Monthly Archives: January 2013

mental health

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When you have small children or live overseas or live overseas in a hotel for 5 weeks before you fly 28 hours around the world with the small children or are preparing for some kind of enormous life transition, sometimes (you know, hardly worth mentioning) you might need to check on your mental health. You  might need to be sure that you aren’t turning into the woman in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” who began peeling the wallpaper from her attic bedroom asylum because she felt as though the pattern had turned into bars that were caging her in. Not that any of us have ever felt that way, of course, ever.

Anyway, I like to keep a running tab of things I can do to take care of my mental health. Because, as a friend once told me, if you don’t have your mental health, you really don’t have anything. In other words, guard that mental health like it’s a lifeline.

So, to that end, here’s a list. Perhaps something on here could lift you out of the dark annals of your own mind and into some airy breathing room:

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your mental health is . . .

  • go outside
  • call someone who really gets you
  • say a one-word prayer
  • light a candle
  • make something with your own two hands (meal, flower arrangement, poem, collage)
  • read Maya Angelou
  • take some very intentionally deep breaths (you realize you’ve been panting all day)
  • refuse to wear clothes that feel sprayed lacquered on they’re so tight (i.e. refuse to wear clothes that are hurting you)
  • move your body
  • laugh, laugh, laugh (because the sense of humor is the first thing to go)
  • put on some lip gloss
  • download project runway on itunes
  • say NO
  • visit a body of water
  • chant: “Things won’t always feel the way they do right now”
  • chase after something beautiful — find some found art
  • take a nap
  • choose to make a memory instead of make a purchase
  • begin again (i.e. I wanted to be more patient with my kids today and I just lost my cool. Right now, in this very moment, I’m going to begin again. That’s what I can do.)
  • remember that one of the very few things in life that you can control is how you treat yourself — and how you treat yourself can change everything.

So if you’re feeling particularly low today, muddled, foggy, trapped in your own turrets and tunnels of crazy, take a step toward your mental health in some small or big way. And tell us how it went . . . What is something you did to protect or restore your mental health?

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holding onto too much

I find I am forever juggling one too many objects at any given time in my day. Cell phone, car keys, base ID, purse, beverage (always, always a beverage), some toy-of-the-hour that each kid must have before leaving the house.

Something hanging from every finger. Jackets clinched under each arm. My ID between my teeth. My cell phone wedged between my chin and chest. My coffee cup squeezed between elbow and side. Two backpacks and a purse on one shoulder. All of this while trying to hold hands through the parking lot or push a stroller or both.

Without fail, something falls.

I drop the cell phone and the case explodes. The ID falls out of my teeth and into the gutter. The purse comes careening off my shoulder and lands with a thud on my crooked elbow causing all the coffee in the cup to splash on my shoes. The car keys—every single time—try to escape. It’s like the Tankersley circus has come to town day after day after day.

That poor, poor woman, I’d say about myself if I were watching me go by. Somebody get her a system for dealing with life.

Lately, in an act of being kind to myself instead of cruel, I’ve come up with a really brilliant idea.

What if I just carried less?

And that’s my meditation for this week. What can I put down? What can I stop carrying? What am I holding onto that’s causing problems? Why am I always trying to reach for one more thing. One more thing. One more thing.

The frantic juggling serves no one. Least of all, me. It makes me nervous, a little panicky. Not a great version of myself. Like everything’s all up to me (which it’s not).

There is a time for holding on . . . and a time for letting go.

What are the things you need to pick up each morning and carry?

What are the things you need to put down, let go of, release, relinquish?

Am I incessantly trying to hold onto too much? Are you?

God, give me the courage to stop the frantic juggling. Give me the courage to concentrate on what matters. Help me to remember to breathe instead of fidget. Help me to take care instead of take control. Amen.

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making amends

I posted the following on FB and Twitter the other day: “Sometimes the person we most need to make amends with is ourselves.”

