Got Problems? You’re in Good Company

“Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure.

  Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. 

It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and physically.”1

Life is hard, sometimes unfair, and often very much full of little & big problems that everyone eventually will face in different circumstances, and to different degrees.  Both my parents loved The Road Less Traveled, by Scott Peck, so growing up, whenever I faced problems, they had this approach to face your problems, to meet them with discipline, to know that “With total discipline, we can solve all problems.”1

That always confused me… to solve all problems… with just discipline?  I believe it now.  I’ve tested it now.  I still experience it, everyday through the choices I make to either keep problems manageable or at bay (taking care of necessary duties, chores, health, and running a household while still having a life outside it), or to let problems overtake me through general lack of discipline.

When I was working, solving problems was a wonderful part of my job – a part I truly enjoyed contributing to and actually miss everyday.  Usually all the problems that we met were not particularly huge or complicated, it was simply that they took a great amount of time to solve or complete… it truly came down to discipline.  Was I able to stay the course, keep at a dauntingly mundane, yet absolutely necessary task?  Was I able to keep coming at the same problem in efforts to view it in new and different ways in order to come up with a creative solution?

Discipline is hard because it’s painful – either emotionally (sticking to your budget by saying no to unnecessary wants…  or sitting there, doing a mundane task for hours), or physically (forcing yourself to walk or exercise, even when you know you’d rather be doing something else).  Discipline is hard to put into action, but unless you want a life full of needless problems, it is one of those things that must be accepted in life.

Some things I’ve found to be true about problems:

  • The reason why we can’t seem to solve a particular problem is usually related to not spending the necessary time needed to figure out the solution
  • We are more likely to look for an escape from our problems than to actually suffer through them in order to grow spiritually and emotionally.
  • Everyone has problems, but not everyone has the discipline to do something constructive to solve them.
  • As we age, problems certainly don’t go away, but the encouraging thing is that with each new problem, we get a new chance to alter our perspective, to learn to welcome problems as the chance to grow.

 

1 – The Road Less Traveled, A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, by M. Scott Peck, 1978.

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He Gives & Takes Away

So… this last Thursday I found out I was having a miscarriage.  I had been 5 weeks pregnant – which of course, isn’t that long, but maybe because this baby was so wanted, so planned for, it felt longer.  The whole ordeal was quite horrifying – I knew women who had had one (or even multiple), my own mother had one before she conceived me – but no one prepares you for the pain (physically), and the shock and horror.  I knew instinctively right away what was happening.

I called the doctor I’d chosen… my first baby appointment was going to be this Tuesday (I hadn’t even made it yet to the first appointment to hear the heartbeat).  The office appointment coordinator was so kind and sympathetic, but honest, she explained to me that I was “losing the baby,” and that “there’s nothing we can do right now.”  She got me in with the doctor within the next hour & a half.

In the doctor’s office, I sat calm and collected – feeling anything but that on the inside.  I felt such a mixture of emotions… anxiety, sadness, nausea, and general shock.  I was the only one in the waiting room, until a woman and her daughter walked in.  The daughter was the patient.  She was 17 and looked so young… and scared.  I thought about how life is just ironic.  Here I was, married with a beautiful boy, closing in on 30, a college graduate that has already had my first professional job, losing the baby that was planned and wanted, & there was the teen with her tired and frustrated looking mom, filling out the necessary paperwork for her daughter.  I’m amazed I didn’t envy her!  I’m not an envious person anyway, but if there was ever a time for bitterness or envy, certainly I wouldn’t have passed that test – but I did!

She looked so young… and so scared, I only felt sorry for her.  And while she would probably keep her baby and have her angry but supportive mom, she didn’t have my 10 extra years on her, or my loving supportive husband.  But the irony of us both being in the waiting room was there.  A few times I found myself wishing we could somehow switch – that if she didn’t want or didn’t feel ready for her baby, that they could somehow implant it inside my womb (lol), and she could be a free 17 year old girl again.  Those were just fantasy and wishful thoughts… they weren’t meant to be taken seriously but to play into my overactive imagination.

 

fetus week 5

Fetus at 5 weeks

 

Throughout the whole ordeal, I was never angry at God… I wept often that day… in the morning before the appointment, I prayed and cried – but what I prayed was not a pray to save the baby, but to accept and praise God even in the midst of it.  He knows best – I trust Him without reserve!  Through many things happening in my life, I’ve seen His perfect hand work things out for the best.  It amazes even me that I handled it well in that regard.

So these past few days have been filled with thinking, talking to family about it, spending time with family, mourning during the day.  Today is when I’ve promised to myself (and to my husband) that everything goes back to normal, I have so much to do and a son to take care of!  Life goes on, and there are times when people need you to be ok already, even if it is before you’re technically ready – is anyone ever really ready?

On a lighter note, I’ve found the most hilarious internet cat cartoons and have watched them with my son during this time… Warning: Simon’s Cat is addicting 🙂

And my husband has cooked some awesome food this weekend – he works so much now, he never gets to cook – but he seriously made the best burgers this weekend & some stuffed S’mores pancakes Sunday morning.  Yes, pancakes with marshmellows and chocolate inside!  Delicious.

Some quotes I’ve thought of during this time:

finnick quote

I believe in God even when He is silent

Concentration Camp in the background

Emotional Erosion

I was doing some reading of my favorite blogs this weekend, and found a beautiful piece on GOOP (Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog).  It was so strange because the night before I read this, I had a dream about soil… about being depleted vs. having rich, nurtured, complete soil.  I don’t believe in coincidences.  The difference it makes in how when soil becomes depleted, nothing can come from it anymore… there can be no more growth.  When applied to our emotional health, this analogy is brilliant. 

