At 59, I am under less stress than I’ve been in a long time…well, I should be. I have three grown daughters, a two-year-old granddaughter who is the light of my life, an amazing husband, a son-in-law, a son-in-love, a great church, wonderful friends, two dogs, three Glofish (look them up, the perfect fish for a writer’s desk as they look like they are colored with highlighters), and foster pups flowing through our home. In addition to creating and maintaining this blog, I am a freelance writer/photographer. I’ve even pared this work to one publication, http://oysterpointer.net/author/cathywelch/ and one fantastic editor.
I’ve gone from raising three children, working full-time, singing in a trio, etc., and now I’m more stressed than ever.
BUT… I heard something the other day that changed my perspective on things. I happened upon an email about a free webinar entitled, “How to Survive & Succeed as a Writer: Without Breaking Your Heart or Losing Your Mind” by Gabriela Pereira the creator of “DIY MFA”. I’ve heard about this book/course and have been following Gabriela for years. I’ve written several novels and pieces of novels for National Novel Writing Month www.nanowrimo.org and have a dream of finishing a book one day. So, Gabriela’s been on my radar for a long time.
The webinar offered a measured and well-thought-out process for staying on track, completing your goals and surviving as a writer…whether it’s your day job or a hobby. But one slide grabbed my attention and I cannot get it out of my mind. It was entitled: Pain vs. Suffering. The analogy she used for these diametrically opposed states of being was unique:
Suppose you are late for a meeting and you are stuck in a stalled subway train. You are stuck, no doubt about it. That’s pain. The suffering comes when you start trying to contact the people you are supposed to meet and conjure up all the scenarios of failure, disappointment, anger, etc. that will be produced by your tardiness — any possible thing that your mind can come up with to derail you from a calm/productive state. The pain is objective. There’s nothing you can do about it. The suffering is subjective – you choose to react or let something knock you out of a conscious state of peace and productivity.
Ever since I heard this analogy, I have been applying it to multiple situations. I heard something on television about a political issue and began to wonder if we were heading for World War 3. I had a technical issue with this blog site and began to be frantic about getting a photo up for a Facebook page I participate in. Instead, I took a few minutes to breath deeply and reach out to an expert on the subject. I was upset about a personal situation and realized there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I prayed over the situation instead.
I am working on the habit of quickly realizing what things I can affect and what things I can’t. If I can’t affect it directly, I can pray about it and let it go. If I can do something about it and it is appropriate, I make a plan or just do it. These strategies are my goal.
At this stage in my life, I am more content and centered than I’ve ever been. I enjoy being my authentic self and living life to the fullest. I’ve read a lot about stress and hormonal changes that probably explain a lot about how I’ve been feeling lately – squeezed, overwhelmed, feeling less-than and more. I am realizing that I must do more now to remain balanced, happy and productive than ever before. I am blessed to be a follower of Jesus and know that he is there and helps me every second of every day. That comfort is first and foremost. But I also have other outlets that help me in daily life: yoga, mindfulness practice, a wonderful family and more. Puppies – they are such a stress reliever too.
What do you do to alleviate stress/suffering? Do any of you in your mid- to late-life have techniques that work better at this stage? If so, please share in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.