December 21, 2016

New Steps Forward

It is a blessed day here in cloudy and cool, Phoenix. I woke up around 7 this morning, and praise be to God, I was finally feeling better. I think whatever I had passed through my system during the night because I feel so much better. Last night was especially difficult. I had a headache all day, but before I turned in for the evening, I had a full-blown migraine with aura. I finally had to lay down in my room with all the lights off. My headache didn’t start to lessen until well after midnight. The good news is that I didn’t get sick (like vomit), but I sure was nauseated for several hours.  I haven’t had a migraine like that in a long, long time.

This morning, however, I am back to my old self. In fact, I would say that I feel more like myself, more like my typical happy self, than I have in weeks. In truth, the past few days has been the pits. I started the week (my week off) with so much “teaching” work to do, and on top of my work, I had all the pressures of home (prep and shopping for Christmas) — plus —  all the stress over my dissertation research. I was literally crumbling under the weight of it all. Yesterday was the lowest I have been ‘emotionally’ in weeks, and after a really bad morning start, and an even crummier afternoon, I finally broke down and cried. I was at the breaking point, and my life, it seemed, was heading in one direction only, and that direction was not a positive one, but a negative one. I was so low emotionally, so depressed, that I thought I wasn’t going to make it — like not make it literally — but eventually the depressing clouds cleared, and I was able to see my way through, somehow see my way through.

Seeing Clearly Now

Now, I am feeling better. The headache is gone. The feeling of darkness and oppression has lifted, and frankly, I feel more like I normally do when I have days off at home. My to-do hasn’t gotten any shorter, and while I did take care of a few things yesterday, due to my feeling so poorly, I really didn’t get much work done at all. I rested off and on throughout the day, and then of course, last night, I had to pitch it all in and just go to bed early.

Today, my prayer is to make up all the missing work, to make some real progress, and to overcome any and all deficiencies I feel in regard to my research. I am trusting the Lord for His provision, and that means, His provision of ABILITY this good day. Yes, I need His abilities to power through this tremendous workload and then to focus on each task so that I do it well. I know He has me well-covered, so I am resting in Him now. I cannot do this work on my own. The only way I will get through this project, this work, is to rely on His abilities and not mine.

The same goes for all my other needs. I panicked a bit today when I thought about my son needing a car for spring (January) classes. I haven’t even begun to consider how to help him with that task, so this morning I prayed, and I realized that I cannot do it. I don’t have the cash laying about, and frankly, I don’t have the time to find him a car either. He will have to do it, and he will have to take on this responsibility and buy a car for himself. I started to think about it, and I realized that I cannot take on more work — any work. I cannot take on anything else because my plate is overflowing, and right now, one more thing will surely sink me. Thus, I have had to let some things go. I have had to let go of responsibilities and priorities that I have taken hold of that really are not mine to worry or fret over.

Among these responsibilities are my Mom’s eventual care. Her memory has taken such a sharp turn, to the point where she asks me 5-6 times a day, the same thing. She cannot retain information for 5-6 minutes, and that means that she cannot be left on her own or trusted to do anything that requires the use of short term memory. More so, there is the issue with my parents’ general care, which is failing. I have taken the role as caregiver for them, but in truth, this is not the role the Lord has desired for me. I cannot carry them both, so I must let them go. I will help them, of course, and I will do my best to be their support as I am able, but I cannot carry their worries, their fears, their doubts. I must let them deal with the trials of their lives, and in that way, I must let the end come as the Lord desires it. I cannot stop the progression of the years or the hardships that have taken their toll. I must watch, which is difficult for me to do, but I cannot intervene. I must simply let the path be followed, no matter how challenging, how difficult, and how sad it may be for me.

Secondly, there is my son’s overall happiness. I have been worried about him lately, and I have watched him handle plenty of important tasks and do well. He is able to be trusted with his life now, and I realized that yesterday as I was crying over my life. I realized that as much as I want to keep him safe, protect him from harm, and help him succeed, I cannot do it. He has to call the shots now, and make decisions that will hopefully be for his best. I will stand on the sidelines and cheer him on, but I can no longer take the Mom role in his life. His is an adult, and as such, he has to take the reins now and do his best. I pray he finds good success, and I will certainly be here to hug, hold, and help as I can, but he has to take on his own responsibilities. I cannot carry him any longer.

Third, there is my own workload, which is overwhelming and difficult. I realized this as well, that the amount of work I am doing now — teaching 6 classes and working on a dissertation — is pretty overwhelming and heavy despite the fact that I am a “go getter” and “overachiever.” I am this way naturally, always doing the hard work, but the time has come to put my life on the front burner, and to begin to make decisions and choices that will improve the quality of my life instead of improving the quality of life for others. Don’t get me wrong — I hope everyone in my family has an improved quality of life — but I am tired of putting my needs second to everyone else. I am no longer going to do this, to sacrifice my time, my talents and my abilities just so other people can be comfortable. Not at the expense of my own health and well-being, I should say. I am taking back control of what God has given me to control, and in this way, I am putting ME first for a change. I am not going to be superficial or focused on non-essential things, but I am going to think carefully about what is best for me. I mean, I must think about what is best for me. Truth be told — if I don’t think about me — no one else will. I hate to say it that way, but the fact remains, that while my family does love me, they are not sacrificing their time to help me. No one is helping me. No one is standing with me and saying to me, “Here, Carol, let me carry this load for you!” No, they are all saying, “Carol, help me!”

