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Inside Out

What I’m learning right now is: to accept and befriend the parts of me that others criticize.

I started work in a hospital setting about a year and a half ago. I had no idea it would be so stressful.  I’ve heard the phrase before that “nurses eat their young” (FYI there are some amazing ones out there) but I’ve moreso experienced that “everyone eats everyone else”. The gossip, the criticism, the backstabbing, the bullying, the judging, the rumors created out of hurt pride, everyone talking about everyone else. Or being directly aggressive to others they deem weaker.  I know it happens other places too.

As a newer person in this environment who is also one of the youngest, female, introverted, and naturally avoidant to conflict, I have experienced many of these things. There are very nice people who I’m glad to have met to work with but the aggression from others has really thrown me off my feet. At times the rejection or passive-aggressive comments from others has ruined my entire day, week, and inspired me to reject myself.  But I started reading “Boundaries for Your Soul” by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller, and highly recommend it. It talks about identifying parts of your soul that are either hiding as exiles or “acting out”, befriending them, inviting Jesus to be there, and becoming less fragmented. The authors compare this to the movie Inside Out-which if you haven’t seen it, is a great movie and accurate with psychological research.

person holding smartphone riding airplane

Photo by Jason Toevs on Pexels.com

And with my situation I realized two primary parts of me were struggling-the shy part of me feeling shut down by the criticisms and rejection, and the angry part of me wanting to break free to breathe fire on everyone. Truth be told, I was stressed every day fighting them for a long time trying to “stay professional”, to do what I’m supposed to do as a Christian, and get all my coworkers to like me. But after reading this book I realize the shy girl in me has protected me from a lot of home problems growing up-and even as an adult from other aggressive adults by creating a barrier between me and them. Ironically the shy girl in me is probably the strongest for weathering against so much. The anger is trying to stand up to protect me which is more than what most anyone has done for me in my life.

I found a newfound appreciation for Shyness and Anger who have tried to help me more than most people have. They’ve been there through it all. With that being said, I want to live by my Spirit-led self; Christ in me, and know things that used to help me before may be hurting me now how they’re being used. So I’m working on abiding in Christ to let Christ in me love them and befriend them. To have Anger help me advocate for myself, stand tall, and speak out against what I see is wrong. To have Shyness help me create boundaries against people who are unsafe (because she is the toughest of them all). To work with them for a common goal, maybe even have them work together, but not let them drive the bus-a calm adult is needed for that, which is Christ in me.

Something I’ve felt with this process for maybe the first time is: more compassion for myself. Not in a narcissistic way but because God loves me and has given me that value. Having certain parts of my soul trying to protect me (even if not the best way outwardly at times) has warmed my heart.

So if anyone else is struggling with feeling rejected, criticized, or wrongfully treated-at work or just in life-I hope you find some compassion for yourself. God loves you.

 

 

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Freedom and Choice

We all need freedom of choice. But sometimes, others will not respect that. Some may try to manipulate or guilt you into doing what THEY want. It is a sad fact of life-that can happen in almost every area-work, family, relationshtips, friendships, etc. Some people will try to do this because they want control. Maybe they know no other way to interact, trying to protect themselves by controlling others in their own brokenness. Maybe they believe their opinions are worth more than they are, somehow elevated above what others think and feel. There are many reasons.

But those reasons do not excuse the behaviors. Whenever we are pushed or manipulated into doing something, even if it seems a good idea, we give away our free choice. We give our power over to another person and lose ownership of ourselves, our choices, and our life. We may come to agree with another’s view, but we must own our own decision-making to come to that conclusion. Otherwise, we become slaves. Slaves to whatever is dictating what we do, think, or feel.

Some of us may need the reminder that being pushed, guilted, or manipulated is NOT OK. It is easy to get used to if it happens enough, and unfortunately, those prone to doing the pushing or manipulating can smell it and pounce. If someone at work, in the family, or in a closer relationship comes to mind, remember that you have the freedom to make your own choices in thought and action. You are not being selfish or a problem, even if the other party is not happy. Someone needs that encouragement today. Some people in our lives may not be healthy and supportive of this, but those with good boundaries will respect you and your decisions. It may be hard to stand up for yourself, say no, disagree, or state your opinion, but know that it is good to do so, even if someone else becomes unhappy. Without a real no, we cannot have a real yes. Without defining our own borders, whatever they may be, we cannot be true and authentic with those around us. Stay strong everyone!

