Power in Admission

I have shared openly about struggles with anxiety and depression. And I recognize there is always room for improvement in my coping skills.  

If I remember to breathe, it helps.  If I think ahead, I can prepare for problematic situations. Nevertheless, sometimes things just happen.

My husband and I just returned from a trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Beautiful does not adequately describe either of these places. The vastness and variety in these almost untouched lands are overwhelming.

And yet, even during our wonderful trip, anxiety crept in. We had been exploring Yellowstone all morning and decided to drive to the Tetons. This was the first visit to this area for both of us, an adventure.  

This particular drive brought a little more adventure than I preferred. We were driving along, listening to history and information about the area, when the road suddenly took us right along the edge of Clark Canyon.  

A quick glance out the window, and I began to panic. My body had an instant reaction. My heart sank, began beating rapidly. My stomach felt like it had been turned upside down. I wanted to crawl in a hole. Yes, I endured. But it was not fun.

Those anxious feelings crept back in later that night. I had trouble sleeping. Would tomorrow’s drive be similar? Slow, deep breaths finally helped, and I was able to sleep.

The next morning, we were on the road again. We had a basic plan of places we wanted to see. Our first stop was great! Some incredible, colorful geothermal displays. But soon, I was feeling afraid of the unknowns. Would we have to drive on any roads like the one yesterday? Just the thought and anxiety began to rise.

Finally, I said it aloud. “The thought of a drive like yesterday is making me feel panicky. I’m not sure I can do it.” After saying those words to my husband and allowing a few tears to fall, I felt much better.  

He knows me well. His response was reassuring. Soon we were laughing and ready to face the rest of the day. He even asked a park ranger for advice on the least scary route for our last stop. (Which apparently was not an unusual request.) 😉

Now, I would be lying if I said there were no other moments of panic. However, they did not take over my thoughts. My physical reactions were not as severe, and I was able to enjoy the beauty of the places we visited.

No, I did not want to admit how I felt. But, oh, I am so glad I did. It was an important reminder there is power in admission.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Artist Point Overlook

Best Course of Action

My mom and her sister, my Aunt Elizabeth, are breast cancer survivors. My dear friend, Shannon, lost her battle with breast cancer. I witnessed each of these women respond with bravery and courage to a disease that has touched so many.

Geneva’s Daughter Instant Friends

Because of my family history and personal health issues, I have mammograms regularly and see a specialist. And though my personal health history does not include cancer, it does include a lumpectomy, multiple biopsies, and MRIs.

I DO NOT LIKE MRIs AT ALL...

Today was my six-month checkup, including an ultrasound. Dense tissue makes detection difficult. And even though the doctor saw nothing alarming, she recommended another MRI and follow-up again in six months.

When MRI was mentioned today, I kind of zoned out for a moment. I began to feel the anxiety that accompanied my previous MRI. Yes, I survived. But it was definitely an emotional challenge.

Once again, I found myself feeling anxious. For clarification, I asked, “So, you think I should definitely have an MRI?” “Yes. You meet the risk factors. I believe it is the best course of action for you.”

On the drive home, I was tempted to let worry start creeping in. But then I had some thankful thoughts. A doctor who is thorough and gives me her honest opinion. Health insurance to help cover this cost. The knowledge that if there is ever an issue, this test will find it early.

So, I will stay on this course of action, even though it makes me nervous. And I will continue to encourage all my women friends to remain vigilant in fighting this disease.

