10 Ways to Identify Pleasant Childhood Memories

I’m thankful that I can easily access pleasant memories; thankful not just for the ability to remember, but that I also have quite a bit of good material to choose from.  I realize that many are not so lucky.  This post is for those whose pain is prominent; for those who have been hurt deeply and often, and who feel the sting of emptiness at the question, “What are your best childhood memories?” As we approach the holiday season, we know the questions are coming.  The glances over frosty glasses of eggnog accompanied by the stories of childhood holidays of old, of “simpler times,” and “the good old days,” even though for many those days were less than idyllic.  This post is also for those who just want to get in touch with their past selves, to enhance introspection and connection to previous days.

Whatever the reason for wanting to identify pleasant memories from the past, we know this: memory is a funny thing.  Sometimes, the most prominent memories to us are barely present in the minds of others, even when they participated and played an active role.  This morning, I was talking to dear friend about a memory that was especially salient to me; one of which she had absolutely no recollection.  I was reminiscing about a quaint little stationary and office supply store where we used to buy pencils, paper, and erasers.  Maybe other people don’t particularly reminisce about their first purchase of graph paper or wooden pencils, but I do.  It stands out to me as shaping my love of paper, writing utensils, and office supplies.  For some reason, I think about it often.  Maybe it’s a sign I should open my own stationary store? Or maybe I just need to stop and savor the things I most enjoy, and let them bring forth the sweet memories of the smells of cedar, rubber, and coins from my change purse.  Maybe these memories can carry me through the eggnog conversations, and provide me with material for journaling and introspection, even dinner table conversations with my husband and four-year-old little boy.

If you would like to identify pleasant memories for yourself, whether or not you have a painful past, want your spouse or family to have a deeper understanding of your soul, or just want to add to your collection of sweet and pleasant thoughts for accessing on a brisk winter walk, here are 10 ways to identifying pleasant childhood memories:

  1.  Think about your favorite hobby as an adult.  When did you become interested in this? Who introduced it to you? Where were you the first time you did this thing you really enjoy? What were the sights, sounds, and smells around you?
  2. Consider items you like to collect.  Could it be pencils, like mine? Kitchen utensils? Golf clubs? Stamps? Coins? What did it feel like to acquire this item for the first time? What did it smell like? What did you create with it?
  3. What is your favorite food? Is there a specific person who made this food for you many years ago? What is a “comfort food” for you? Does it have a family history? Do you have a written recipe? Whose handwriting is the recipe written in? Did the same hand that wrote the recipe also write loving words to you at some point in a card or letter? Do you still have it?
  4. If you have a history of painful relationships with other people, can you identify loving relationships you have had with dogs or cats? The love between dog or cat and person is a beautiful, wholesome thing to celebrate.  Do you have sweet, precious memories with an animal who had unconditional positive regard for you? Do you remember its preferences for certain foods or activities?
  5. Try to identify one activity that brings you peace in times of stress as an adult.  A bubble bath? A walk? Did this activity provide you with a relief from pain as a child? Momentary comfort? What was it like to be you and engage in this relaxing activity? Are there particular sensory memories that you associate with this activity?
  6. Do you consider yourself a book-lover? Do you remember books from your childhood that provided a respite from the stress or monotony of daily life? What do you remember about these books you read during childhood? Do you remember the covers, the way they smelled, what worlds you were transported to as you read them?
  7. What about a subject in school at which you excelled? Even if you didn’t end up pursuing this subject, even if you didn’t end up with a career defined by it, what did you enjoy? Greek mythology? Earth science? What do you remember about the way receiving affirmation about your abilities felt? Do you remember your teacher? Were they kind and encouraging? Could you ever see yourself taking a class at your local college in the subject, just for fun?
  8. As we near the season of gift-giving, the toy catalogs and advertisements are in abundance.  Were you attached to a particular toy or comfort item as a child? Even if you don’t have it anymore, can you remember the feelings of comfort and safety that this item conjures for you? Have you seen something like it in a store recently? What would it be like to have that item again?
  9. Speaking of holidays, do you have a favorite? Do you shudder at the nearness of Christmas but feel lighthearted at the approach of Valentines Day? Is Easter a time of difficulty, but Cinco de Mayo the most exciting time of the year? Why do you think that is? Can you recall an earlier time in life when you celebrated this holiday and felt peace and joy?
  10. Lastly, can you identify your favorite time of day? Why do you think you have this preference? Does it go back to childhood routines? Personality? What are some fond memories you have of this time of day, and the activities that go along with it? Is it time to revive your love of morning, or add some sparks to your evening routine?

