More Alaska

Last week, one evening after work we found a new park. It shouldn’t be a surprise by now, but I’m still caught off guard every time I discover an unexpected jewel. This is what we saw:

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The totem poles are iconic for native Alaskan culture, particularly of the Southeast tribes. I see them in the Pacific Northwest too. Each one tells a story and the individual carvings on the poles have meanings. Understanding the meaning of the totems requires knowledge I don’t have, but they’re fascinating to see. There are carvers today that create these works of art, celebrating heritage and culture from the past.

This has been a traveling week. It began Monday with all sorts of bumps and changes. Weather was an issue…foggy and rainy, so the planned float plane trip to the airport became a ferry ride.

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At the airport, the flight had a mechanical issue, so that meant a change to a different airline.

There were two connections along the way, and the last leg was one of the near misses…walking off one flight and immediately on to the next.

But we made it. Luggage made it. We started early and ended late, but even with the glitches, it all smoothed out.

Just like I like it. I love it when life works out, even with lots of opportunity for disaster.

And let’s face it…a missed flight or delayed travel rarely rises to the level of disaster. But I speak of first world problems, in which case, descriptions of near misses in everyday situations are counted as near disasters.

For the sake of clarity, I’ll acknowledge that I know the difference. But for literary license, we skirted disaster all day and somehow came through with flying colors. Those airline folks are amazing!

I’ve been making more photos of Southeast Alaska this summer…do you get tired of them? I sometimes take for granted the views and sights that surround me. But they’re worth sharing, I think.

So this is my latest group of scenes. One day I’ll look back on this time and be surprised I was here, and saw all these things. One day this will seem surreal. But for now, these are the images of daily life
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I’m doing a personal development course this coming week, beginning today, and one of the requirements is being off line. So, no cell phone use, no lap top. It makes me a little anxious to turn off, to be out of touch. What if something happens? What if someone needs me? Family has a contact number for the retreat center, and I expect the rest of the world will hardly notice I’m gone. Maybe as much as turning off and tuning out helps the individual to focus, it’s also a reminder…I’m one person, and the world can get along very well without me for a few days. I’m valuable, as all people are. But perspective is helpful, and a reminder that I’m not indispensable is a good thing, I’m thinking.

Wish me luck, I’m diving deep!

See you next week!

An authentic life

I like scars.

I don’t mean that I seek them, or want them. But I value them.

They’re not beautiful, but they’re meaningful.

Tonight I read one of the blogs I follow, Bedlam Farm, and I love the way the author wrote about recognizing change in his life, and accepting that he would always be picking up pieces of himself.

I feel that way too.

I haven’t had physical trauma, and in many respects, I’ve escaped a lot of other difficult life experience. But I’ve brushed up against some of life’s fires enough to be singed, to have some scars.

Over time, the scars remind me less of the wound, and more of the overcoming. They become medals in the game of life, testimony to surviving and thriving.

And in time, they fade. They become so faint…or maybe just so familiar?….that I don’t really notice them anymore. They become part of the tapestry of self that makes up each life.

I think that’s why images of elderly people smiling, all wrinkly and worn, are so charming. Those images speak of people who’ve weathered, literally, but also figuratively.

No one gets out without accumulating a few scars along the way.

Like the author of the Bedlam Farm post says, some pieces of self have to continue the process of change, healing and mending.

Somehow that’s reassuring to me.

The thing about the transformation from wound to scar is: it takes time.

Culturally, we get the message in so many ways to “get ‘er done.” “Just do it!” “No excuses!” “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

In certain contexts, I love all these statements, and I’ve used them. But they don’t work in every situation. Sometimes the best I can do is have patience, for my own failings, or for others’.

It’s a fine line, isn’t it, whether to excuse a flaw or give it grace? Whether to accept that some issues resolve and the wound heals over, the scar fades; or to acknowledge that some lessons take a lifetime to learn?

Life teaches the value of scars in unexpected ways.

Once, Riley wrote on a table I loved, carving deep grooves into the soft pine wood…not in any artistic fashion, but with the random and unlovely markings of a toddler.

At first, all I could see was the marring of the table. It wasn’t a thing of beauty any longer.

But after a while, I couldn’t look at those marks without smiling. I knew the scars were innocently put there. Riley had no concept of damaging the table by writing on it.

The longer I lived with her marks on my table, the dearer the piece became.

