The sun was setting, as our sailboat glided silently over the calm waters of the Columbia Bar – a stretch of treacherous water that can challenge the most rugged sailor when the tides drastically change the waters trajectory.
We were on our way home after several glorious weeks of cruising in the San Juan Islands. It took almost an hour and a half to reach Astoria.
After quickly scanning our charts, we decided we could reach a tiny cove located in the upper part of the Columbia River. Cruising at 7 knots, we continued to make our way through the expanded mouth of the river where water spread out over a wide expanse of water giving the illusion of a huge sea of navigational water. Only those who had studied their charts knew that going outside the clearly marked channels could quickly end up running aground in the surrounding shallow water.
The time has come to have that meeting with myself. I sit down with a clean pad of paper, my “Have to do” list made earlier in the week and a determination to find both short and long term solutions to the overwhelming string of demands on my time.
As is my practice, I start my session with a prayer asking God for wisdom, clarity and strength to follow through. It is so easy to gloss over the things I may be doing that contribute to my problems.
The phone hasn’t stopped ringing – the kids are fighting again – the teacher called to schedule an emergency conference about your child’s schoolwork – your boss is uncompromising as the company instigates new policies, little time for training and additional workloads for everyone – you can’t afford to lose your job – nobody seems to care – and you are exhausted.
All you want is a quiet evening of peace and quiet, free from any more problems. And then the phone rings, and you cry, “Not another problem, Lord. I can’t take anymore.”
But this time the phone call is from your best friend, who patiently listens as you unload your frustrations. But when you hang up the phone, although some of the pressure has been lifted, you know it will begin again. You have asked God for strength, thanked Him for your special friend and the daily strength He gives you. But the problems are still there and you know you can’t continue like this.
We live in stressful times, constantly bombarded with the need to go faster and faster while still maintaining a high level of productivity. With more and more single parent households, aging seniors and troubled financial times, fear and anxiety become the norm as we deal with the unknowns in our lives.
Advanced technology further complicates our choices because we are led to believe that we need to purchase all the newest electronic product or be left behind. After running all day, we plop into bed at the end of the day and hope we can get enough rest to get up in the morning and start all over again.
Our energy source has been compromised. “Normal” stress that allows us to live has been turned to “dis-stress”. And what is worse we are led to believe that is the only way we can live.
A professor was giving a lecture to his students on stress management. He raised a glass of water and held it up in the air. Then he asked the class, “How heavy do you think this glass of water is?” The students’ answers ranged from 20gr to 500gr.
To which the professor replied, “Does it matter how absolute the weight is or does it matter how long you hold it before it becomes a heavy burden?
If I hold this glass of water for a minute, it won’t be too heavy. But if I hold it for an hour, I will have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it all day, you may have to take me to ER. It is the exact same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
It is so much fun to have something new: a new job, new clothes, new adventures, or a new vision for the rest of your life. But along with the excitement and anticipation also come doubts and fears.
What if what I am attempting to do fails? What if I haven’t prepared enough? What if. . . Anything new has its thrilling and daunting moments.
Here We Go
I am stepping out with a new website! Yes, it is still called Focus with Marlene. But it has a new face – a new heading – a new presentation.
“Let’s Talk” is my new format that replaces “The Counselor is In.” Old blogs are still stored with instant access. While I will continue to write and speak about life strategies, I want to expand on past topics and talk about new concerns.
The tree is down – the decorations stored for another year. And I am excited about a new year, building on what was started last year and in previous years.
Are you ready to start a new year with excitement and motivation, continuing to work on on-going goals as well as new ones?
For me, I find it helps to reflect on the prior year’s accomplishments and evaluate successes and failures.
What good intentions did I have but never got around to starting? What goals did I make and start but never completed? What kept me from completing them? Was it lack of motivation? Had I thought through carefully what I wanted to accomplish? What can I learn about myself that can help me this year?
At the beginning of each New Year, we dutifully make our resolutions and hope we will meet them. “This year I am determined to . . . I resolve never to eat fattening cookies or cupcakes. . . I will stick to my diet and lose those pounds. . . I promise to be nice to people I don’t like. . . ” and the list goes on and on.
In the end, however, while we may accomplish some of our good intentions, too often our resolutions go down in defeat along with our will power and at the end of yet another year we say, well maybe next year I’ll do better.
We are creatures of habit. We do the things that are expedient, easy and give us some immediate, pleasurable reward that make us feel good in the moment. Those habits usually are not the ones that keep us healthy, happy or successful over time.
When I go through department stores, I am constantly on alert for that good bargain or unique pair of pants or top I might enjoy wearing. If something grabs my attention, I hold it up in front of me in a nearby mirror to do a quick assessment.
Does the color look good? Do I like the lines of the garment? What draws my attention to it from all the others on the rack?
If I still like it after a quick evaluation I will try it on.
It is only after I have tried it on, however, that I will know whether it is right for me. Does it look as good on me as it did on the quick preview? Many times after I put the garment on, I discover it looks completely different. The cut is all wrong, the color isn’t as complimentary as I thought, and it isn’t comfortable even though it is my size. While I still like it, it isn’t for me.
I love the Christmas season: the smell of burning candles and pine boughs, Christmas cards that continue to connect me with old friends and music that fills all the tattered and worn places of the heart and spirit. I love the afterglow when family and friends have returned home after a special day of celebration.
It is Christmas Eve. Christmas cards that proclaim our desire for peace and hope are displayed on my mantle. Yet, as it has for centuries, the world remains in rebellion, revolts and war. Peace – Hope: are these things truly possible?
Each year, we are given the opportunity to pause and reflect on what Christmas means to us. For Christmas isn’t just about pretty bows, celestial music and lights that decorate trees and houses; it is about a gift given to us by God, a gift that involved sacrifice and love. Who can fathom such a God who loves us so much He would be willing to send His Son to die for us.