I hope these ideas provide you with the tools you need to identify positive memories from your past, or things to dwell on when you need to enhance your mood.  What are some of your most pleasant memories? Feel free to share in the comments below, and warm wishes from Kentucky for a healthy holiday season!

A New Frontier: Where Food Meets Fear

As a food allergy sufferer, I could write for days about what it is like to fear food.  I’m no stranger to the world of dietary restrictions, nor is anxiety a stranger to me.  When I started my therapy practice six years ago, I sought to help a population that I knew wasn’t getting enough attention: the people who suffer from the emotional, cognitive, and social repercussions of medical conditions specifically involving food.  Whether that be life-threatening food allergies such as my own, Diabetes, Celiac Disease, PKU, or any number of other conditions, there is almost always difficulty coping with the need to be different from everyone else in the most frequent of human activities: eating.

This fall marks the beginning of my seventh year helping people cope emotionally, cognitively, socially, and behaviorally with health-related struggles.  In this half-decade, I’ve been honored to walk with people through other diagnoses too, like cancer, kidney disease, migraines, asthma, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis.  We live in a world that is burdened by disease, and so much of what we experience in day-to-day life requires much deeper work than we give it credit for. 

My specific interest in creating mental health treatment protocols for people with diet-related medical conditions is a result of struggling with an anaphylactic peanut allergy for the majority of my life.  I have done a significant amount of soul-work to channel my anxiety into being proactive, and taking steps to protect myself.  But this year, I took it a step further.  What if I not only actively tried to avoid dying from a food-induced anaphylactic reaction, but tried to become a healthier, more vibrant version of myself overall? Essentially, I reframed my food mindset from solely an avoidance-based mentality to one of combining the avoidance of allergy-inducing foods and the incorporation of foods that make me feel healthy and energetic.  For me, and for a lot of people, food is fear.  But food can also be healing and nourishing.

As we enter a time of year that is especially food-centric, it is vital that we grow in sensitivity for people who are not able to feast mindlessly on holiday fare – from halloween candy to traditional Thanksgiving dinners. There will be friends and family members who will need to bring their own food for safety and peace of mind.  Don’t berate them with questions.  They really just want to feel included and not “other than.”  There will be friends and family members who may leave before an event is over.  That’s ok, too.  We never know what is like to be in someone else’s shoes, especially when that person is dealing with an invisible illness.  Reach out and let them know how glad you are that they were able to participate at all. 

This fall, let’s rejoice in what we have been given.  Even when we are struggling, when it is so easy to focus on feelings of deprivation and isolation, my hope is that we can shift our focus to ways we can actively nourish our bodies and souls through faith, food, family, and friendship.

Genealogy, Family Stories, and Understanding Ourselves

A few days ago, I was scrolling through Etsy before my alarm went off, looking at vintage office supplies.  It’s one of those fascinations that probably merit people calling me an “eccentric.” Not five minutes later, my dad calls me.  Speaking in an urgent, hushed tone, he says, “I am looking on this website called Etsy right now, and I found a 1956 Austin Healy owners manual with illustrations…” Father and daughter, in their respective houses, both on Etsy looking at old stuff.