I think that’s the same process at work with a lot of my life’s scars…they’ve been overlaid with a patina of knowledge, and understanding, and grace. And in a shorter time than would have seemed possible, scars can take on new meaning.

The wounds and wrinkles of life, as much as the triumphs, are marks of authentic living. As we struggle to be, we stretch, we get banged up. Or sometimes someone bangs into us. Sometimes we’re gashed up. If we’re fortunate, in time we heal.

Many of my small battles don’t leave scars. The scratches and bruises of life…the small irritations of my days…they fade, and I don’t remember them.

The deeper wounds that left the scars…well, now I can appreciate them. But I no longer feel the wound. I celebrate the healing.

Summer in Southeast

Craig, Prince of Wales, Alaska

It’s been an unusually dry stretch in SE Alaska, and the locals are complaining a bit. Not enough rain! Although we’ve had a few showers, it’s been pleasantly dry for much of the past several weeks. That means walks in the evening, when it’s cool enough to enjoy and dry enough to lure us out.

The roads are lined with raspberry and salmonberry bushes. They grow wild here. You sometimes see folks picking on the side of the road. Jam making is big, and local wares sold at summer festivals…blueberries, huckleberries, strawberries.

Southeast Alaska is made up of small communities, mostly dotted across islands. Prince of Wales, the fourth largest island in the US, is home to Craig, Klawock, Thorne Bay, Whale Pass, Naukati, Hydaburg, Hollis, and Coffman Cove, and a sprinkling of other hamlets. POW has about 310 miles of paved road…that’s a lot of road for SE Alaska! I’m not sure how it happened, but there’s enough road here you can drive for a few hours. In my unofficial opinion, that’s probably the most paved road available in Alaska outside the interior. The entire road system on the island is approximately 2,500 miles, most of which was built in the logging era. That time’s long gone now.

It’s a big fishing community, and summer fishing tourists are good for the local economy. Lodges, restaurants, fishing guides, and other connections to the fishing industry appear for summer. Some restaurants and hotels are open year round, but many of the hospitality businesses are tied to the fishing. When the fishing is done for the season, the jobs and workers go too.

You can’t imagine how weather impacts life here. If the wind is too strong, float planes don’t fly, and that means the only way off the island is the once-a-day ferry, which leaves at 8:00 in the morning. The locals are used to it. They know to plan for it, and around it. It’s ok, as long as you’re not sick and in need of a fast way out. When the weather’s in the way, that can be bad news for anyone needing a medevac.

Somehow that doesn’t deter folks from living here. Approximately 6,000 people live on Prince of Wales. That’s a healthy size population for SE Alaska.

I’m always amazed at what’s in these small communities. This afternoon I discovered a fish smoking company, right next to a barbecue restaurant. “Restaurant” is really too grand a term. It was a small kitchen with a couple of picnic tables. Probably most of the customers just do take out.

Like a lot of businesses here, you have to know where to look before you can even think about becoming a customer. You have to know which little road to drive down, where to turn. I guess the owners know there’s not a lot of competition, and if the product’s good enough, people are willing to go out of their way to get to them.

I came away with smoked king salmon and a take away order of pulled pork. Well, it may be Alaska, but there’s some southern here!

We ended the day at the rec center with a workout. We may be here for just a couple of weeks, but we find the local places that keep routine going. Post office, bank, grocery….the daily needs and chores of life are here, like anywhere.

There’s a little scenery to go with!

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View from shore, Craig, Alaska

Summer color

Summer color – it’s everywhere

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Eagles landing

Writing the story

Hello friends, I’ve missed you. I hope you’ve missed me.

When life is chaotic, complicated, unsettled, up in the air, I retreat. I retreat to my shell, pull back, my instinct is to turn inward.

I don’t write.

Or rather, I write for myself, as a means of hashing out and sorting through and making sense.

But when the clouds clear and I’m on track again, I’m ready. Ready to resume, to reach out, to reconnect.

And so it is, after nearly a year in limbo, with lots of ups and downs, uncertainty, selling the house, looking for my bearings, and finding them again, I’m ready.

Over the past several months I’ve largely been quiet, and deliberately so. Since June of last year, I posted 55 times to my blog. Some months there was just one entry.

One of the consequences of this self-imposed absence is that I’ve stepped away from the habit of blogging. I’ve done that before during times of travel or some concentrated period of work, so I’ve re-launched myself before…never quite from this place, but I’ve done it.

