Sunday, July 11, 2010


The human spirit is something that never ceases to amaze me. Maybe it's the state of the nation, maybe it's the economy, or maybe it's just the age range and point I'm at in life, but in the last few years, I've seen several of my friends go through some very tough times. And, I can only marvel at the grace they've shown in the midst of things.
Some of the things are stressful of course in the moment, like getting your purse stolen with who knows what credit cards and financial information in it, or having a kid get in trouble and labeled at school, or having your car break down on a monthly basis. They can certainly cause chaos for the time being, but they aren't the end of the world.

Then, there are the really big things that are beyond stressful. There are things like losing your home when the housing market crashes and your spouse loses their job, or losing your spouse altogether to divorce. They aren't the end of the world either, but seeing people I care about go through these things is scary. The reality that really lousy things don't just happen to other people- they also happen to people we know, very good people- and of course, they could happen to us too- it's not a comforting thought. Knowing that sometimes teens who had awesome mothers still can have serious problems and do stupid things is pretty unsettling, as is knowing that hardworking and responsible people can lose all they've worked for in a recession. I really don't like the fact that even when you try to do all the right things, it doesn't always work out.

While these hard times make me see that none of us is invincible, they also show me that I am blessed to know some incredibly strong women. I'm in awe at the inner resources of one friend as she weaves a new life with her kids- leaving behind her home of 20 years and her unfaithful spouse who didn't deserve her. My heart aches when I talk with other friends as they find drug treatment programs and eating disorder specialists for their nearly grown children. I can't even imagine the pain of watching a child go through this. I have nothing to offer but prayers and hugs. I don't discount the value of those- I just wish I could do something concrete to fix things.
But, seeing the courage and grace that these ladies have is nothing short of inspiring. I wonder how they do it. I certainly don't feel that I hold up as well when the going gets tough. I may make a semi decent public appearance, but stress gets to me- it effects my ability to eat, to sleep, to be a good wife, mother and friend. When my stomach and every other muscle in my body is in knots, I just don't feel like smiling or laughing or listening. I feel more like crawling in a hole or vomiting. I complain, whine, and vent repeatedly. I clench my jaw, grate my teeth, flare my nostrils and furrow my brow. But, smiling, laughing and listening are probably more of the things I actually need most at those times.

As one friend told me the other day though, what choice do we have but to hold up? You can let things ruin you, or you can keep going. No, it's not always easy to put one foot in front of the other, and sometimes you do just need to cry and wonder "why me?" But if you get stuck in that place, then you're missing out on what you have left of life.

When I recently heard that the 9 year old son of some old friends who we haven't seen in years is undergoing treatment for cancer, I wanted to cry. It also puts a lot in perspective- losing things doesn't really matter in the end- it's people that are important.

As I chatted with my friend, who is handling some pretty stressful life events herself in a most admirable way, she said that of course she has moments when she can't believe what is happening, but she tries to keep thinking that someday the problems of today would be in  the past- that at some point, they'd be looking back on it. Maybe they wouldn't exactly look back and laugh, but at least the current crisis would be over.

At some point, our whole lives are something we'll be looking back on. Whether we're feeling like today is good or bad, as of tomorrow, it will be gone. So, on my stressful days, I'm telling myself to buck up buttercup, not let the crazies get me down, and all that good stuff. I am blessed to be surrounded by wonderful people and beautiful sights that are wonderful salve for a broken spirit if I let them be. I may not get through tough times gracefully, but I will get through them. I know the healing power of good friends and good laughs- not to mention chocolate- and I'm reminding myself daily to enjoy them.

So, what helps you through the stressful times?