Both of my parents and I are a lot alike, which is not necessarily surprising considering the shared genes.  But we also have similar interests because we are consciously maintaining certain aspects of our family identity dating back hundreds of years: our faith, a love of reading, collecting old stuff, marveling at things with wheels, and cooking (and eating) amazing food.  Over generations on both sides of the family, certain things have been added and removed from that list.  I don’t smoke like a freight train, I have never operated a still, my fried chicken needs work, and I can’t imagine giving birth to nine sons without being numb from the neck down.  But I am intrigued and inspired by the courage, gumption, and resourcefulness of the people who came before me.  And I’m thankful to have grown up appreciating family history from a very young age.  My maternal grandmother reminded all of her grandchildren, “Remember where you came from, where you’re going, and to whom you must give account,” and it is a lesson for which I am incredibly grateful.  A little bit of where (and who) I came from:

From left: my great-grandfather Samuel (dad’s maternal grandfather), my paternal grandfather and my dad (dressed as a cowboy), my great-grandparents Rachel and James (mom’s paternal grandparents), my great grandparents Cal and Onie (mom’s maternal grandparents), my paternal grandmother Jessie, and my great grandmother Rachel (my mom’s paternal grandmother) with my mom

This desire to understand our genes and get a firm hold on our lineage is growing.  When I work with people who have been abandoned and disappointed, many times they want to find a connection to someone in their gene pool, no matter how far back, with whom to establish connections; someone they can be proud of.  And that research, when we put in the work, usually yields a wealth of stories, good, bad, funny, and cringe-worthy, that make it all worthwhile.  We are wired for stories, and the stories of the people who came before us are particularly palatable because in them we see something of ourselves.  We glean personality traits and characteristics from obituaries and wedding announcements, hard facts from the census, and business-savvy from farm records.  All of the information we gather helps us decide what qualities and abilities we want to foster in ourselves and in our children.  It enables us to feel connected to people and places we haven’t necessarily met or seen.

One way to cultivate a sense of rootedness in our families is by displaying family photographs at home.  Displaying family photographs creates a curiosity in children about the people who came before them.  It creates opportunities for us to discuss character and integrity.  It also provides a context from which we can view hardship today; not to minimize today’s struggles, because every generation has their own unique hardships, but to say “this person in my family really handled hard things with integrity, and I’m going to continue that today.”

 

I’m Not A Crazy Mother: Food Allergies, Anaphylaxis, and Advocating for Your Child

Less than 24 hours ago, I drew upon a lifetime of living with anaphylactic food allergies when I injected my little boy with epinephrine.  24 hours prior to that, we made a trip to the ER after he broke out in hives shortly after drinking some soy milk.  Soy wasn’t new to him.  It had been in his diet constantly since birth, as well as the other “top 7” food allergens.  They sent us home with an Epi-pen Jr., and told us what to look for in the event we needed to use it; all information that has been firmly rooted in my brain for the purpose of protecting myself ever since I was old enough to understand it.

But it was the moment 24 hours ago, when the hives were spreading out of his ears and across his face, combined with the itching in his mouth and nose, and his desperate “Mommy, help me?” that had me reaching for the epinephrine and sent us on our second emergency room visit in 36 hours, this time after cow’s milk.

I have six years of experience helping people cope with anxiety, even OCD, that arises as a result of living with anaphylactic allergies.  Prior to this, it has been my own experience living with these allergies that I have drawn upon in connecting with families going through this journey.  I knew that my mom was called “overprotective” because of the way she advocated for me at school, where I was bullied by my first grade teacher who didn’t believe I really had a problem. Bullying is probably not the right word for it – I probably ought to call it abuse.  The same teacher who took my safe cupcake out of my lunchbox and ate it right in front me, throwing the rest of the contents of my lunch box in the trash; the same teacher who barricaded the door and wouldn’t let me leave the classroom when I tried to go to the school office because they were making peanut butter bird feeders, and there was peanut butter smeared across my desk and chair, my skin erupting into hives and my throat beginning to close.  In response to removing me from that classroom, in insisting that I have epinephrine with me, and checking labels in school freezers, she was “the crazy mom.”  I never saw her as such, but others did.

