Parker Palmer’s “The Courage to Teach” introduces the idea of thinking in terms of paradoxes instead of polarities by embracing conflict and ambiguity in our lives. To me this brings to mind my chaotic life. I am always looking to calm this. Calm in the midst of chaos. How is it possible? It is one of the goals (at least for me) of yoga – learning to remain calm while parts of your body are stretched or burning – that can be carried into your life.
But, like most of my yoga goals, it is a work in progress. One step forward, two steps back as I am met with new challenges to my body and in my life. Sometimes as we become stronger and ready to take on new challenges, we see things that we didn’t realize were already there (we just weren’t ready to handle them yet). I often find that as I practice yoga, poses that once seemed easy become more difficult because I’ve been able to adjust a certain way or extend my body farther.
I also feel like in my life I’ve become better at managing more things going on, better able to let go of small stuff, better able to accept what I can’t change and trust the universe. And for the most part things, though they can be difficult, seem to hum along. But, then sometimes everything seems to go to complete shit. You know, like when everything happens all at once. For me, this can take the form of a very sick kid (and because I have a child with autism this is often a kid who can’t tell me what’s wrong) and while I’m trying to figure out a way to fix this or help this or schedule a doctor’s appointment or whatever, I have a huge project at work come up and then because I have a sick child and was at the doctor all day I have to work late to get it done on time. Inevitably it will be a night that my husband has to work and we have no childcare, so I’ll need to watch them and then go to work super late and I’ll come home exhausted. Of course, because I have a sick child I won’t get any sleep, so I’ll be completely useless the next day, unable to function at my job, with my kids, keeping up with the housework, etc. I will also have very little patience (because of the stress and lack of sleep), so I’ll snap at my husband or my other children and everyone will be upset as well. So, by the time everything goes back to normal (sleep-wise and health-wise), I’m left with a massive pile of laundry, dishes, email, and work-work to do. By the time I catch up with that, it seems there is another crisis.
So, what to do? I don’t really have the answer, but I’m working on it. What I do know is that when we have a difficult situation that we encounter we need to decide if we are going to accept it or change it. Most people think that the latter is impossible, and this isn’t usually the case. It would be really easy for me to say that there is nothing I could do. I need my job for financial reasons and for insurance, and that because of medical needs we don’t really have any money left over – so it is what it is. I could accept that there is nothing I can do about this pattern which will lead to stress and likely have health implication, as well as negative impacts on social interaction, career advancement, being an effective parent, etc.
Why do we think like that? I think (at least for me) it is because change is scary. Change is risky (and if we fail we’ll be even worse off than before). But since it can also lead to awesome things, I’ve been trying to be very cognizant that I can create meaningful change and be successful. I’m trying to be open to new ideas and available paths and my intuition as to how I can lessen my stress and shift my focus to something more fulfilling and less time consuming.
For me, this has meant an attempt at turning the health research that I do on a regular basis into a career (which I am still working on and will take a few years). If this works out I’ll have more time with my family and I’ll be making money doing something I like and am passionate about. I had to look at other options and get rid of the notion that I’m stuck, that I’m a victim of circumstance, or that I have no control over my life or happiness. It will mean more work in the short term, an initial investment of time and money, and likely a huge pile of laundry, but if I can accomplish this it will be totally worth it. And if I don’t, I’ll know I tried and gave it my all.
But, in the meantime, I have to find ways to cope with ongoing stress. So, I am grateful for the relationships I have – great friends who are always there, a wonderful husband, and truly great children. I try to remember that in the greatest moments of stress and exhaustion. I try to remember that as long as I have those relationships, the other things (and possible loss of them) don’t really matter. I remind myself that it is okay to use one of my 50+ accumulated sick and vacation days. I take time for yoga, prayer, and meditation. I ask for help if I need. I am also grateful for caffeine in the morning and wine in the evening, and I let myself have them (because some days they are the thing that I looked forward to). And I also have a truly massive pile of laundry.