Sunday, October 26, 2014

Stress, Schmess... It's No Big Deal

It was 7:28 am when I reached for the bottle of Advil. A Monday in late October, I rode to work feeling as bleak as the leafless trees worn bare from the turbulence of the recent rough weather.

Actually, their stark appearance against the grey sky seemed an accurate reflection of my inner landscape. It is safe to say I wasn’t feeling so hot.

Now, before I explain the source of my angst, please know this is not going to be a “whine-fest.” Rather, I draw attention to these experiences as a way to connect with you, the reader.

My guess is many of you will relate to what I am about to say. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if some of you wave your finger at the screen and say, “Honey, that’s nothing!”

Regardless of where you stand in your personal perspective, my goal in telling you this story is to show how our problems have the ability to strengthen us – both internally, via our resolve, and externally, through our connections to each other.

So, with that in mind, let me explain what had my panties in a bunch that day.

Some of the issues were simple. That morning I overslept, started my day rushing around, and was late to work. In addition, I hadn’t slept well and was feeling the aches and pains associated with the combined effects of a poor slumber and the onset of mild aging. On that same note, I was frustrated with my appearance. In the last year or so, I had added some extra, stubborn weight which I hadn’t been able to shake. My clothes weren’t fitting like they used to and I was frustrated by a persistent lack of energy that prevented me from getting any regular exercise. In a nutshell, I just felt yucky.

Some of these issues were a bit more complex. These included financial worries associated with personal obligations and college tuition for my children, stressors within the dynamics of family relationships that threatened to compound themselves with the approaching holidays, and mounting responsibilities resulting from the juggling of a variety of different tasks associated with my house, my career and my future. Overall, these situations made me feel anxious.

Still, one issue – the major one – had me completely out of sorts because it was something over which I had no control. That morning, I knew my long day at work would be followed by an even longer evening at the local funeral home attending a service for a friend who passed away quite unexpectedly. This was the third unexpected death I had experienced in as many months, and I was struggling to wrap my head around the ‘why’ of it all. If truth be told, this was not just about my friend’s death. For me, this was about accepting the fact that there are just some things in life over which we have no control. The more I tried to ignore this topic of mortality, the more tension I felt all over my body.

 You would think at my age (that’s 47, but let’s keep that a secret, okay?) death would be something over which I would have a better handle. But it is just not the case.  Actually, these three deaths had really rattled my cage and left me feeling emotionally and physically unsettled.

Yes, as I grabbed that bottle, I was hoping against hope those little green caplets would be the elixir by which my exhausted body and soul could find peace. But that was not to be the case. I knew deep down, that all the Advil in the world could not do battle with those yucky, anxious and unsettled feelings.

That is because I knew the reasons for my maladies sat at a level no pill could ever reach. The prescription I needed to ease my discomfort had to come from a much more powerful place – a place of reasoning that could only be found within.

In this month’s A Fool’s Paradise, we get a good look at the Justice card (Major Arcana 11). Among her many attributes, we see that Justice is a conduit of balance – both internal and external. She reminds us that external balance is the direct result of our internal peace. It is not the other way around.

Logically, I already know this fact. But, when caught up in the issues of every-day life, this lesson can be difficult to apply.

As I reflected on the instability around me that morning, something buried underneath the distraction of this chaos began to surface. It was the realization that I would never be able to find peace by attempting to control my outer world. Doing so is tantamount to playing a real-life game of Whack-A-Mole – constantly waiting to pounce on the next problem.

Instead, I was reminded that true peace comes from the self-trust and inner knowledge that we already possess the skills needed to maintain balance and peace in our lives regardless of what the external world sends our way.

By the time we hit mid-life, one starts to realize life does not always work out as planned. While I could hope, because I worked hard and am ‘good’, that everything would be all sunshine and lollipops for me, that thinking is not very realistic.

The truth is we are here to experience all facets of life on this physical plane – that means the good, the bad, and the ugly. If everything went smoothly all the time, our souls would never evolve.

These, the lessons of this life – like the idea of the Justice card – remind us that the only thing we can control is our response to the circumstances and not the circumstances themselves. Instead of panicking in the midst of instability, we are better off asking what we can learn from these situations and how we can grow.

So, the next time I feel yucky, anxious and unsettled, I am sure I will still reach for the Advil. Hey, I am only human after all. However, I won’t expect too much from those little green pills. At best, I will hope they provide enough relief so my pain fades and my head clears long enough to allow me to regain an internal balance and an understanding of the lesson life is offering me at that particular time.