Get your mammograms! And even an MRI, if necessary. 💗💗💗

Two Poem Tuesday

Passing Storm

Once again
A storm is raging
Emotions swirling
Like a tornado
In my head
The beginning
Indistinguishable
From the ending
Questions flood
My thoughts-
Why this?
Why now?
Why me?
But I must push
Past the questions
And just be-
Waiting-holding on
Until a tiny
Break appears
In the clouds
A split second
Ray of sunshine
Piercing the dark
Clearing my thoughts
Lighting my path
Just enough to
Observe the dust
Beginning to settle
Assurance the storm is passing

Lost and Found

Where are you?
I sense you are close
But my eyes can’t see
 
I reach out my hands
Fumbling in the dark
Wishing the clouds away
 
Where are you?
I ask out loud this time
A little further-just listen
 
My feet move slowly
Toward the sound of your voice
It grows louder with each step
 
Suddenly, my hands touch yours
No longer lost, I stand with you
Under the light of the stars

Fresh Air

Clouds cover the day
Like a heavy blanket
Intended to comfort
Instead-suffocating
Tossed over me
Without permission to
Hide what is good
Steal what is lovely-
Just as the wind
Chases away the clouds
My feet must
Kick off the cover
Wrestling that blanket
Until once again
The good is visible
The lovely restored-
My feet able to walk
Under the blue sky
Accepting the clouds
As a gentle umbrella
Offering protection
A sweet shelter
Allowing my heart to
Heal in the fresh air

Blank Slate

As I opened up my computer to write this morning, all I could think was, “look at that blank page.” No idea what I wanted to write about, I just knew I needed to write. And then it occurred to me all these days at home are truly blank slates. There was no advanced plan for them. Each one is faced truly not knowing what the next one will bring.

Although that is true of our daily reality, we don’t often live that way. We make our plans, plan our trips, and dream about the future. Don’t misunderstand, those are important things to do. However, they must be balanced with the acceptance that we never truly know what tomorrow holds.

Even more than future planning, these circumstances make me think of missed opportunities. For example, if a specific person comes to mind today, I am more likely to send a quick text. Three weeks ago, I might have pushed it to the back of my mind. “Oh, I will contact them tomorrow…”

Not that I am following through on every thought, but I am working on being more intentional. I’ve already experienced the payoff in some ways that may seem small. One “Hello, how are you” text yesterday resulted in a sweet phone conversation about life and changes. It also brought much-needed tears and encouragement. That conversation will stick with me for a long time.

Another experience from earlier this week also made a lasting impression. I was thinking about dropping off a small care package to a dear friend. The plan was to leave it outside her door, get back in my car, and wave from a safe distance. Even typing it, it sounds silly. I almost didn’t do it.

Thankfully, I decided not to worry about looking silly. When my friend walked out of her front door, I found myself wanting to jump out of the car, run over, and give her a hug. She even had to remind herself not to keep walking in my direction. Driving away, I fought back tears.

My takeaway? We need each other. We miss each other. And I cannot wait to once again freely embrace my family, friends, colleagues, and students. I don’t know when that will happen.

Until it does, I will keep looking at these blank slate days with faith and hope and love. And just maybe, cover that blank slate with a little kindness. ❤

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13: 13

Cues

Cue-a signal (such as a word, phrase, or bit of stage business) to a performer to begin a specific speech or action.

When I think of the word cue, it is usually about music. As a pianist, I’m very good at giving and receiving cues. For example, I might follow a singer’s breathing or lead them into an entrance with tempo/musical changes. The cues help us stay together, resulting in beautiful music.

This week, I’ve been forced to listen to a different kind of cue. It actually took several days for me to even recognize that it was a cue. 

If only it had been a musical cue. 

But no, this was an emotional cue manifesting in a physical symptom.

The first time it appeared was around 5:00 p.m. I had planned to cook dinner-homemade meatballs, roasted veggies, and pasta. 

All the ingredients were ready.  

Suddenly, I began to feel a little nauseous. “Hmmm, that’s weird,” I thought. I immediately began to worry about getting sick. But I hadn’t been anywhere, and it was not likely. I almost changed dinner plans to take-out.

But then, I decided to push through. We needed a home-cooked meal. It would surely make us all feel better. So, I cooked. It was yummy. I even baked cookies. When the cookies were done, I realized the nausea was gone.

The same thing happened the next day, at the same time. Curious. 

“I wonder if this is stress?” I asked myself. This time, my daughter and I took a short walk around the neighborhood. Guess what? Nausea once again disappeared.

That night, I told my husband what had happened. I also expressed that I thought it was a reaction to stress over all the changes occurring right now. He agreed. 

