As I was considering what to write about at the beginning of this New Year, I was going to write about reflecting on our accomplishments. I realized I had already written about that so I thought about how we see the New Year as an opportunity for change and decided to go with that. We often think that we need to make drastic changes that require tremendous effort. I want to challenge that thinking with the idea of making small changes over time to transform our lives.
As I was pondering what to write about for this month’s blog, I thought about all of the negativity and conflict surrounding the election, all of the horrible acts of violence we see on the news, in movies and video games and all of the unspoken violence that occurs behind closed doors. I also thought about all of the conflict that arises when families get together for what is supposed to be enjoyable family time during the holidays and I thought of peace. How can we find and maintain peace during stressful times or when we are inundated with violent images, words and behaviors?
The first thing I thought of was shutting off all electronic gadgets that bombard our senses with so much violence. Our brains need a break from all of the negativity and violence. We have become so accustomed to seeing and hearing it that we have become desensitized to it. We don’t realize how much those images have been absorbed into our psyche and affect how we feel and how we respond to the world. We have become less compassionate toward ourselves and others. We have learned to shut down our feelings because if we allowed ourselves to feel the pain we witness through the media every day, we would have difficulty functioning. We may find ourselves in tears curled up in a ball with blankets over our heads, withdrawing from the world. Although we may not go to this extreme, there are many ways that we withdraw. How about those electronic gadgets that everybody carries with them, constantly looking at them and answering every little beep, buzzer, whistle or musical tone? Don’t we use them as an escape from the violence and pain? We may use them to escape, but do we find the peace we are seeking when we are scrolling through emails, social media feeds and watching YouTube videos?
The next thing I thought of was the beautiful fall weather, the crisp air, the golds, reds, purples and oranges of the leaves as they turn and let go of the branches to which they have been bound. We enjoyed a day trip to Indian Cave State Park yesterday. Although we missed the height of the fall colors, it was still relaxing to get out in the fresh air and see the natural beauty that we forget exists when we are cooped up indoors with all of our indoor comforts and distractions. The crunching leaves underfoot as we hiked up a steep trail, the smell of campfires, watching the squirrels scurry around collecting acorns and nuts for winter, the birds flying overhead, woodpeckers looking for food in dead trees, the river current carrying fallen leaves downstream, and the absence of traffic noise brought a sense of peacefulness and calm to my family. My son commented, “We need to do this more often!” He is a “millennial” and is accustomed to being on electronic gadgets, but out there, he got a break. There is no Wi-Fi and the cellular connections are limited. Disconnecting from technology and connecting with nature can offer a sense of peace.
The last thing I will address is taking time for yourself, to have fun, to have quiet time doing something you enjoy, to get lost in something creative. In other words, slow everything down, stop doing so much and just “be” in the moment. I had a professor, Kent Estes, who once said to me, “Kolleen, you are a human being, not a human doing.” I have remembered this and have used it often as a reminder to myself and to my clients. We are bombarded with so much information every second of every day that our senses have become overloaded. In order to find peace, we need to take a step back from everything, take a look inside ourselves to check in and get in touch with who we really are, breathe deeply and remind ourselves that “all is well.”
As we prepare to go to the polls next week and we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, take time to relax and connect with your inner peace. If you haven’t tried meditation, this may be a good time to try it out, even if it is just for three to five minutes a day. Unplug, literally, from all of the negative images and commentary that steal your peace of mind and spirit. As one of my childhood favorite church songs says, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
Last night at bedtime, as I was preparing all of my stuff to take to work in the morning, I couldn’t find my van keys. I cleaned out my purse, checked jacket pockets, looked in all of the usual places and still couldn’t find them. I decided, as a last resort, to go into the garage and check my vehicle. Lo and behold, there they were, in the ignition! I had unloaded the van after shopping on Saturday, then realized I needed to write down my mileage so I put the keys back in and turned them enough to see the mileage. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked and my van is old so it doesn’t make all of the usual warning noises to let you know when you have left keys in the ignition. I spent the weekend cleaning and canning apple butter, so I had no need to go out to the vehicle, until last night when I couldn’t find my keys.
You know what happened. The battery was run down to nothing and there was no chance of starting it. My husband was already in bed, but got up and checked it out. He hooked up a battery charger and found there was almost no charge left in the battery. He didn’t want to leave it hooked up overnight with no supervision so we unplugged it and decided to get up early to plug it back in and hope that there would be enough time to charge it before work or I would have to take him to work and keep his vehicle. Thankfully, he was able to give it enough juice to start it and I was able to take it to work and he was able to take his vehicle. But it was scary and anxiety-producing until we knew we could get it running.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you emptied your internal battery to the point of having no juice left? Have you tried starting yourself on an empty battery? Did you wonder why you couldn’t get it going? Just as I inadvertently drained my van battery, we can drain ourselves and not realize it until it is too late and we don’t have any charge left. We had to plug in a battery charger and hook it up to the van battery to give it enough juice to get it started. What do you have to do to recharge your batteries?
We just returned from a 10 day vacation to a cabin in Minnesota with friends, the Great Lakes, Canada, Niagara Falls and a few other sites along the way. Although I was sick most of the vacation, it was wonderful to get out, see some new scenery, touch base with friends, enjoy nature and spend time with my family. I came back feeling better and ready to go back to work. I have more energy, gained a new perspective, got some rest, had some new experiences and am re-charged! Before vacation, my batteries were running low which is why I got sick. I had been busy with work, workshops, a family reunion, a wedding, several funerals and trying to catch up on home projects and was not taking time to take good care of myself. Too many hours of work, stretching well into the night combined with early mornings and non-stop activity during the day were draining the juice from my batteries without my realizing it, just as the key left in the ignition had drained the juice from my van battery. I’m sure that we both looked okay on the outside, but the inner workings were not keeping up with appearances. Upon closer inspection, others may have realized that we were both having our energy slowly drained and we needed to stop the energy drains and get plugged into a power source that could replenish us!
What is draining your energy? How can you stop the energy drains? What energy source can you plug into to recharge? I encourage you to take some well-deserved time to charge your batteries. If you aren’t sure what charges you up, take some time to consider when you feel relaxed, calm, excited, happy, content, creative, focused or loving. Are there activities that you don’t have time for because you are caught up in the busy-ness of life? What is an activity that you love to do but haven’t done for a while? Schedule time to do it! Is there a person that you love spending time with that you haven’t spoken to or haven’t seen recently? Contact that person and schedule time to talk or get together! Is there an activity that you have wanted to try but haven’t gathered the information it would take to do it? Gather the information and try something new! Is there something that relaxes or calms you but you rarely take the time to do it because “it’s not a good time” or “I will get back to that someday”? Why wait any longer? Take time for yourself! When you do these things, you are putting yourself on the battery charger before you are depleted and can’t start. Don’t try to run your life on a dead battery. Take time to re-charge your batteries and bring energy back into your life!