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Expectations

Sometimes expectations can give us direction, motivation, passion, and framework for our lives. Sometimes, expectations held onto too strongly can cripple us when things do not go the way we want. It can be difficult to cope when things do not go our way in any given area of life. When that happens, it might be worthwhile to look at how tightly you hold onto your expectations and how it helps or ultimately hinders you. We can own our own expectations -but that does not mean others have to follow them. Often, life does not comply with what we want. How do you respond when that happens?

The day had gone; alone and weak
I groped my way within a bleak
     And sunless land.008 (2)
The path that led into the light
I could not find! In that dark night
     God took my hand.
He led me that I might not stray,
And brought me by a safe, new way
I had not known.
By waters still, through pastures green
I followed Him-the path was clean
     Of briar and stone.
The heavy darkness lost its strength,
My waiting eyes beheld at length
     The streaking dawn.
On, safely on, through sunrise glow
I walked, my hand in His, and lo,
The night had gone.

-Annie Porter Johnson

 

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Time Does Not Always Heal

Time can heal for some things. However, deep hurts and wounds from life stick with us until we actively face and process through them. An infection begins from a cut, and while the open wound may heal a little, the infection spreads until it gets actively cleaned out. The infection does not go away on its own IF the cut is deep enough.

Sometimes, we can directly correlate what we feel with why we feel. We know the exact cause, and the task becomes handling the thoughts and emotions from the identified trigger. For example, after a tough day at work where you are harassed by an aggressive customer or coworker, you know exactly why you feel drained  when you get home. You can make an effort to keep boundaries between a tough professional day and your personal life, and make time for recovering.

Other times, often more chronically throughout the days that pass, maybe you feel a constant edge. A constant discomfort, restlessness, fear, and/or anger, and/or a constant reaction to certain situations or people. Maybe you cannot describe your experience other than knowing it is toil and pain. There are many possible reasons for your experience and struggle. One possible factor of many could be a past wound not thoroughly cleansed or bound. Here’s an exercise to try:

When thinking of painful past experiences and/or people, what comes to mind for you? (Take time to see what drifts into your thoughts)

For what pops into your mind, how do you feel as you remember? (Take some time to just feel without expectations or moving on)

If you could picture your feelings as wounds, what do they look like? Are they closed over like a painless scar? Are they halfway closed but starting to get infected and red? Or are they open wounds that are raw, exposed, painfully infected, and crippling? Are they once-healed wounds that have been re-opened?

Painful experiences happen to all of us-wherever you are at with processing yours, there is someone in a similar spot. Just try “googling” your struggle or feeling and see what comes up. For all of us, it can be helpful to take an inventory of memories and feelings  and their possible effect on how we are functioning today. If you identify something infected or open, what would it look like to clean it and wrap it? For today, it could be a momentous step to even go there- to feel that pain, and acknowledge your wounds without brushing them under the rug. It is a crucial first step that takes courage. Remember there are others who are working through the struggle, and you are not alone. 

Blessings to you.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” -Psalm 147:3
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Rocks

Two months ago I bought my first car-and simultaneously, my first new car! A beautiful tungsten 2018 Subaru Outback. It was love at first sight. I felt like a new mother with a precious new baby. An only-child baby named Pearl. Beautiful beige seats, the brand-new-car smell, squeaky clean, and super high-tech to me considering my last (and only) car was an old jeep.  Pearl was magnificent.

6 days after signing for Pearl I drove her on the highway for the first time, still in the honeymoon phase with the beauty and newness. However, the butterflies and rainbows over this car splattered when a truck passed me on the left. I saw it in slow motion…a huge, ugly rock seemed to float from the truck in my upper left corner vision right to where I was. It hit my windshield. A sickeningly loud POP.  And, just like that, my brand new precious Pearl was scarred with a nasty crack.

I did not take this incident well. I drove back home and cried. I sulked the whole week waiting for a repair service to replace the windshield. I prayed about my frustration and discouragement for ever getting anything new or nice again (overdramatic? maybe a little). And the more I vented to God, the more my heart changed to see the situation in a different perspective. I still had the car. The windshield would be fixed, easy. Why did I react like I lost everything? Why did I feel like I lost everything?