Well, as I think about it, I realize that the boat I am in is only big enough for me. I cannot help other people. I cannot improve the lives of others, no matter how I want to do it. I can help them, of course, but in little ways. I can be kind, compassionate, and loving — but I cannot carry the load that is their own to carry — if you get my point. Sometimes, God gives us a load that is meant for our own back, and while it is good to have friends and loved ones come along side and help us now and then, the truth is that the load doesn’t belong to us, but to these people. We are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2), which means to help lift the load or the person who is carrying the load. Where we fail often is when we take the load off of others, rather than simply lending a hand. The Message translation say it this way, and I think it makes good sense:

Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.

You see, scriptures tell us to lend a hand, to reach out, to help others. We are not to become beasts of burden, per se, but rather we are to help lift oppression, to bring hope and at times, help, as we are able.

I have mistaken this verse over the course of my life, and I have stooped to help, but ended up carrying people, so much so to the point, where my back is nearly broken from the weight of other people’s burdens. At my age now, I am no longer going to carry anyone’s weight. I have reached my limit, and thus, I must be gracious and merciful, but I cannot carry anyone on my shoulders ever again.

With this new level of understanding, I am making a commitment to my health and overall well-being. I am putting my welfare as a first priority. This means that I will only go where the Lord sends me —and not where I think He might be sending my son. More so, I will not stay in Phoenix for my parents welfare, but I will stay only if this is the Lord’s will for my life too. I cannot give up His plan for my life in order to please or make someone else happy. I cannot sacrifice what He is asking me to do just so that another person or other people will be happy.

In fact, I would say it this way: the only way to truly find happiness is to embrace your life’s purpose, and to find meaning in what the Lord is calling you to do. I know my path, and here is the real kicker…it is MY PATH. It is not my son’s path nor my parents path. It is my path, and it is born out of my submission to the Lord. My path is the result of the choices I have made, and there are no freeloaders who can tag along. The path I walk on has room for two people only — me and the Lord — and while I would like to bring my entire entourage with me, I cannot do it. Each person must walk their own path with the Lord. Sure, we can all head in the same direction, but we cannot walk on the exact same path. No, this path is mine. It belongs to me, and as such, it is mine to follow.

Setting Appropriate Boundaries

As I write this blog post, I realize that I need to re-establish boundaries in my life. For one thing, my dissertation research will not accomplish itself without my 100% attendance. I mean, no one is going to “magically” do this analysis. It is my responsibility, thus I cannot allow anything to interfere with this important work. My research is my life right now, and as such, it comes ahead of everything else — and ahead of all the wants, needs, and desires — of those around me. My research is my number one priority, and as such, it is my work to do, to finish.

Lately, I have spent an inordinate amount of time worry over spring, May graduation, and my impending financial aid loans coming due. I have put so much time into worry over these things, that I have lost my focus and started to panic about future events not even on the horizon. My hope now is to reset my lenses, so to speak, and to focus on the “here and now” and not the future so much. Of course, I still need to think about my future, but for the time being, I have to deal with what is right in front of me, and that means my teaching work, my dissertation research, and my desire to be a full-time faculty member soon. Yes, I have to focus on the things that the Lord has marked with big red checks and not all those other line items.

My priorities, therefore, are as follows:
  1. Completing my final grading (due by Friday, 12/23)
  2. Completing my Phase II inventory list today and then counting (next week)
  3. Completing my Phase III in-depth analysis by the weekend (12/24-26)
  4. Meeting with my Professor next week to discuss chapter 4 and 5
  5. Starting to wrap up research (12/28-30) so I can begin writing my final chapters
Yes, I know Christmas falls in there as well, and I do have some shopping, some dinner preparations to make as well as some visiting with my brother (who is in town on business). But all of these things will fall into place when needed. I am not worrying about anything other than my top five priorities listed above.

In Closing

As I close this blog post, I realize that I am a giver, someone who loves to give, and who gives willingly and eagerly to please others. I long to please others, not so they will like me so much, but simply because giving to others pleases me. I find that I enjoy being a cheerful giver, but I lose my boundaries often when I give, give, give, and I don’t stop to take, take, take some for myself.

My personality is one of a giver, and this means that I have to stop giving past my boundary lines, and simply say, “I am sorry, I cannot do that for you” and let other people figure out second, third, or fourth options for their life or need or want. As I process this all, I come face to face with the truth — I am where I am today (in a pickle of sorts) because I didn’t always stand my ground, stake my boundary line, and protect myself. Instead, I bent over backwards to accommodate others, and in doing so, I simply let myself get pushed around a bit. I’d like to say that I’ve learned my lesson, but that would not be true. I will always be this way, but I can protect myself better by saying, “no” now and then. Yes, I simply need to say, “No, thank you.” May God be praised for my new found gumption and voice to say “no.”

My prayer today is to finish my tasks and to focus some on my next week’s needs. I don’t know how much work I will get done, but I will do my best, and I will pray that it is blessed. I will rest in His sufficiency, and in His abilities this good, good day. I will let go of everything that belongs to other people, and I will embrace what the Lord has given to me this good day. He is good, so very good to me. Selah!

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