Thus, I join the ranks of alleged “crazy moms” who cultivate a sense of separateness from mainstream culture; not out of preference but out of necessity.  And I have a letter for you:

Dear Caregivers,

You’re not crazy, even though much of the world will tell you that you are.  There will be people in your family who tell you that you’re a helicopter parent, overprotective.  That you need to step back and “let kids be kids,” that your child just “needs to toughen up.”  Your life looks different from that of the “typical American family,” because your family can’t consume food indiscriminately without regard to ingredients or cross-contamination.  Going to a birthday party is either an enormous task leaving you depleted of energy, or impossible, depending on the severity and type of allergies your child has.  There aren’t many places you can go in which food is not present, or the main attraction: movie theaters, festivals, even churches and places of worship.  You might come to a point in which you wonder why people have to make everything about food.  Can we not attend church without there being food everywhere? Evidently not.  You will grieve the life you had before, in which you could eat without worry and participate in social occasions without fear.  I say all of this not to be a downer, not to be pessimistic, but to tell you that I hear you, I affirm you, and I feel the same way.

You are the champions of your child’s health and wellbeing.  You are an advocate for a child who needs help learning how to protect themselves.  You are showing them what it means to be assertive, how to read labels, how to act calmly but efficiently in an emergency situation.  You are strong, you are capable, and you, my friends, are definitely not crazy.

Sincerely,

An Allergic Mom of an Allergic Child

P.S. The only time I was ever annoyed with my mom was when she made me carry my epinephrine in a fanny pack.  I couldn’t have a crossbody purse? Oh well.  I lived to tell the tale.

Self-Care Ideas for Small Moments, Big Moments, and the In-Between

Are you in need of some self-care ideas? Do you ever find yourself with a short amount of time, and no idea how to use it? Maybe you scroll through Instagram because there is nothing else you can think of that will fill up the ten minutes you have until the next thing on your to-do list? Below, I’m going to give you some self-care ideas, and break them down into how much time you need to benefit from them.  Through my years of training and practice as a therapist, I also have some SERIOUS self-care experience, and I’m eager to share some ideas with you!

First of all, what is self-care? Every now and then, I see the glazed looks of those who have absolutely no idea what I am talking about when I say “self-care.” And that’s ok! Let’s define it.  Self-care is the intentional act of caring for and nurturing yourself.  We need to engage in self-care in order to be healthy, to fulfill our obligations, and to enjoy the time we are given in this beautiful world.

Never again let social media be your default when you have a short amount of time to fill, and if you suddenly find yourself with a free afternoon, maybe these ideas will inspire you do something you’ve never done before!

If you have 5 minutes:

  1. Take pictures of the world around you
  2. Read a page or two in a book  (I always have a book with me for this purpose)
  3. Doodle or draw (Keep a notebook or sketchbook with you at all times in case you have a free moment)
  4. Listen to a song mindfully (Sit quietly, close your eyes, and focus on the music)
  5. Write down three things you are grateful for
  6. Do some relaxed breathing
  7. Pray

If you have 10 minutes:

  1. Take pictures of the world around you
  2. Reading a few pages of a book (Again, never be without a book.  Ever.)
  3. Doodle or draw (Again, never be without a notebook, sketchbook, and writing tool.)
  4. Stretch, or do some yoga
  5. Write down what you have accomplished so far today (a more friendly spin on the to-do list)
  6. Progressive muscle relaxation

If you have 30 minutes:

  1. Go for a walk or a jog
  2. Watch a funny tv show
  3. Listen to a podcast (If you’re feeling conscientious, take notes on it, and relish in the feeling of accomplishment!)
  4. Treat yourself to a cup of coffee or tea at a coffee shop
  5. Reading a chapter or two in a book (That’s a theme, here, I guess…)

If you have 1-2 hours:

  1. Eating at a restaurant by yourself or with a loved one
  2. Walking around an antique mall or thrift store
  3. Listening to an album from beginning to end, mindfully, without doing anything else
  4. Take a bubble bath

If you have 3 hours:

  1. Work a puzzle
  2. Visit a museum alone or with someone you love
  3. Cook or bake, and listen to music while you clean up the kitchen

If you have a half-day:

  1.  Pick a destination close by you don’t normally visit, and go to a coffee shop, restaurant, or bookstore
  2. Stay home, but pick several things above (like cooking, reading, going for a walk) and indulge yourself

If you have a full day or weekend:

  1.  Take a road trip, or stay home and pick several things that take shorter amounts of time

Whatever you choose, be mindful and intentional about it, and be proud of taking care of yourself.  What are some of your favorite self-care ideas?