I had viewed the car like it WAS everything. 

I liked it, sure, but was it more important than family and friends? My character? My soul? How I contribute to the world? Of course not. It’s just a car. More importantly, it’s an object given as a gift, but not something I’m entitled to (Psalm 24:1, 1 Chronicles 29:12). I needed a heart check, and actually became grateful for the rock and what it taught me for how to see and use this car with a healthy perspective.

I’ve had other “rocks” hit my proverbial life windshield since then. I think these are lessons God is taking me through to teach something important about how I view the things and situations around me starting a newer chapter in my life. Coincidentally (or maybe not), correlating with my previous thoughts on pursuing what will remain. It’s clearly a lesson I’m still in school for, and that’s ok. RocksI need more discipline in this area for my own wellness, but there’s grace. Coincidentally (or maybe not), the reading today was from John 1:16: “Out of his fullness [Jesus] we have all received grace in place of grace already given.

Do “rocks” come up in your life, too? How do you identify them? How do you take it when they hit? How do you recuperate?

Picture: Retrieved from thekindnessrocksproject.com
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Finding the “Middle Ground” in Depression

Depression can hit hard, especially in the common experience waking up and feeling run over by a truck. Whether expected or unexpected, it is past morning and you (or someone you know) are still in bed unable to find the energy to get up. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to experience that icky-morning-slump where every fiber of your being does not want to move. It is no trivial thing and should not be treated as such. Then the thoughts come about needing to get up to tackle the insurmountable pile of chores and responsibilities needing attention. Why aren’t they being done? What is wrong with me that I can’t get up to do what obviously needs to be done?

The battle between wanting to lay in bed and do nothing, versus seeing everything needing to be done RIGHT NOW, begins. “Snapping out of it” rarely works. Please, please do not say “snap out of it” to yourself or someone else experiencing depression.

How about finding a compromise? Instead of only laying in bed all day versus only running around to fulfill duties and responsibilities while feeling awful, what would it look like to show compassion to yourself while setting a SMALL goal to meet? If you have to get up to go to work/school, where can you get your favorite coffee or breakfast to show kindness to yourself and find the time to enjoy it? If you have homework or job searching to do, can you do it while curling up and watching a favorite movie with a soothing cup of tea?

There’s room for creativity here to find the middle ground that engages in meeting responsibilities AND taking the time to rest with compassion and kindness towards yourself in what you are experiencing. What could this look like for you?

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Pursue What Remains

An old teacher used to say we all have a false source of life, and a false source of death. What is one (or more) thing(s) that you think “if I just had this, then everything will be ok”-Money? A certain relationship? Degree? Career? Social status? Similarly, what is one (or more) thing(s) that completely cripples you, that you have to work to avoid at all costs? Someone else’s poor opinion of you? Failure? Lowered status in a social group or a job?

Most of us have at least one false source of life and false source of death-it is easy to dismiss them as irrelevant in our heads because we know better, but the gut reactions in our hearts say different. Try to REALLY pause and go deep on what this looks like for you, even if you know it shouldn’t affect you so much. Try to feel.  Most people I know, including myself, have stuff-you’re not alone. Once we are more aware of these things, even if they’re still there, we can become freer and more joyful.

Because after we get whatever gives us a false source of life, life goes on. Things don’t stop and remain perfect after we get that specific thing or goal. Similarly, after something we dread and fear happens, though it is by no means fun, we still remain afterwards-which is proof in and of itself that better things will come, new love will pour in, and a new light will dawn the next day after the dark. Feel your heart beating. You are still here, you remain. And you matter.

Of course, it is wonderful to enjoy good things when they come. Celebrate! And we need to mourn when bad things come. We need to feel. Through all the ups and downs we can avoid becoming dependent on these things. We can avoid becoming miserably enslaved to spending our life chasing after a false source of life, and we can avoid becoming miserably enslaved to avoiding our false sense of death at all costs.

After both, you’re still here-that’s what’s important.

When you strip away all the circumstances that can change so easy, the fickle and imperfect people, the things around you in a state of decay, and the “stuff”, what remains?

What, or Who, securely gives you life for what remains?

What would happen if you looked to this secure, unchanging, real Source of Life and love instead of the “stuff”?

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