This is a concept I’ve been wrestling with since Luke and Lane were born. Those early days of motherhood acquainted me with my own limits in a way that I did not like or appreciate. I didn’t like feeling inadequate for the task. I didn’t like feeling depleted. I didn’t like feeling like such a floor-dweller. So highly un-showered. I still don’t. I don’t like to feel overwhelmed, like I can’t handle things. I like things to feel controllable and perfect. And it’s incredibly grievous when you find yourself in a situation that you cannot control and is highly un-perfect. Like having to learn zone defense right out of the gates.

So . . . when I start to feel any or all of these ways, I begin to turn on myself. I begin to get frustrated with myself. I begin to push and punish, badger, rehearse, beat down.

When Elle was born, and I just had one baby to take care of, I saw—for the first time—how hard it was to have twins. I saw that I wasn’t some kind of failure. I saw that the whole enterprise wasn’t hard because I was failing. It was hard because it was hard.

And I’ve been making amends with myself ever since. Or, to be more honest, trying to. Trying to decipher why I internalized struggle as failure. Trying to radically accept my own humanity instead of raging against myself for having limits. I’ve been trying to let myself off this scrupulous hook that I conjured up. I’ve been trying to reconnect with myself from a place of empathy and understanding—as I would a dear friend—instead of condemnation. I’m trying to sit with myself and say quietly, “It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s not perfect. And, you’re doing great.”

I’ve been trying to invite God into the squeeze, when I feel it, allowing him to sit with me and to help me find a way into some breathing room. Usually some sort of idea arrives: Go outside. Take a nap. Breathe. Reach out. Say no.

Space arrives in tiny, found doses.

I wonder if this message needs to work its way into your life in any way. Do you need to make amends with yourself? Making amends is different than an apology, though an apology is certainly part of it. Making amends involves restoration of some kind. I recently read that amends are about a change in behavior. This resonates, doesn’t it. For many of us, certain behavior got us into an adversarial relationship with ourselves. And that certain behavior needs to change.

We keep an absolutely punishing schedule.

We hold ourselves to a standard that God himself does not hold us to.

We rehearse perceived inadequacies and punish ourselves for simply being human (having limits).

We strive, endlessly.

We deny our heartbrokenness.

These are the kinds of behaviors that need to be addressed. Stricken. Banished. These behaviors keep us at arms length from our true selves. Because, and I’m just starting to get this through my head, these are adversarial behaviors. Treating ourselves as a suspect in a crime.

Making amends means we’re not going to do that anymore. Somehow, by the grace of God, we’re not going to do that anymore. We’re going to figure out some ways to befriend ourselves. Period. We’re going to dabble with reconciliation. We’re not going to abandon ourselves, leave ourselves out in the cold.

I believe our most creative work, our truest messages, our greatest peace will flow out of making amends with ourselves. I really believe this. And, just in case you’re new here and you haven’t yet heard me say this: I also really believe in you. I believe in your ability to do things differently. I believe in your capacity for healing. I believe in the wildly creative person inside you. I believe in your voice. I believe in your beauty.

And, moment by moment (always beginning again), I’m becoming more and more comfortable believing all this for myself.

Let’s believe on behalf of each other . . . that we can live radically free.

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in this house

This post marks my last few hours in this house. Movers are finishing up. I’m walking the halls. So many significant things have happened here:

Luke and Lane turned 3 and then 4 in this house.

We welcomed baby Elle in this house.

We have enjoyed the company of some incredible people in this house.

I wrote down what will hopefully become the big ideas for my next book in this house.

We survived HOT weather and Ramadan and wind storms and tear gas and tire fires in this house.

We even survived the not-so-pretty (thinking dying farm animal) call to prayer from the tiny little neighborhood mosque two doors down. 5 times a day. :)

But perhaps the very most significant thing that has happened in this house is that by some great grace of God I have learned a little bit about letting go, taking myself off the hook, and being a companion to myself instead of a critic. I’ve learned how to be kinder and gentler with myself. I’ve learned what it means to treat myself like a friend and not an enemy. This is the single greatest miracle that has happened in this house.