*This is for informational purposes only, and not meant to take the place of professional advice.

Five Awesome Online Resources for Anxiety, Depression, and Personality

Below are five online resources that I highly recommend for obtaining information related to mental health.  These are resources for information purposes only, and not meant to take the place of advice by a qualified professional.  But if you are seeking to educate yourself more about certain aspects of mental health and personality, or are looking for some unique inspiration, these are sure to deliver:

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s List of Songs that Inspire and Soothe

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has some great information specific to anxiety and depression, as well as related disorders.  The link above is a list of songs that inspire and soothe, for when you’re in a tough spot and could use some helpful tunes.

The Enneagram Institute’s Nine Type Descriptions

I am always recommending this specific page on The Enneagram Institute’s website for people new to the Enneagram, who might want to dip their toes into this unique personality construct.  I utilize the Enneagram in the therapy context because it has a very distinctive ability to cultivate compassion for ourselves and others.  Check it out, and I’m willing to bet it will leave you wanting to learn more!

SAMHSA’s Handout on Caring for Someone with Depression

In my experience, depression is one of the most misunderstood mental health diagnoses.  So when I work with children and teens who are experiencing depression, I make every attempt to educate their parents and families on the nature of depression, how it is commonly misunderstood, and how to support someone struggling with it.  SAMHSA has a wealth of resources on other mental health issues, as well as addiction, if you have time to explore the site.

Harvard Medical School’s “Your Brain On Food”

I can’t heap enough praise on this article by Harvard Medical School.  I am not a nutritionist or food expert, but I do know that what we eat can affect our mental health.  “Your Brain On Food” explores the growing field of nutritional psychiatry, which I find absolutely fascinating, and hopefully you will too!

The CDC’s Basics on Mental Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention give us some basic information on the definitions of mental illness and mental health, as well as statistics and types of disorders.  This information can be extremely empowering if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a mental illness.  The CDC also has a helpful quiz here to test your knowledge of mental health.  How much do you know? There is always more to learn, and more ways to empower ourselves.

Why You Need to Walk for Your Mental Health & Relationships

Solvitur ambulando is a Latin phrase that means “it is solved by walking.” Originally attributed to St. Augustine, the saying has been utilized by such giants as Thoreau, Lewis Carroll, and my personal favorite, Dorothy Sayers. But the phrase is practical, too. Walking presents us with opportunities to improve our physical health, conquer our difficult emotions, and enrich our relationships.

According to the Center for Disease Control, we know that physical activity reduces our risk of Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and Stroke. Walking has been an enduring means to accomplish our recommended amount of aerobic exercise, as it doesn’t require a gym membership or expensive equipment. The increased popularity of wearable step-trackers like the “FitBit” have even presented us with the ability to accumulate steps throughout the day while going about other tasks, like frantically chasing a three-year-old around the house as he pulls behind him a rolling suitcase leaking leftover chicken soup (actual personal experience, 200 steps). 

Equally important to the physical benefits of walking, but perhaps lesser known is its promotion of mental health. The CDC reports that physical activity can reduce an individual’s risk of developing depression, and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it also reduces anxiety, improves sleep and concentration, and raises self-esteem. While these benefits are not exclusive to walking, walking is often the best way to encourage someone with a sedentary lifestyle to reap the cognitive and emotional rewards of physical activity. Walking is accessible and manageable. It is also conducive to overcoming cognitive distortions like “all or nothing thinking.” For example, if I can’t spend at least 30 minutes on an elliptical machine, I’m not going to go to the gym. I’m probably not going to drive to the gym to spend 5 minutes on a machine. But I can increase my walking quite easily in an incremental way and celebrate small improvements without falling victim to the “all or nothing” thinking. 