While I’ve been on pause, I’ve learned so much. Some of it has been painful, but it’s been rich. I’ve done coaching, counseling, reading, introspection, lots of talking with family, a few friends, and with Rob.

Most of all, with Rob.

Thanks to the wisdom of many, and the grace between the two of us, we’ve weathered and survived. The issues, the questions…those are not important now. What is important is that we’ve chosen, once again.

The valley is not the place I want to live, but it is the place where growth happens.

For now, I’ve had enough growth for a while, thank you very much! I’d like a breather, and a time to live in the sunshine.

And I’d like time and focus to write. Here’s hoping.

I hope to have more than a post or two a month in the coming year.

I hope to move ahead with a custom site.

I hope to tap into some of the wisdom and experience I gained over the past year.

I hope to hear from my blogging friends, old and new, and to take my place in this online space again.

For now, I hope. I have hope. I am renewed.

~ Sheila

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
Massachusetts:
John Hancock
Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Happy 75th to my mom!

This post is a week late. My mom turned 75 last Friday, June 26.

I didn’t do a blog post that day.

I don’t think I wished her a happy birthday on Facebook.

For the big day, I did better than digital media.

I was with her to celebrate in person. And I wasn’t alone. We had about forty guests, a large group of family and a few close friends, who got together to mark the moment with food, photos, games, and memories.

Our family is scattered all across the US, and at this phase of life, it often takes an act of Congress to bring us all (or as many as can…it is never “all”) together. In recent years, those gatherings have often been for funerals.

But this occasion was joyful. We had multiple generations and all sorts of connections and ages…parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, near and dear. Oh, it was quite a group!

We rented a community event center for the big day, and with some combined efforts, planned, decorated, and trimmed. We put on a southern barbecue spread, complete with all the trimmings and a family favorite coconut cake. We had games, a slide show that was a walk down memory lane, a little roasting/tribute, and plenty of time to visit. We had a photographer come and make all the requisite photos of the big group as well as smaller groups of individual families, cousins, kids, etc.

We noticed that there are holes in the fabric of the family. Some are gone, and are sorely missed.

But we can still muster a hearty number, and the storytelling, the talk around my mother’s table, site of so many family gatherings over the years, warmed my heart, and reminded me of all the best of my heritage.

My roots are firmly southern, based in a small Mississippi town. The two are entwined, family and heritage.

During our visit, we checked out the small gift stores in town, always a draw. I’ve hauled many a special treasure back from Mississippi over the years.

We ate at the local food truck, and the smoked pulled pork was probably the best I’ve ever had. The owner made a photo of us and chatted while we ate. It’s just that kind of a community.

We went to a summer festival…well, maybe it was a week-early 4th of July event, I’m not sure…but there were kids playing, live music, a mix of people, ages, races, and smiles on hand to enjoy the food and fun. It was small town Americana up close and personal.

We ate catfish and fried dill pickles, my mother’s famous sweet rolls and her even more famous fried rice, caught up with family we haven’t seen in years, other than via Facebook, and I watched Riley and Jack charm the whole bunch. It was satisfying, heart-warming, and smooth from start to finish.

Thank you, Mother, for all you have meant to me and our family all these years. You’ve been part of the glue that has held us together, showed the way, carried the torch.

I’m so glad that this was a birthday I could share with you, that I’ve been so busy being present in person I am just now writing this, as I sit in the airport headed back to Alaska.

It was a charming and special trip. I’m so glad, and I’m so proud of you.

~ Sheila

Happy birthday!

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Last week we got to fulfill a long-held dream of sailing a small boat in the Caribbean. It was a perfect way to celebrate Rob’s birthday, with sun, blue sky, bath-water ocean temps and amazing water colors. This morning we came back to Alaska to begin another stretch of work. But we have the photos to remind us we did it!

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OK, there was a real captain nearby, just outside of the photo. We got to take a few turns at the wheel, help with sail management, and learned a plethora of nautical terms. For instance, now I know what “tacking” and “three sheets to the wind” means, as well as a lot of other sailing terms. Very important to have these at the tip of my tongue when the situation warrants!

When we weren’t busy sailing, we did the tourist thing, island hopping and snorkeling, kayaking, soaking up sun. At night the lights from all the small island communities twinkle and give a festive feeling to the scene. Without a lot of light pollution, what lights are there really shine.

