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Where did the phrase “under the weather” come from anyway? Surely no one is over the weather. Or above it somehow. Maybe there’s a travel agency for millionaires that allows them to exist in a pocket just above the jet stream. They get to bypass any dark clouds that rain on the rest of us.

Of course, that’s not true. Anyone can find themselves “under the weather.” It coincides with that moment when you realize you’re just not yourself. Who are you then? As it turns out, a stranger with bad intentions.

That happened to me last week. I became so consumed by the negative that I forgot there are always good things to focus on. You almost want to give your sad state a name, as if it’s a location on the map: Deep Doldrums, New Jersey. Not a nice place to visit, and you surely don’t want to live there. The roads are comprised entirely of potholes and litter. There are no traffic lights. No sidewalks. No safety features of any kind. Why? It’s designed by your own mind to be a dead-end street with no off-ramp.

The answer is to figure out what’s got you down. For me, it was health issues that seem to have no resolution, along with financial concerns. It took a week to work its way out of my system, but dawn finally broke. Once I shifted my focus to the part of the situation that I can improve and gave the rest over to God, I felt more hopeful. Lori and SueBE let me know they’ve always got my back, which helped more than words can say.  An answer will come along, but in the meantime, dear readers, don’t give up. A new day is on its way.

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What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? It’s not just all in your head. Your experience is valid. Even if no one else shows up to support you, remember to show up for yourself.

Walk out of the room where negative notions gripped you. Keep walking until you find the room you’ve designated as Home Base. A grace-place where all is well, no matter what else is going on in the world. 

Search online for deep breathing techniques and calming music videos.

Watch a live stream from a cat cafe.

Breathe in through the nose. Out through the mouth. 

Remind yourself: You’re here, not there.

Be here, where that virtual cliff’s edge isn’t. Be where the worst that could happen, hasn’t.

Be in this breath. This breath is blessed.

Do something symbolic, like stretching toward the sky, reaching for the clouds. Light a candle. Watch old sitcoms. Go to Mayberry, or even Petticoat Junction. Everything’s okay there.

Talk to your own mind. Stay here. Don’t go down that dark alley that doesn’t really exist yet. In the peaceful place of yes, you may find the antidote to that no. Shelter in place until the looming doom passes. Keep the faith: The sun will rise again.

This morning, I woke up dehydrated and in pain. The first thought that occurred to me was, “I shouldn’t feel this way every day. There must be an answer to this!”

The answer in this case was to drink water. That’s the first thing to address. Lots and lots of water. Oranges are replenishing, as well. That’s the short-term answer to feeling dehydrated. Re-hydrating may seem obvious when you’re parched, but I had to take the problems separately, and also, not take them personally. Everybody’s got troubles. 

I’ve also been feeling unmoored, like I’m not really as connected as I’d like to be. Connected to what is unclear. To God? To a social group? To resources? All of the above, perhaps. Also to a meaningful project. A sense that I’m creating and building toward a goal.

But as I sat and thought about it, I’ve already started in that direction. I’ve been following through on my commitment to healthier eating and exercise. I’ve been writing every day. Trying to learn new things. Staying in a positive frame of mind. Granted, most of my energy goes toward finding creative ways to cover all the bills that are due each month. Figuring out how to access the infusions I need for my MS that cost a small fortune. This depletes my stores of energy and concentration, but I still keep going.

You may be in a similar situation. Feeling like you’re not moving forward. But don’t give up. You’re on the right track. Sometimes, you can’t even see the train because you’re on it.

Don’t lose hope when you realize there’s still so much to off-load. You’re carrying that cargo, sure, but you’re still moving through the countryside. Don’t lose heart. You’re almost to the next station.

When I was driving my son and his friends everywhere during his school years, I couldn’t wait for him to reach driving age so I wouldn’t have to be their chauffeur anymore. As it happened, soon after he got his license, I had to take myself off the road due to my visual impairment. It turned out to be a tough decision, though, since not being able to drive anymore really limits your — wait for it — autonomy.

As I thought about all of the things taken from me by my MS, I’ve come up with a theory. Instead of calling them deficits, I’m wondering if it isn’t really just the unorthodox method by which my psyche has tried valiantly to protect me.

