I took a month off from writing my Saturday Evening Post, and it feels good to be writing again. I took a break because I suddenly felt like I couldn’t keep up with my responsibilities in spite of being retired and ostensibly living with relatively few reasons to feel stressed. But a combination of preparing for our trip east, medical appointments, housing repairs, and the regular schedule of meetings and contacts backed up on me, and I ended up needing to check in medically to address blood pressure, headaches, and overall body fatigue. I’m pleased to say I am much better know, and the wiser for the experience. It’s clear I need to better manage my time and commitments when I can.
I mention this only because I have a hunch others of you have gone through similar stressful periods these days. It simply goes with life at any age, but as I have gotten older it becomes more difficult to maintain equilibrium when things get off balance.
But the more I have tried to analyze what happened to me, the more aware I have become about the context of the stress level that surrounds our lives. I have written often about how much of our lives these past five years involved complicated periods of waiting - waiting for the Trump administration to end; waiting for the election results to be finalized (if indeed they are truly settled given the ongoing tensions and denials from the Trump supporters evidenced in the January 6 hearings); waiting for information about Covid prevention and the availability of safe vaccines; waiting to settle our work/school/community and home life. Waiting in general to return to the evasive sense of “normal." I have lumped my feelings during these past months under the title of “pending.” Pending is defined both as "awaiting decision or settlement” and "until (something) happens or takes place;” “unresolved.” Life is ordinarily full of unresolved issues, of course, (anyone waiting for medical test results will especially identify with this sentiment and frustration), but during these past couple of years the importance of how things will get resolved (or not) has been so much more dramatic as they literally have dealt with life and death, democracy or autocracy, and the fate of the planet’s sustainability, among others.
So when our daily, personal lives reach an elevated stress point it is within the context of the cumulative impact of all the wider existential factors that we are dealing with implicitly if not explicitly. I am not going to even try to express the extent of this tension, but I know how difficult it is from visiting with my families with small children, reading numerous articles about spikes in mental illness, and simply imagining the tensions in workplaces, schools, and other institutions as they try to decide next steps with unreliable direction.
Which brings me to some thoughts about how we can cope with all these pending situations in our lives.
My mental health counselor recommends the obvious but often ignored or denied reality that I need to be aware about what my body and emotions are telling me. When I begin to experience a sense of being overwhelmed, if possible, step back, even for a few moments and breath. She said it is helpful to know the difference among my “green zone” when things are going well enough; my “orange zone” when I begin to anticipate rising anxiety; and the “red zone” when I am in danger of serious medical issues, irrational behavior, or depression. This may sound simplistic, but I have found this simple approach useful these past few weeks now. It helps, of course, to have some helpful “tools” such as meditation, or access to a spouse or good friends with whom I can express my vulnerability and need. And I am trying to be especially intentional these days to spend quiet, reflective, prayerful time each morning. I think the bottom line to all this is to develop a self-awareness of how much stress we can absorb and have strategies for its management, if possible, when we get to our emotional orange and red zones.
We are living in an age when we are enduring considerable tension between the confusions and stressors of life and our souls’ yearning for “normalcy” and security from the myriad of threats around us. In the meantime we need to keep living, working, laughing, and caring for others with acts of kindness in spite of it all - as most of us are actually doing!
Blessings and peace to you,
(up) in the air
in the balance
to be done
on the back burner
about to happen; imminent.
"with a presidential election pending, it would be wrong to force the changes through now"
about to happen/be
on the way
close at hand
in the offing
in the wind