We can make use of movement not only to improve our physical and mental health, but also to improve our relationships. Walking outside is a great way to strike up conversations with your children about things that matter. Moving while we talk about important things can relieve the stress of difficult topics, and it presents a shared neutral space rather than the “territory” of a parent’s living room. The movement in general- whether you are walking or move in a different way (in a wheelchair or motorized scooter), moving alongside someone you love facilitates meaningful conversations. It lowers our defenses, and gives us the added visual of moving forward and leaving unpleasant things behind us.

It is solved by walking; by moving alongside, and conquering the “all or nothing.” Whether your steps are literal or metaphorical, I hope you are moving forward and being your best self. 

Boris Yeltsin, Miracle Mud, and Frasier on a Dixie Cup

Because I am a parent of an almost-four-year-old child, I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, “Do NOT jump off of the furniture!” Inevitably, less than desirable choices are made, and I see my Hayes in slow motion jumping off of the couch as he yells, “CANTALOUPE!” I tried to hide my laughter, but my first impulse was to reach for my journal to write down his funniest moments, lest I forget them in the sea of doctors’ appointments, grocery lists, and other bits of life that take up my ever-shrinking brain space.  Fresh from my proud parent records, here are some of Hayes’ funniest words, to bring some joy and humor to your work week:

  • “The next time you go to Kroger, can you get Dixie cups with Frasier on them?”
  • “I have a new favorite TV show.  It’s called ‘The News.’”
  • “My joints are really bothering me today.  Must be rain coming.” (He spends a lot of time with his grandparents.)
  • “May I hazh an empty cup? I was gonna put ketchup in it and use it to paint somethin.” 
  • “I hazh an idea. How about you be Boris Yeltsin, I’ll be Gorbachops, and you walk through the door and act excited to see me.” 
  • “I need you to pick something up for me from CVS.  It’s called bubble gum.”
  • After seeing a bearded man go into Kroger on a motorized scooter: “Oh boy, Jesus sure is in a hurry today!”
  • “Today, let’s ride a real boat on a real river and go fishing from the boat with the fishing pole from my bathtub, and take some toys from my toy box and give them to the snakes in the water as presents for their birthdays, how bout that?!”
  • “I don’t know why it wouldn’t be fine with you if it’s fine with me. If it’s fine with me, it ought to be fine with you.”
  • “That’s not just mud. That’s MIRACLE mud.”
  • “I cannot pick up my toys. I am all out of injury.”
  • “I would like four pepperonis on my pizza.  Not three.  Not five.  And goat cheese.”
  • Waving his hands over his apple juice, “WINE.” “I said, WINE!!!” “What are you doing, Hayes?” “Oh just playing ‘Jesus’ but it’s not working.”
  • To a rowdy child at the playground: “You know, you’re not a bad kid, you just make bad choices.  If you did ABC Mouse it might help you to enjoy learning, and become nice.”
  • And my favorite: “God made you, and God loves you.”  

As you can see, I have my hands full, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

Re-Reading Children’s Literature As An Adult

My own reading journey began with the Boxcar Children and a Quaker Oats tin filled with lollipops, establishing an association between reading and sweetness that would last a lifetime.  I grew up seeing people read, and the pleasure it brought them, primarily my Daddy and grandmother.  I suppose Daddy grew up loving to read because my grandmother taught him the wonder of books.  But whatever the reason, I saw him read daily: Lawrence Sanders, Rex Stout, John Grisham, the Bible.  One of the first books Daddy and I ever read together was The Black Stallion.  I couldn’t recount the plot of that book if my life depended on it, but I’ve placed it prominently on my bookshelf to remind me of evenings we spent listening to the wind outside, pretending we could hear wolves howling, relishing the security and safety of home.

