Why Bother Thinking About Our Losses?

Why Bother Thinking About Our Losses?

Sometimes our losses are beneficial, other times, they are not as helpful. When I lose a few extra pounds, I am not anxious to regain them—losing my car keys, on the other hand, propels me into a frantic search.

Some losses lead to personal transformation. Recently, a friend of mine moved her aging parents from the family home. Their large house was filled to capacity with an assortment of furniture, clothes, books and other sundry items, a collection spanning fifty years. Giving and throwing away many of these articles facilitated their move into a smaller, less cluttered and easier to maintain home. Though it was a tough challenge for my friend to help her parents sort through their many treasures, my friend then decided to clean out her own closets. She told me she does want her children to be burdened with the same chore she just completed for her parents. Hers was a happy ending to loss and transition. 

But sometimes we are shaken by losses which are completely out of our hands, the ones we wish we had the power to vanquis, if only we could.  

Beyond Our Control

Loss of a job, our health, a marriage, or a loved one are some of the larger circumstances which can cause strong distress in our lives. Major dilemmas produce much more frustration and stress than a set of misplaced car keys. Confronted by sudden and unforeseen challenges, it is easy for some of us to dissolve into puddles of helplessness, desperation or depression. Other personalities may react with strong anger and a drive for vengeance. Either reaction only exacerbates the problem. Instead of surrendering to our circumstances and becoming victims, there are healthy and helpful ways to live through seasons of a major loss. 

With stressful circumstances, especially the ones which side-swipe us and send us reeling, our thoughts can be our own worst enemies. The messages — that we are doomed, there is nothing we can do, we are ruined, the circumstances are unfair— are powerful, but not always true. Sorting through our thoughts and discarding the falsehoods is a good way to begin instigating steps toward thinking on the things which are true. Yes, I’ve suffered a great loss, but am I destined for failure? We cannot control every event in life, but we can govern what we tell ourselves about the event. 

Though we cannot always predict what loss we might experience in our lifetime, or even prepare for them ahead of time, the healthier our daily life habits, the better we’ll be able to stay afloat when those major, unplanned transitions occur. Strong friendships, an active faith, a well rounded diet, and routine exercise builds our immunity against falling prey to catastrophic events. 

Why bother thinking about our losses? It is worth it to think about how seasons of loss will come, but they do not remain indefinitely. 

Why Bother Thinking About Prayer?

Why Bother Thinking About Prayer?

I grew up in a Catholic family and attended church every Sunday in a  cold cavernous building. Every little noise echoed off the tiled floor and bounced back from the tall arched ceiling.  The hardwood benches squeaked under each motion a person made and though I knew being quiet was the right thing to do, it was impossible. Every move I made reverberated. Just breathing made me feel like a “bad girl.” 

I tried hard to mimic my dad, who knelt in silent and unmoving reverence praying for long periods of time after communion. But kneeling, like the “stare down” competitions I’d have with my little brother, never lasted very long. Focused stillness was not in my chemistry. 

But church was not the only place where my family prayed. Before dinner, we’d fold our hands, and take a solemn posture with bowed heads and in unison we’d say grace, 

“Bless us, Oh Lord,

and these thy gifts which

we are about to receive from thy bounty,

through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.”

With the “Amen” came the cacophony; “Please pass the potatoes.” “Can I have more bread?” “Mom, Mark just spilled his milk.”

During lent, we said a loop or two of the rosary every night before going to bed. Mom or Dad set up a shrine of Mary on the stair landing and we knelt before her while repeating “Hail Mary’s” in unity. The droning voices only made me sleepy and I wondered if Mary even cared about our family’s devotion to her. 

As a kid, I did not know how my Dad suffered from depression or alcoholism, but I knew that when I made him a birthday card listing the number of prayers I’d said for him, fictitious as the numbers might be, he’d smile. But when he ended his life just before I turned fourteen, I surmised my prayers had fallen on deaf ears.

After that, I stopped praying. I’d witnessed Dad’s commitment to supplication, but it hadn’t “delivered” him from any evil, something I thought it was supposed to do. In my childlike mind, I’d equated my prayers to something similar to a one arm bandit slot machine; you say your prayers, send them off to God and then with any luck, you hit the jackpot and win the answers you’d hoped for. 

 I’ve moved beyond the one arm bandit slot machine idea and have instead experienced prayer differently. Similar to understanding how God can be three in one, prayer is beyond my limited thinking. And yet, I am drawn to commune with Someone I’ve never seen, cannot fully understand and yet believe is present and somehow hears. Prayer does not always or necessarily change my circumstances as much as it changes my view about my circumstances. I like how Madeleine L’Engle put it, “…the mind and the heart, the intellect and the intuition, the conscious and the subconscious mind stop fighting each other and collaborate.” 

Why bother thinking about prayer? It is worth our time to consider how we can view our present events from a different perspective than our current point of view and then consider how we might begin to change.

Why Bother to be Grateful for Change?

 Why Bother to be Grateful for Change?

I don’t mind when I get to choose to shuffle things around in my life, but when deviations from the norm happen to me, then I tend to see them as an inconvenience, an annoyance and a nuisance. 