Enjoy this article from GP’s blog, consider it a “re-blog.”

The 1930’s is known as the “Dirty 30’s” because of the raging dust storms that ravaged much of Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle. A decade of deep plowing by farmers had displaced the native grasses that kept the topsoil in place. With the grass gone and the increased use of heavy, mechanized farm equipment, the land was fully exposed to the elements, degrading quickly and losing all of its life-giving power. When a severe drought came, the un-anchored topsoil dried out and became as fine as powder, taking to the air as the winds whipped across the open plains. What was once living, nutrient rich soil became useless dirt, devoid of any nourishing or nurturing capabilities. Starvation quickly ensued for both man and animal in this area of the country. It’s this despair that Steinbeck’s characters were trying to escape.

Inside all of us, there is grassland that needs tending with the greatest of care. It’s a spiritual ecosystem that’s completely self-contained and self-supporting, so long as we know how to farm it the right way. When we don’t have the proper tools to nurture it, the soil of our soul becomes exposed to the damaging effects of our negative life experiences. quoteIt dries up, loses its nourishing capabilities and blows away, leaving us completely ungrounded. How many people do you know who are flighty, scattered or addicted to drama? They’ve lost their resilience, the ability to nourish and nurture their soul through the ups and downs of life. Think of it this way: If lightning strikes the plains and burns thousands of acres, it only takes days before new shoots of green grass start poking through the ash. The grassland maintains its resilience and can recover from such a traumatic event because the underlying soil, which contains the nourishment for rejuvenation, was never disturbed by the surface damage. Such is how it is with the soul.

quoteSome of us are never given the tools to get through life’s traumas. In a perfect world, it’s our parents who comfort us as children, teaching us how to self-regulate our emotions.  Unfortunately, crying and anger aren’t always met with compassion, and so we learn how to repress our feelings to avoid the consequences. We teach our children—especially young girls—to be people pleasers from a very young age, choosing emotional responses that are agreeable rather than authentic.

Without proper modeling, it becomes impossible for us to navigate the difficulties of our adult lives—divorce, job loss, quoteillness, or the death of a loved one. We can’t apply compassion, empathy, understanding, and non-judgment toward ourselves because we never learned how.  Sure, we can stuff our emotions down and get on with life, but we still carry the emotional charge that’s poisoning the soil of our soul. Eventually, unresolved traumas deplete our soul’s nutrients—like innocence and understanding—and we end up living in a spiritual dustbowl of self-judgment, hopelessness, and cynicism.

quoteRenowned psychologist Wilfred Bion called this kind of existence living in an uncontained state.  Bion believed that elements of thought or emotion carry projective (male) or receptive (female) functions.  If someone is projecting a powerful emotion like anger, his state is uncontained.  He’s in need of someone who understands—who can receive that energy and contain it, completing an emotional cycle where each cancels the other out and equilibrium is restored. For Bion, the crux of his famous Container-Contained Theory is that psychic growth only happens when we can integrate this process within ourselves.

As adults, tens of millions of Americans are living in a perpetual state of uncontained emotion.  quoteTheir soul-scape is completely barren and because they can’t nourish themselves internally, they rely on external sources—illicit drugs, psychotropic medications, food addictions, crime—to do it for them. It doesn’t matter what the mechanism is: It’s always false and its effect, temporary.

I believe it is uncontained emotion that holds the secret to healing all chronic diseases, especially for women.  From an early age, parents inadvertently teach girls to deny their feelings in order to please others, and then the media convinces them to hate their bodies in subtle and insidious ways.  Later in life, we put them in a catch-22: If they stay home to raise their children, they’re holding themselves back, but if they choose work, they’re absentee mothers. We’re constantly putting women up against standards they can’t possibly meet. When you can’t be the ideal wife, mother, girlfriend, teacher, cook, church volunteer, corporate executive and activist at 20 pounds below your healthy body weight, what’s left but to silently (and subconsciously) hate yourself because you’re not perfect?

quoteI believe that this subtle, relentless, uncontained self-hatred is at the root of the autoimmune disease epidemic in women. How else would you personify a body that’s attacking itself as the enemy? The National Institute of Health estimates that 23.5 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. Even more shocking is the fact that 75% of them are women. The disparity between men and women is even worse when you look at specific kinds of autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (10:1); Grave’s disease (7:1); lupus (9:1). The occurrence of autoimmune disease is so prevalent among women that a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2000 declared that total cases exceeded the 10th leading cause of death for all women, across all categories, between the ages of 15 and 64.

Bion and I would agree that the uncontained self-hatred that gives rise to autoimmune disease needs to be contained with self-love. The problem is that most of us were never taught how to love ourselves, or we have a distorted understanding of what it means. Love affects the body in profound ways, but it’s not enough just to receive it: We must be able to generate that energy within ourselves if we are to maintain our health. To achieve this, we can’t begin at self-love but at self-forgiveness—forgiveness for not being a certain body weight, beauty type, Mother of the Year, the perfect daughter, wife, or anything else. When women let themselves off the hook, they will acquiesce into a place of self-acceptance. It is only in acceptance that we learn what love is.  When love is the nourishment we’re using to seed our soul, our lives become fertile in all areas again. There’s no need to fear the future because we know that so long as constant change is life’s nature, survival doesn’t go to the fittest, but to the most resilient—and resiliency always resides in the richest soil.”

(link to full article & blog: http://www.goop.com/journal/be/270/goop-mag-14-soul)