Trauma from the past we’d just as soon forget getting us down? Inner me waves a wand. Poof! Don’t remember things anymore! Have some memory issues!

Don’t want to feel this bad ever again? Poof! Don’t feel things. Have some neuropathy!

So what if I have to Google “how to hard boil an egg” every time I want to make an egg salad sandwich. I’ve let go of the guilt of not being able. Everyone else can do X. I can’t. Okay, I’ll focus on doing Y. What I can do is tell you my stories and offer encouragement to get through your own hardships. When I’m not sure if my thoughts make sense on the page, I can always rely on Lori and SueBE to proofread for me. Find your team and you’ll find your way. I focus on what I can do, and do it.

We’ve all got our share of dark clouds in life, but the silver lining is this: you’re still you. You’re still here. You’ve got the chance every day to carry on.

We’ve all been there: driving on an unfamiliar road, suddenly realizing we’ve gone past our turn. That’s never a good thing, especially if you’ve just finished a large coffee and a bottle of water. You really need to find a pitstop, as it were.

If you miss your exit while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, you’ll have to travel a long way down the road until you can finally turn around. Once you realize you’ve passed your off-ramp, it might be ten minutes until there’s a U-Turn.

If a situation seems to be draining the life out of you, it’s critical to the care of your soul that you get out of that situation. You may be shaking your head. But you don’t understand. If it’s a marriage, I can’t leave. My religion won’t allow it. It will have a negative effect on the children. Or if it’s a job, There are bills to pay. Health benefits I need. I can’t walk away with no job lined up.

Fair enough.

But until you can extricate yourself from it, or somehow improve it, think of this time in your life as a long, wrong turn. Stay as true to yourself and your future as you can while still stuck in this present, untenable situation. Map it out. Plan ahead. Draft a blueprint in your mind of the life you actually do want to live.

What would you do if your blessings showed up at your door one day? If the situation suddenly changed and you were free to live on your own terms? That’s the place to store your soul while you put a down payment on better days. Then, when you get to the next stop, you’ll be ready. This time in your life will be on the road behind you, visible only in the rear view mirror.

I was searching for good news stories online for a post yesterday, but for some reason, I couldn’t find an angle to write about. I realized later that I couldn’t detect the good news. I was in a bad mood.

Yes, even your Kindly Auntie can feel hinky. Not from New Jersey? That just means that something’s not sitting right but you don’t know why. You feel unsettled. Brittle.

So I sat down to try to put into words how I was feeling, and this is the closest I could get: Something rightfully mine hasn’t reached me yet.

I know these words are insufficient, but there was a kind of vague sense of why-not-ness. Why can’t I have what others seem to have, whatever it is on your checklist. Money. Love. A break. Just a pure, true good day. Other people have all their ducks in a row. Or do they? It could be that they just disregard their ducks.

Never assume that everyone else is living a perfect life, despite what you might see on Instagram. That’s the sound of a civilization giving up. Throwing up its collective hands and saying, I don’t know how to achieve a sense of accomplishment, a sense of community, a sense of peace, so instead, I’m going to present this image of fulfilled, joyous completion in its place. It’s a mock-up for where a good life might have been.

Luckily, when I woke up today, I was back to center. The good life finds me every day here on this humble blog. I’ve had all of the things and situations that we’re told will “complete” me, yet none of them did. Maybe that’s the point. To keep learning, growing, reaching, becoming, expanding. And to leave space for blessings yet to arrive to come in for a landing.

At 3 AM, I woke up suddenly, and these words popped into my head:

Major drama in one minute.

Within a minute, a massive clap of thunder shook the house. Lightning flashed and crackled. Torrential rain flowed like a river from the sky. It was as if a switch was flipped. Peaceful. Click. Tumultuous. It turns out to have been a micro-burst, a powerful storm that knocked down trees.

It was the kind of sudden loud surprise that makes you curse, even if you really don’t curse. What the -! Holy -!

And in that surprised, scared, angry space, I actually had this thought: Well, if you can warn me it’s coming, Lord, why can’t you just make it not happen in the first place?

Bad things happen to people. It could be the loss of a loved one. A betrayal by a spouse. I’m not sure what the net benefit will be as you go through it, but going forward, it builds your resilience muscles. It gives you experience to make informed choices in the future. It will almost certainly deepen your reserves of compassion, now that you know from the inside of the tunnel how scarce light can be till you pass through it.

