I was at rock bottom; I needed more than just a You-Can-Do-It pep talk. I needed something to change.
3.20 miles + 3 miles + 3.1 miles
All week long, all month long, all semester long, I’ve been pushed to the edge of what I can handle. Actually last week, I was pushed off the edge and crashed to the bottom of the chasm. What was the last straw – was it the child who couldn’t sleep? The dog that wanted to bark all night? Was the 19/30 on that homework assignment I worked so hard on? Or maybe it was the heater that decided to break? Or that my husband was gone and I had to play mommy and daddy and was doing both poorly?
I suppose it doesn’t really matter . At some point, I completely lost it and was crying myself to sleep on my knees in prayer. Oh dear God! Why is this so hard?? Maybe I should quit…
When you’re running uphill and your legs want to give out and you’re thinking about walking the rest, what do you tell yourself? I usually tell myself to, Keep moving forward – one foot in front of the other – you can do it. It doesn’t matter how fast just keep going. Usually, I can make it to the top. Usually. But now suppose you’re on the steepest hill you’ve ever been on? And suppose your knees and back and quads are screaming at you? Should you keep pushing forward? You aren’t a professional athlete. What if you get injured and have to go to the doctor? Isn’t it your obligation to quit? You wouldn’t be doing anyone any good if you kept up this damaging activity.
Or suppose you have a math problem you can’t solve and you’re really stuck, how do you get the answer? At some point I usually do a mental reset and think, ok, well, what do I know? And usually I can find something in the problem, something that I know so I can restart the problem and try again. But what if you don’t know anything from the problem? And what if the book and resources available shed no light for you on the subject? And what if this is true for every single problem you encounter? Doesn’t it mean you’re wasting your time and energy? Doesn’t it prove that you aren’t good at math?
Or suppose it’s real life and you are trying to be the Back-to-school, working, Army spouse, hero mom. And you’re trying to make sure your homework is all completed, while making sure the laundry is done so everyone can find clean socks in the morning. And you’re trying to remember all these new concepts while making sure there are groceries in the house and that there is something for dinner tonight. And trying not to forget to sign your seven year old’s homework and help her with spelling words and remember mommy I have to bring a fill-in-the-blank to school tomorrow….And on and on….And then at some point, it’s too much. And all the negative talk fills your brain: you’re a terrible mother, you’re the dumbest student in the class, you’re a failure. Why are you even doing this? It isn’t helping anyone. Everyone is suffering, especially your family. Maybe you should quit…
Recipe for a Pushed-Over-the-Edge Cocktail
1 part Extreme Work Stress
1 part Excessive Home Stress
2 parts Sleep Deprivation
4-6 drops of One-More-Thing
The thing is that Time pushes you forward whether you’re ready or not. So even when you think you can’t keep going, you do. Quitting is not really an option, but that feeling of wanting to quit is a cry for help – someone Please make it better.
Making it Better
This is exactly where I was in the first few weeks of February. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not usually a cry-about-it kind of girl. I’m usually a do-something-about-it kind of girl or a go-for-a-run-about-it kind of girl. I had completely lost my focus and had been crushed under all the stress, lack of sleep, and intense pressure to be academically awesome. I was at rock bottom; I needed more than just a You-Can-Do-It pep talk. I needed something to change.
Antidote for the Pushed-Over-the-Edge Cocktail
Run/Walk/Lift Weights/Push-ups (Anything – just get your body moving)
Read the Bible
But you might say, how can you find time to do these things when you don’t even have time to do you what is already on your plate? Well…you have to decide to take the Antidote instead of something on your plate. Or you have to walk away from your plate for twenty to thirty minutes. It sounds so hard – because it is. The things on your plate seem like they are more important. I know, it’s not an easy pill to swallow because you’re drowning (or have drowned – this was me last week). But if you’re at this point, you’ve already lost control. You’ve strayed away. You need a reset.
It was a slow process discovering this. But one Friday, I just threw my hands up on homework, the laundry, the dishes, the everything, and went for a run. I felt better. That night still burdened by school, I read my Bible. This helped me get over the hump. A few days went by and I was back in my chasm – crying over bad grades and too much to do. What happened? It’s not a one-time fix sort of thing. It’s an everyday commitment – returning to the throne of grace for our daily bread.
Our pastor gave a sermon about sin and anxiety as weeds. It’s such a great metaphor. For me, anxiety over school and life sprouted up instantly and took over my life. And eventually the worries choked out the light and truth. Everyday I need to keep doing these things – keep running (well this one doesn’t have to be everyday, but every few days), keep praying, keep reading the Bible, get as much sleep as I can – in other words keep doing the things I should have been doing all along. I think our sinful desire to be in control makes us believe prayer and the Word are less important than deadlines. None of these ever should have been deleted from my daily priorities, but they had.
This is a constant struggle for me. I’m in an extremely stressful situation as a mom, commuting grad student, teacher, Army wife, with a farm. But the last few days, I’ve been back to my regular (pre-school) habits of reading the word, praying, and running when I can. I’m turning into the Three Mile Queen because usually I can only spare 30 minutes to run. Yesterday, I had a little time before picking up my daughter so I ran a trail near her school.
It was so nice after a stressful day. I love running trails. And afterwards I got my daughter from school and felt more relaxed – it also helps that I have nothing else due the rest of the week.
I’ll leave you with my verse of the week and my standard words that I live by.
Verse of the Week
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Words I live by
“One day at a time.” – I may have said this on the blog before, but I really do say this all the time. I adopted this phrase when my husband was in Korea for a year. And even though you have to plan ahead and yadda yadda, when you start stressing about things days, weeks, months from now, you start down the path of anxiety. We are only given one day at a time anyway. The only thing we can change or influence is the here and now. This day. This moment.
And for school, “It’s not as bad as you think it is.” – I found myself telling this to my daughter one day when she was upset about forgetting something at home. And then later a friend pointed out that it totally applied to my school day as well. I find that in school I tend to imagine the worst.
“Life always looks worse through tired eyes.” – So True! This is my own adaptation of a favorite John Steinbeck quote, “It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”
I wrote part of this post over the weekend, then added to it and then deleted it and then recovered it. I wasn’t sure I wanted to share it, but after talking to some people I thought, well it helped me to write it out so maybe it will help someone else to read it. I believe I’m following the path the Lord has for me and even though it is difficult, I believe he will help me learn what I need to. So I will keep my eyes fixed on him while I continue to press on.