Now, as a mother, I read several picture books each day to my little boy.  His favorite book is Where the Wild Things Are.  Thus, the works of Maurice Sendak and Eric Carle have proudly joined the ranks of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books I still continue to read, and enjoy, as an adult.  My adult brain can verbalize what I love about children’s mysteries: You commence reading believing wholeheartedly that everything will work out; that Frank, Joe, or Nancy will solve the case, that people will be brought to justice, and in the end the “good guys” will all sit down to pie and lemonade, looking superb while doing it.  No loose ends, no stone unturned, and for about two hundred pages you can pretend that all is right with the world.  My four-year-old can’t quite verbalize what it is he loves about Where the Wild Things Are, but if I had to guess, I would say it’s the magic.  The possibility of encountering another world right from your bedroom, of friendship with monsters who love you unconditionally and do exactly what you ask them to do.  And when you tire of that world, or realize you’re hungry, you can always go back home where your supper is waiting for you.

Here are five quotes from children’s literature to ignite that desire to get in touch with your inner child.  Do some thinking about the thoughts and feelings you have when you read these snippets from beloved children’s books.

I hope you will share other books and quotes that have been meaningful to you in the comments.  What is one book you associate with your childhood? If the memories surrounding that book are beautiful, could you re-read it? How do you think your experience might be different today, versus when you read it for the first time?

 

Quotes to Help You Feel Inspired & Understood

by Samantha Griffitts, MA, LMFT

Some of these quotes will leave you inspired; some will help you better understand yourself and others.  When we feel understood, we can be free to put down roots, reach our fullest potential, and encourage others to do the same.

Scarlett O’Hara’s utters these words as her world is falling down around her.  She can’t think about anything at that moment besides surviving the present.  Many of us have been there, in the place where we are reluctant to even move for fear of the tears overflowing, going about only what is necessary for that day. Anything else would be too much.  If you’ve been there, hear Scarlett say “me too.” A few years ago, someone told me, “Sometimes the holiest thing you can do is to take a nap.” Do you need to hit the “pause” button right now? It’s not always a bad idea to rest before we have to face the realities that are banging down our doors.

Have you ever experienced numbness or apathy, that feeling that is much like being a casual observer of your own life? Francie Nolan speaks to that, as what she desires most is to be something.  Every minute, every hour, every day; to feel things deeply, and to inhabit herself and her life experiences to the fullest.  If any book encourages us to fully experience what it means to be a self in this world, it is A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.  What reality are you inhabiting this very minute? How will your story unfold next?

Victor Hugo has to be my favorite author of all time.  His work is so full of depth and raw emotion.  It is amazing how he captures the desperation of fear, but also the relief of sleep, peace, and reliance in this quote.  We can be free to go to sleep in peace because God is awake. How wonderful is that? What are your great sorrows that require courage right now? What about small sorrows that require our patience? However you go about accomplishing your daily tasks, rest in the knowledge that when your energy is spent and you have nothing left to give, you can go to sleep in peace knowing that God sees you.  He is still awake.

My grandmother once told me not to store up troubles, that each day would bring enough trouble of its own.  I like to think that she and Mary Oliver would be in good company, both going out into the morning, releasing their worries and singing their hearts out.  There is more to anxiety than worry.  I am acutely aware of that, because I have experienced clinical anxiety.  But there is value in wisdom like Mary Oliver’s, stated so beautifully and so simply.  In some small way, maybe it can remind us that there is beauty to be found, even in the midst of struggle.

Leave it to Dame Agatha Christie to sum up the whole of human existence in one sentence.  It is possible, I remind people quite often, to feel more than one thing at the same time.  For example, we can feel happy about an accomplishment, but sad that someone we love isn’t here to see it.  In the same way, we can be filled with sorrow, tormented by despair, and also aware that it is a “grand thing” just to be alive.  What parts of life remind you that it is a grand thing just to be here? What are your greatest miseries and sorrows, your greatest triumphs and joys? I would love to hear your thoughts!

As always, the information above is not meant to serve as medical or mental health advice, or to take the place of help given by a licensed professional.