Oh, and we did a little eating. Just a wee bit!

The water is blue, turquoise, green, and every shade between. It’s magical and mesmerizing. I could sit and stare at the colors and the ocean life for hours at a time. Birds swoop down looking for food, fish jump, sea turtles swim by, and boats are everywhere.

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At night the stars are bold, and since they don’t have to compete with a lot of man-made lighting, they become more than they have been….they seem to put an extra level of effort into shining out in the darkness.

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We got a special treat while we were star-gazing. We saw the “Southern Cross,” a constellation that’s only visible from a few places in the northern hemisphere. You have to be in the tropics to see it from this hemisphere at all, and then it’s only visible at certain times of the year. Turns out May is the month for prime viewing, so we accidentally timed it perfectly.

The best part was the quiet time to explore, to sit on secluded beaches that dot the islands and enjoy the scenery, the beauty, the charm of a world so different, so far from our well-known paths.

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Happy birthday, Rob. I’m glad we shared the magic and the lights. We accidentally timed it perfectly!

Graced by life

My view of the Tongass Narrows, looking out from the window of our house in Ketchikan, was a never-ending parade of activity: sea life, ships, boats, float planes. I loved that view. But last fall, we sold the house and gave up the parade.

My view right now is not mine to keep, but it is mine to enjoy. And that’s a pleasure too. This view is of the beach and water on St. John, US Virgin Islands, and it’s magnificent. The sand is white and the water is blue, green, turquoise, and shades between. The hills rise low and green above the water, and the roads curve around the shore.

Paradise.

I don’t own anything here, but I have the pleasure of enjoying the view for a few weeks.

Rob and I are here taking a breather and reconnecting. We’re in the pause of life. We stopped the merry-go-round to get off and take stock of who we are, what we want, where we’re going.

It’s amazing when life hands you grace and choice, more meaningful because it’s unexpected.

My view has changed, but more important than the view, my outlook has changed. And that’s a good thing.

The beach is calling, life is calling, my partner is calling, and I’ve answered.

Happy 5th Birthday Riley-girl!

Riley March 2015

It’s a big day for this little. She’s a whole handful today. Just like when it was her mom turning five, I can’t believe it’s come so quickly.

I’ve watched her for five years, and she’s been a joy. What a bundle of energy, and what a funny little girl she is. She’s always got something to say, and most of the time it’s dramatic and unexpected.

She’s an old soul in a five-year old form.

She’s a fancy Nancy, loves frills and twirly skirts.

She’s a beauty, full of childish charm and perfection.

She’s Riley-girl, and she’s a gift.

Happy Birthday to my favorite girl!

Top 10 ways to soothe when you need relief

I know a bit about needing relief. I’ve felt that many days, from different sources of stress: relationships, health, financial pressures, uncertainty over a looming decision, all difficult in different ways. Depending on the weight of the issue, sometimes it feels like I can barely function, other times the worry is like an overlay…or maybe an underlay… on top of everything else going on.

When I’m struggling with something heavy on my heart, I need to cocoon and hide myself. In the hardest moments, I want to sleep. I know that’s a sign of depression, and though I’ve never been clinically depressed, I know sleep is a coping mechanism for dealing with difficult emotional issues.

I also find it hard to stay focused and be productive. I’ve learned that action is a good antidote to feeling sad, but it can be hard to jump-start myself.

My automatic response to distress is to mask what’s bothering me…not sure if somehow I think that will make the situation go away, or if it’s a retreat from confronting what’s painful…if I ignore it, I won’t have to deal with it.

My way of describing this is “putting on the face.” You know, when you act like life is normal, you greet co-workers, go through the motions, even manage to smile and do whatever is on your agenda.

But all the time, inside you’re dying. You’re dying to hear from someone, or about something, or afraid of an approaching deadline.

You’re afraid.

Fear and I are old friends. I can tell the extent of my stress by the persistence of the “engine” of fear I feel running in my stomach. You know when you hear references to the feeling in the pit of your stomach? Yes, that’s the one I mean…fear that is so real you can feel it.

It wakes me up at night, this fear. It rouses me from sound sleep to course through me, my mind moving back to familiar grooves as I think about whatever the issue is, once again.

So what’s the answer? Unfortunately, sometimes there’s not one.

Some fears do come true, and there’s no changing that. Tests come back with scary results. People die. Bad things happen.