 Last summer, my hairstylist retired. I am not a high maintenance gal, I don’t color my hair, perm it, or even require a shampoo. I just need my dead ends cut off every so often. My barber, whom I’d grown accustomed to, knew just how to trim my locks, fluff them up and send me out the door feeling pretty once again. I don’t blame her for ending her relationship with me, but I didn’t quite know what to do without her.

Feeling Pretty

 At first, I tried cutting my own hair as well as handing the scissors over to my husband so he could try. But of course, the look was not the same. Neither of us knew how to fluff my locks to make me look and feel pretty once again.

Then, I realized that putting off finding a new stylist was making me frumpy on the outside and on the inside. At last, I asked a trusted friend for a recommendation. Without hesitation she said, “I’ll call my beautician and ask if you can come with me on my next appointment.” 

Fortunately, the beautician agreed to adopt me as a new client and I followed my friend to her shop one afternoon. Without her guiding the way, I’d never found my way. The shop was located up a snowy county road, off the pavement, and off the grid.

Driving behind my companion in her jeep, I followed her as she drove down the highway then turned off onto a county road. From the county road, I followed her onto a one lane road that resembled a trail more than a road. The ruts in the trail were ice covered and filled with water, raising my adrenaline level.  The route took us around bends and tight curves and at first, I wondered how I’d find my way. But at each bend in the road, my friend waited for me.  In spite of the treachery of the drive, up and down dips and around tight curves, the ride reminded me a little of a roller coaster and I gave into grinning. 

Finally, pulling into a flat dirt driveway in front of the hairdresser’s shop, I got out of my car and walked toward my friend. 

“I’ve never seen the road quite that bad,” she said while laughing.

“I’m just glad you waited for me after each curve.”

“Yeah well, I wasn’t about to lose sight of you in my rearview mirror.”

Inside the clean and warm shop, the new stylist trimmed off my accumulated dead ends, fluffed my hair and made me look and feel pretty once again. 

“Text me if you have any trouble,” my comrade called out as I left her in the salon chair. I was confident she meant what she said and turned my car toward home.  

Although I’d rather my stylist had not retired leaving me to find a new one, deviations from the norm can’t be helped. But trustworthy friends who are willing to give you a recommendation and who don’t leave you to find your own way on an icy trail, make a difference. 

Why bother to be grateful for change? It is worth it when you have someone who turns those inconveniences, annoyances and problems into a little adventure.  

Why Bother Accepting Unsolicited Advice?

Why Bother Accepting Unsolicited Advice?

Some time ago, I had the idea to train for a triathlon. The event called to my sense of competitiveness, and my need for a good challenge. The race would include swimming one third of a mile in a lake, biking twelve miles and running three. I signed up, trained and competed. I liked it enough to do another triathlon again the following year, but this time for longer distances; one mile swim, twenty-four mile bike ride and a five mile run. I trained and competed four more times in local triathlons. They gave me a good challenge and satisfied my need to compete. 

   Stepping Into Yoga

“Yoga helps keep your ligaments supple,” I’d overheard another triathlete say to their friend after an event. So, on a whim, and while training for the next triathlon, I stepped into my first yoga class. I was surprised that it was harder than swimming, riding a bike or running. 

First of all, yoga wasn’t about going as fast as you could to cross a finish line. There was  no one to compete with because yoga is not a competitive sport. Secondly, swimming, riding a bike and running did not require me to think too much; I simply switched into cruise control and ran, pedaled my bike or pulled my body through water. Yoga, on the other hand, required me to pay closer attention.

 “Tuck your left leg under your right, and wrap your left elbow around your right standing knee.” Huh?  “Don’t forget to breathe and notice how your back feels in this twist.” 

Thinking about how my body felt while in a particular pose was completely foreign for me as was breathing full belly breaths. When racing, one just pushes through whatever one feels; pain or weariness, in order to complete the course. 

Friendly Yogis

But, I kept showing up for yoga class, drawn to how it slowed me down and made me notice more. And though I wobbled in my one-legged balance poses while others moved with grace and ease into forearm stands, the instructor cheered us on;  “Make it your pose. Every body is different.” 

Then after class one day, a friendly fellow yogi lady in her seventies, approached me with some unsolicited advice that changed my life. 

“Yoga fits you,” she said with a smile.  I nodded my agreement. It did fit, better than I thought.

“I’m training to become an instructor and I think you should too.” 

She was in her seventies, and she was becoming a yoga instructor? And she thought I could too? I smiled as I noticed how her unsolicited advice ring true for me. It fit my need for a good challenge minus the competitiveness.  

So, I found a program, traveling to a little town in Canada on the weekends and after 200 hours of bookwork and classwork, I crossed the finish line, but with a deep, slow breath.  

Now it is my turn to give instructions, “Tuck your left leg under your right, and wrap your left elbow around your right standing knee,” while reminding others, “Don’t forget to breathe, and notice how your twist makes you feel.”  

Why bother accepting unsolicited advice? You just never know how it could just change your life for the rest of your life and that just might be worth it.