Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better

Good Morning from snowy, cold Michigan.  Ready or not, here it comes: winter that is! Another snowy night last night has created a beautiful scene this morning as I look outside. I guess my declaration that I’m not ready for winter to arrive yet had little effect on Mother Nature’s timeline. Imagine that! LOL.  Nonetheless, winter is here whether I’m ready or like it or not, but one thing I’m reminding myself this morning is that, even though the wind chill is only 2 degrees this morning and the ground is covered, it will get worse before it gets better, and in the near future, I will be wishing it was 14 degrees outside rather than below zero. Knowing what is to come and that the weather WILL get worse will not likely make it easier, but at least I will hopefully have a plan in place to deal with it.  It’s all about perspective.

My friend, Bob, is making progress from his surgery and we both offer our sincere appreciation for your prayers and good wishes during the past week. One of the discharge instructions given by the doctor before we left the Surgical Center warned us to expect bruising, pain, and swelling to increase a couple of days after the surgery. In other words, he would look/feel worse before things got better.  When I stopped by to check on him last evening after work, it was evident that the doctor was right because he looks like he was in a serious fist fight because his surgery involved incisions on both eyes. He is getting stronger and feeling better each day, but it certainly doesn’t appear that way. The doctor was right and he looked much worse yesterday than he did a couple of days ago. While knowing that he should expect it to get worse before it gets better didn’t make it easier, it did help him/us to have a plan in place to deal with it and to be more peaceful about the situation.

I often marvel how God uses the everyday things…like weather and surgery…. in my life to teach me valuable lessons for my journey. Yesterday, I had a conversation with a student that just confirmed the “things will get worse before they get better” lesson.  I was asking the student how she was handling the pressure of college and she said, “Theresa, this is the hardest part of the semester. People often think finals week is so tough, but it’s actually right now… about 3-4 weeks before the end of the semester…that is hardest because all the work/papers/projects are coming due. It’s really stressful NOW, and I am so glad that you told me that it would get worse before it gets better.”  She then thanked me for warning her at the beginning of the semester when she was feeling overwhelmed as she adjusted to being a first-time student that, even though it was really hard THEN, it would get worse as the semester progressed.  While it doesn’t make the NOW any easier to cope with, knowing that things would get worse before they got better, helped her put a plan in place and be prepared and she gained confidence in her abilities as she met each challenge and passed each test.

Should I consider it ‘coincidence” that in the last 24 hours, I had three reminders of the same thing: the journey is hard…absolutely….but it’s going to get worse before it gets better?  I don’t believe in coincidences; I believe in God and that EACH thing that happens, EVERY person I meet, and all that I experiences if part of God’s plan for my life/journey. If nothing else, it teaches me a lesson. Should knowing that it will get harder before it gets easier mean it will be impossible?  NOPE!  It means that it is important to take each day as it comes, face each challenge, and have a plan in place for the tougher days down the road. This is so true for each of us as we prepare for the holidays that are creeping up on us. While it’s REALLY HARD to stay on track each day….the next six weeks will be even more challenging and your temptation is likely to increase before it gets better, not only in terms of weight loss or addictive behavior, but because other things like grief, unemployment, financial difficulties, depression, and loneliness are harder to cope with during the cold, dark days of winter.

On this cold, snowy morning, I have two choices: Stay home and look outside all day….or face it head-on.  While it is easier to stay in my pajamas….I’m not going to. I’m going to bundle up; put on my boots; drive slowly and carefully down the snow covered roads; and ask God to travel with me on my journey, protecting me from harm and keeping me warm.  But FIRST and most important… I am going to offer a prayer of gratitude for the furnace that is running as I type this keeping me warm; for the vehicle that I expect to start in the cold weather; that I am able to WALK across the driveway to the garage to start up the truck to let it warm up; that I have a job to go to; for the warm coat and boots to protect me from the elements, and that I have angels to protect me on my way.  Sure, the drive will be challenging, but I know that, even though it isn’t going to be easy, it’s going to get MUCH worse as winter progresses. AND….I have a plan in place.  My truck is full of gas; I have a shovel and bag of cat litter in the back; and a blanket, candle, and flashlight in the back seat…so that I’m prepared for what might lie ahead.