Some situations are not about circumstances that are beyond our control, but about people who are beyond control. Wouldn’t life be easy if everyone did what I want them to do? Well, that’s not happening either. Or at least, not in a predictable way.

So, how can you find relief, some measure of peace, some way to cope that’s healthy and sustainable?

Because let’s face it, there are all sorts of answers that are not healthy, not sustainable, not realistic.

I can’t sleep my troubles away, don’t want to medicate to handle life, and living in denial doesn’t help either.

So this is what I do…my top ten ways to comfort and soothe when I’m in the valley:

  1. It sounds counter-intuitive, but I imagine the worst. I just go ahead and get it over with. What if my worst fears come true? What will happen then? Of course I can’t foresee exactly what variables could come into play. But by going to my imagined worst-case scenario, I create a vision of what I would do, what I could do. By facing the worst, I can have at least a minimum plan of response. Maybe I’d need to travel, or consider how a situation would impact financially. I try to think through options in advance. Instead of seeing this as dwelling on the negative, I view this as confronting and planning ahead so I’m prepared, as well as I can be.

  2. Once I’ve imagined the worst and think of how I would address it, I imagine the best. What if the best possible outcome happens? What then? I imagine how that result would impact me…even good outcomes can create change, and I want to be aware so I can be prepared for the good as well as the bad. At least this step is positive and more hopeful than the first, so it’s an easier exercise.

  3. I think about things that I can do to soothe in the moment. Sometimes that means doing something physical, like a work out, or just getting out and going for a drive. Other ideas: clean something, paint something, cook something. Do anything that is a positive physical act that gets me moving and helps me feel productive. Stay on top of day-to-day chores. Nothing is more paralyzing than letting go of your physical environment when you’re mentally stressed…if you’re already fragile, living in chaos will only make it worse. Put your mind on auto-pilot and force yourself to keep a routine going. On the other hand, if you can’t do something active, try being still. Meditate and just breathe.

  4. I have a number of “go to” authors that I read when I need encouragement or comfort, or even a challenge to hold on and breathe and be strong. Knowing whose voices will speak to my heart and mind is a good tool to have in my arsenal to ward off sadness and depression.

  5. I think about who among family and friends I can reach to, not necessarily to talk about what’s troubling me, but just for the connection. When I can have a “normal” conversation about the day-to-day, it reminds me that there are a lot of wonderful people and good things in life beyond the concern of the moment, and it helps to distract me for a while, at least on a surface level.

  6. I talk out loud to myself, usually while I pace, or drive. This one may seem strange, and I don’t do it when I’m with anyone else, but it really helps me to work through my plans, fears, hopes, etc., to hear the words out loud. It’s almost like I can move outside myself and get a little perspective.

  7. I try to get out and meet a friend, have dinner with someone, do something to break my day or evening, change the conversation going on in my mind. That can’t happen every day, but having something on my calendar helps me to look forward to a change of pace, and something that is uplifting. This also includes things like doing something helpful for someone else…anything that gets me out and connecting with other people is a mood lifter, and a distraction, and that’s healthy. I try to do this even if I’m not in the mood to do it at the beginning. Acting my way to feeling better is a positive way to improve my mindset.

  8. I write. I’m a writer, so that’s therapeutic for me. If I can put what bothers me into words, I can get a better grip on the whole thing. I can vent, rant, be sad, talk it all out on paper, and oddly, writing through an issue gives me a different perspective than talking it through out loud or with someone else. It also gives me a record to review down the road. It’s a good check to see if I’ve sorted myself out and resolved what’s troubling me. I don’t try to keep a daily journal when I’m stressed, I write as I feel the need. But I do keep what I write, sometimes just until I have an answer, and sometimes longer if the issue is deeper, and something I may need to visit again.

  9. I talk it out with a trusted soul. Depending on the issue, everyone in my life may know what’s going on, or only a select few. I don’t like to air my issues casually, but being able to open up to the right person or group can do a world of good.

  10. I pray, if possible, out loud, or I sometimes write my prayers. If you’re not a praying person, this one won’t help. For me, there’s relief in taking my heart to God, and believing that he hears and cares about what hurts in my life.

So that’s it. I hope, next time you feel your fear, some of these ideas will help. And if you have a great strategy for dragon-slaying, please share…I can always use another weapon in my arsenal!  ~ Sheila