase or bigger, like making a shrine of mementos and photos. One way I multi-task my coping strategies is to make soup--I'm creating and taking care of myself at the same time.