My friend has two choices to deal with his recovery: either he can follow the doctor’s recommendations so that he heals quickly and with minimal discomfort, or he can ignore them and prolong/hinder his healing. I recognize that I cannot cause my friend to think/feel/do anything because I cannot control his thoughts, actions, or emotions, but I can continually remind him that he was very blessed to have made it through the surgery and that the bruising and swelling would continue to improve in the coming days. I can show him as much patience and care as possible so as to distract him from his pain and discomfort. I also am very aware that, even though this surgery was challenging, at his advanced age, there will likely be days, procedures, and medical situations down the road that will be much more difficult. It doesn’t make these past week easier, but it did remind us that we need to have a plan in place for the future when/if his health declines, and to be grateful for the gift of each other TODAY.

My friends….I know how difficult it is to change one’s life and how hard it is to stay on track, especially when life gets hard and challenges keep coming our way. The cold weather and darkness has made my morning walks impossible and although I COULD walk the hallways at the college before work, I’m having a hard time motivating myself to do so when it’s so dark in the morning and I’ve become increasing busy with other things. I’ve not yet given into eating anything off my plan, but I have been eating more calories than usual and although my pants still fit, they feel tight today. I need to remind myself that even though it is ‘healthy” food like butternut squash or fruit, when/if I eat when I’m not hungry, it doesn’t matter WHAT I eat if I don’t need it. Being conscious of WHY I’m eating is often more important that WHAT I’m eating. This life-long journey is not easy….but yet… I know….that it will get worse in coming weeks.

Thanksgiving is only 10 days away and I will be surrounded by all sorts of delicious foods. Holiday preparations/shopping will consume my already ‘too-little” free time and make it tempting to eat ‘whatever’ I can find or whatever is quick and easy, rather than what is good, wholesome, and nutritious. I received the first invitation to a Christmas party in the mail yesterday and will likely have several others down the road. These come with more temptation.  These next six weeks will challenge me emotionally as I remember loved ones that are no longer physically present to me; physically as I cope with the busy schedule, traveling, and holiday demands; and mentally as I am surrounded by opportunity to give into temptation.  It will not be easy…but it is DOABLE!  I just have to make a plan to succeed.

In all of these situations, while it is important to be aware that circumstances will likely be harder; weather will become more treacherous; grief will increase with the holidays; schedules will become busier; and temptations greater in the coming weeks/months, YOU….YOU….YOU….will be able to face them and get through them…..BECAUSE….you are stronger than you realize; more capable than you imagine; and are never alone on your journey. 

As you get through TODAY….today’s hardships/challenges/temptations/struggles……as you confront TODAY’s doubts and fears……as you  do what you need to do TODAY by remaining positive, taking SMALL steps and making good choices one meal at a time, by treating each person you meet with kindness, by surrendering your journey/will/life to your higher power, by recognizing how incredibly blessed you are….IN SPITE OF HOW IT APPEARS, and by making a plan to succeed in coming days….YOU will become more confident in your ability to meet EVERY challenge, not matter how hard it is. You will gain strength in times of trouble; peace in times of turmoil and stress; joy in times of hardship and trust me…God will give you everything you need to get through every challenge….regardless of how much it snows, how busy you become, how difficult or painful the situation, and how GOOD the food looks and smells, how BAD you want a cigarette or drink, and how much someone tries to push your buttons or challenges your patience.  You CAN do it….you WILL do it….. We ALL will do it…..WHY?  HOW?  Because we know that NO MATTER WHAT….we have God on our side and we have each other to share the journey.  Are we blessed or what?????