Somehow, just sharing how I was feeling helped.

As I thought about this more, it made sense. I may be putting on a good front, staying calm, and saying I’m not worried. But truthfully, these are unsettling times and they are affecting my emotions. This little cue was trying to get my attention. Trying to tell me it’s ok to not be ok.

The time of day also made sense. Each time I noticed this feeling, it was around 5-5:30 p.m. This is the time of day we would normally be getting home from work. Everyone would be sharing about their day, talking about what went well and what didn’t. Talking about students and what we were planning the next days, weeks, etc.  

That has all changed. We are together most of the day at home. Not knowing when we will go back to work. Worrying about our friends and family. Worrying about our students. All things that are out of our control.  

No wonder my physical cue was nausea.

The most important thing about cues? They require a response. How could I respond to this one? Well, I’ve found a few things to be helpful.   

  1. Take a walk
  2. Tell someone how I’m feeling
  3. Cook
  4. Play piano

This experience also made me think of our kiddos. How do they react to stress? What is often their first complaint? “My stomach hurts.” I guess some things never change. 😉   

Take care of yourselves, friends. Listen to your body and pay attention to your emotions. Don’t be afraid to say how you’re feeling.  ❤ 

Faces

Dear Friends,

This past week was our Spring Break from school. One whole week to relax and do whatever I wanted. Except, it really wasn’t. Yes, I was able to relax and spend time with family. But no coffee with friends, spring clothes shopping, last-minute trips out of town, etc.

I tried not to worry about establishing a new routine or what would happen in the weeks to come. But now it’s Saturday, and a new week is almost here. It is time to think ahead just a little.

This morning it hit me what I’m going to miss the most when Monday comes-faces. I see so many faces each day. Faces help us know how a person is feeling. We can see happiness, disappointment, struggle, or excitement with one single glance.

We can also receive what we need from the face of another. If I am the one showing sadness or struggling, a smile from another person is powerful. It shows that someone else sees me and recognizes how I’m feeling.

So, although I won’t see all those faces on Monday, I will be thinking about them. Those colleagues who greet me each day. The students I greet each morning as they enter the building. Those few ornery boys who still call me grandma every time they see me. My friend who sits across the table with a cup of coffee.

As I think of those faces, I will also pray. For that is one thing I can do no matter where I am or what the circumstances. These are unsettling times with many unanswered questions. But I have faith that I will see all those faces again soon-live and in person.

Until then, I remain thankful for technology and social media. And with that thought, I will share a picture of my face from this morning. Hopefully, you will see joy and contentment amid uncertainty. And be reminded that I love you.

Take care of yourselves, sweet friends.

Kelley

“I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.” 3 John 1:14

Comfort in Sadness

I felt so sad this morning. I wanted to write last night, but I just couldn’t get my thoughts on paper. The source-the knowledge of two suicides in one day.

Two different people, in two different states. Neither one directly connected to me, but both connected to people I know and love. Those closest to these individuals left with more questions than answers.

I was struck with one question. If these two tragic deaths are causing such sadness for me, how much more for those directly impacted? What is my response? How can I possibly say anything to help?

I prayed, sent texts, checked in. That is a start, but certainly not enough. I must be more aware. Aware that there are hurting people around me. And they may not show just how deep their hurt dwells.

This sadness affected my teaching today. I was not as energetic as usual. I worked hard to keep my emotions in check. And I was pretty successful until the afternoon.

My fifth-grade classes require lots of patience and energy. They are right after lunch. I was tired. I tried to push through but was struggling.

Near the end of class, I was suddenly fighting back tears. No warning. And then one student asked, “Mrs. Morris, are you sad?” I nodded my head. “Did I make you sad?” “Oh no, of course not,” I responded, hoping there were no more questions.

And so tonight I sit, still sad. Still thinking about all those affected by this kind of tragedy. There is only one place to turn.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

Tomorrow I will get up and face the day. I will pray for those walking through this dark valley. That they will somehow begin to experience that comfort in their sadness.