It’s not that unexpected, unwelcome things aren’t going to pop up like a sudden storm. They are. Who knows why. All I can assume is that God’s got his reasons. But you are going to get through them. Sometimes you’ve just got to hold on until morning.

It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life.

Today I wondered: Should we also thank God for the bad things?

So you’ve got bills. That means you’ve got services. PS Like a computer or phone to read this post.

So you’ve got a spare tire around the middle. That means you’ve eaten a nice meal in your time. PS If you’re eating right now, please clear the crumbs. I’ve got a thing. Ta.

So you’ve got worries about the future. That means for today at least, you’ve got what you need. PS Or else you’d be worrying in the present tense.

So you’ve got pain from the past. That means you’ve got things to blog about, or make a song about, or sketch about. PS And you’ve learned a few things going forward.

So you’ve got nobody to count on. That means you’ll look back on this time and realize how much it meant, since you made it there on your own. PS Time to put the effort into knowing where “there” is.

So you’ve got aching feet. That means you’ll finally realize that high heels are actually high hells (excusez mon français), and ditch them once and for all! 🙂 PS Never wear shoes that slow you down in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

That last one is just a pet peeve. I always think back to the years that I staggered about in heels, thinking it made me look nicer to others. I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy to distract women from what they’re really capable of. PS I’ve also long believed zombies are just misunderstood.

Which brings me to…

So you’ve got pet peeves. That must mean your basic needs are being met. You’ve got free time to chat about life lessons, zombies, and conspiracies. That’s a lot to be thankful for!

With all the church abuse scandals in the news recently, New Jersey’s attorney general has opened an investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in our state. “We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here,” said Gurbir Grewal.

Where have I seen that name recently? Oh yeah. Hosts of a radio show had courted controversy by referring to the attorney general as “Turban Man.” Grewal responded with aplomb, thanking the governor for his support during the episode, noting, “Others have faced far worse. We rise above this.  Now let’s get back to business.”

Maybe pain is training. Compassion calibration. A way to learn from the inside of the “ouch” what it feels like so that, when your turn comes to give someone else a break, you’ll stand up.

I remember a Sikh boy from grade school. It wasn’t always easy for him, as you might imagine, even though his wearing a turban was harming no one.

Childhood itself shouldn’t be a high-risk proposition, but really, where can kids be safe anymore?

School? Yes but. School shootings.

Church? Yes but. Pedophile priests.

Home? Yes but. Kids are more like property than people in society today. They have no say most of the time. Just what parents decide is best for them.

Change can only come from the inside. Of the school. Of the church. Of the person. Until there’s a change inside the human heart, the chain of pain will continue.

It irks me not to be able to wrap up neatly with an answer to this problem. Yes but. All I can change is myself. All you can change is yourself. So we’ll do our best today. Assume the best in others. Let them rise to our high expectations. Maybe it will be the start a new chain – of love.

Has this ever happened to you? Something’s thrown you for a loop. You’ve done everything you can, prayed about it and proceeded to let go and let God… then promptly took it back. Worrying about it. Talking about it to anybody who’d listen. Refusing to let it go. 

I’ve done this so often, I can’t believe there isn’t a name for it.

Maybe we’ll call it a prayback.

You pray, give it to God, then take it back.

Listen: there are no takebacks in prayer. You don’t need to take back a problem once it’s entrusted into God’s hands. You can’t take it back anyway. It was never yours to resolve. All you can do is… all you can do.

When my son was just an infant, every so often his pacifier would fall on the floor. I’d grab it, sprint to the kitchen and run it under scalding water until I was sure it was clean. Over time, I loosened up about it, eventually just wiping it on my sleeve and saying this phrase: “Kiss it to God.” Germs build immunity!

Lately, I’ve had this phrase running through my head: “Bless it to yes.”

There are some things you can’t solve right away, but there is always something you can do to take it from an absolute no to something closer to a yes.

What part of this situation can I improve? How can I get everybody on the team (or in the family) working together on a solution? Is there anyone I can call for advice who might have something constructive to add?

If all of these boxes have been checked, keep the faith and keep on moving.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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