So here’s what I want to tell you . . . sometimes God takes you somewhere you really had no intention of going. Like, the Middle East, for example. And you were very comfortable and easy-breezy in your little life. But the great wooden spoon in the sky comes down and stirs all that up (without your permission, of course). And you are scared and panicked and great with child and hot and even a little sad some days. But when the movers came and it’s time to move you on from this place—this crazy place—you walk through the empty rooms and you see that you have changed in this crazy place. And so, it was worth it. It was worth the upheaval. It was worth the craziness. It was worth all the goodbyes and starting overs. Because—and this is the really important part—perhaps you’ve learned something in this desert that you could have learned in no other place. And perhaps that thing you learned has given you new hope. Breathing room.

Maybe you arrived at a place that was just so agitating (in the best possible sand-into-pearl kind of way) that it required you to let go. Required you to relinquish. And that’s when the magic happened. That’s when you began to see that it’s OK to stop and breathe and make amends with yourself. To begin the long process of learning how to be a friend, instead of an enemy, to you.

So, going to that very foreign place helped you more than you could have ever known. And next time, when it’s time to pack your bags, you can believe (maybe even trust a little) that God will arrive and that you will be given some great gift. The kind of gift that could only be found in the desert.

Thank you, God, for most this amazing day. I who have died am alive again today. (cummings)

Thank you, God, for bringing me here. We are SO incredibly scared most of the time. And then we learn that you are good. We learn that over and over again. And we are wrecked with gratitude for your grace. Amen.

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“Two Seas”

As I sit at our table and watch the movers pack us up to return to San Diego, I’m reminded of the post I wrote right before we came here in 2011. I’m thinking back to that time of impending transition even as I’m lurching forward into another transition. I’m looking at my baby girl who we did not yet have when we arrived here in 2011. I’m in awe . . . of where we’ve come, of where we’re going, of how God’s been with us in the most grass-roots sort of ways. Yes. And amen.

Here’s what I wrote then . . .

***

I have this little daily reflections book from Emotions Anonymous called, Today. I picked it up and read the July 12th entry in preparation for our upcoming travels to a new land. It reads . . .

Growth is a continual process. There is always something new we can learn. Each time we are willing to risk, we are once again led along the path to a new encounter. As we accept the challenge which the new path brings us to, we often discover abilities we did not know we possessed. Gratitude for our new abilities will expand our freedom and fill us with much joy.

This is followed by the daily meditation, “May I never forget to be thankful for my new life.”

The last month has been filled with the titanic task of moving overseas (trying to navigate the Navy’s system for doing anything still seems complicated and convoluted, even after 8 years of being a Navy wife). And now we’re right in between—sitting in FL where we’ve been for the last two weeks visiting family—waiting to embark on our new life.

It’s easy to be unsure, overwhelmed, inconvenienced, and of course sad some days for the enormity of this transition and all the losses and gains that it holds. But am I remembering to be thankful? Thankful for the opportunity for an adventure? Thankful for the opportunity to reunite with my husband and reunite him with our kids? Thankful for a chance to take a risk and strike out and learn something new about all of us?

In this season that has and will require me to discover abilities I did not know I possessed, I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow and experience. I’m also unspeakably grateful for the countless people who have come around us and been the village that has allowed us to make this move happen.

Eight years ago today, I was one month away from marrying Steve, and just a few more days away from moving to Bahrain for the first time. It is still so surreal that we are going back.

I wrote the following in the afterword of Found Art. The words I spoke years ago speak back to me today . . .

As much as I want to worry and wonder about this stage of my life, I am assured that I’ve been carried here. . . . I hope against hope, even trust against trust, that God will meet me in this new land, as he has met me in foreign lands before.

In Arabic, the word Bahrain means “two seas.” Apparently the country was named Bahrain because of the freshwater springs that are found within the salty seas surrounding the island.

In the briny salt waters of upheaval and incomprehension, fresh and living water swirls and pours. Perhaps the power, the beauty, is in the commingling of the two.

That is the great art of life, a mysterious collage of unexpected elements. Even today, we are putting down our layers, one beside another, creating and recreating ourselves. He is making everything beautiful in its time. While we wait, we must breathe and heal and grieve and become. We don’t see the beauty immediately, but as we look back, we find the art in and through it all.

Whatever the foreign place life has brought you to today, I pray that God would meet us all in his mysterious way.

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