Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The "Wow! Look What I Did Today!" List

My to-do lists drive my daughter-in-law crazy.

I make a list on Monday and cross a couple of things off during the week. Then the next Monday, I make a new list that starts with the carry-overs from the previous week.

Yes, I can make anyone who adheres to the daily to-do list crazy.

Part of my problem, I’ve learned, is the pressure that comes with something being on the to-do list. Most people see it as a prompt to get something done. I see it as a threat. A threat to send my psyche straight down the shame-drain because I can’t do it or won’t get it done today. I now see that as “all or nothing” thinking. If I don’t do it all, I’ve failed. So I’ll do nothing.

I no longer write to-do lists. I may write down some things to remind me, but without the pressure. And, I still don’t mind if they carry over.

However, I still fall into the “all or nothing” thinking when I have something in mind to do for the day and it doesn’t get done. I’ve failed. I can’t even do the one thing I wanted to get done today. I am a failure…

I catch myself doing this most when my goal is a creative process like writing. Something that is important to me. I didn’t write a scene. I didn’t get the website copy done. I didn’t...

Yesterday, I caught myself going down the shame-drain because I didn’t write. I have decided I want to write something to move the story forward in my book every day. It is important to me. As I started down the spiral to shame, I stopped. I remembered writing a list a while back when I was feeling the same way. Instead of a to-do list, I had written a list of what I had done. Starting with making breakfast, I had written down everything I did during the day.

What surprised me is I went from thinking I had done nothing all day since I hadn’t done what I intended to do to thinking, “Wow, I was really busy today and got a lot done.” Looking at the list, I could see it was a series of choices. I had done some important things throughout the day that needed done.

When I made my list of “Wow, Look What I Accomplished” last night, I found the same thing. Most importantly, I realized I was busy, had some things that really had to be done that day and I accomplished them. Other unexpected things came up, too, which took time away from writing.

And, so I gave myself some grace and self-compassion. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow you will write. Something, anything, even if just a few words. Writing is a process where all or nothing has no place. Trust the process. Trust yourself.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Why Can't I Read The Bible?

A couple of years ago, I was visiting with an elder at church and confessed something I hadn’t told anyone: “I can’t read the Bible, not daily or even sometimes. When I read the Bible, I feel terrible. I can’t measure up to what I should be doing or who I should be as a Christian.”

“Really?” Jerry asked. “When I read the Bible I feel challenged. Challenged to do better or be better. Not judged or condemned.”

Jerry’s words stayed with me – challenged, not condemned. But I wasn’t sure how to move from feeling condemned to feeling challenged.

Now I can look back and see that depression, perfectionism and self-criticism made me feel condemned with a lot of help from the enemy. What better way to keep Christians from spreading the gospel?

Going through therapy and reading Brené Brown’s books helped immensely. Brené Brown helped me understand the difference between guilt and shame; something we don’t talk enough about in Christian circles, or any circles.

According to Brown, the major difference between guilt and shame is “guilt = I did something bad” and “shame = I am bad.” Guilt has the power to move a person to right action in line with their values while shame makes a person feel unworthy and worthless. I felt shame (not good enough, not perfect enough) when I read the Bible. I could never measure up, therefore, what was the point in reading it?

When shame becomes our default feeling, I believe depression sets in. In order to change, I had to recognize when I feel guilt and when I feel shame. That’s pretty hard when you move from guilt to shame in .5 seconds.

But I am learning that even when I am in shame, I can stop and look back at what put me into that feeling. If it is something I did or thought, I can see if it lines up with my values - my desire to be authentic, to have integrity and to live in real faith. If I can take a step back from shame, I can let guilt help me take responsibility, be accountable for my actions or my thoughts. Then I can take action.

When I struggle with shame, I am learning to practice what Brené Brown calls shame-resilience. Brown says, “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable… If we speak shame, it begins to wither. Just the way exposure to the light was deadly to the gremlins (the movie), language and story bring light to shame and destroy it.” (Daring Greatly, p. 67)

Speaking to Jerry about the shame I felt when I read the Bible brought light to my shame. Christ’s light. He offered a different way to look at my shame – challenging instead of condemning. That is shame-resilience. I also practiced shame-resilience when I mentioned it to other people. Some said, “Yes, I know that feeling.” Or “I struggle with that, too.” Starting the Beneath The Dappled Sky blog was a form of shame-resilience for me. I have learned I am not alone. I am not the only one to struggle with depression and anxiety. And, I know I am not the only one to feel condemnation when reading the Bible as a Christian.

The phrase, “put to shame” is found in the New International Version of the Old  Testament 47 times, but only 5 times in the New Testament. Why? Romans 5:5 says, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  And Romans 10:11 says, “As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’”

Speaking shame, trusting in the Lord, and being self-compassionate have made a huge difference in my life. Reading Sarah Young’s devotional, Jesus Calling, also helped me to move from perfectionism and thinking I had to be or do something to be a “good”Christian to resting in God and trusting Him in my relationship with Him.

Even in reading the Bible.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Accepting Feeling Tired

It has been a year since I began seeing a therapist for depression and anxiety. A year of getting over hard things, moving forward and self-discovery.  The depression is gone. Anxiety is a bit of a different animal. Something I now realize I’ve lived with much longer than I care to acknowledge. But it also is much better.

I am still learning new things. The latest is the importance of recognizing when I am tired. What is it about saying, “I feel tired,” in our society? Even to ourselves?

The other day, after teaching children at VBS, I came home and did some more things. That evening I was physically and emotionally tired. But I still thought there were some business things I should take care of that night. Or something. Shouldn’t I always be doing or thinking about something?

But as I concentrated on the thoughts rolling around in my head, I realized I was ruminating and obsessing. Lots of “you should” and “you need to” thoughts were coming up. Along with “you never…”

I noticed a difference in how I felt. Not only was I tired, but now I was starting the spiral. You know, the spiral from feeling vulnerable (uncertain) to shame (you are not enough) to depression (why even try?).

Now, I know from experience what happens when I go down the spiral. Those thoughts would stay with me throughout the night and I would wake up the next morning with a huge helping of anxiety and depression.

This was the first time I connected being tired with going down the spiral. Being tired contributed to my run-away thoughts.

So I stopped.

  • I accepted that I felt tired. Exhausted.
  • I made the choice to stop my thoughts. Everything I was thinking about could wait until the morning when I wouldn’t be tired and could think more clearly.
  • And I relaxed. I sat in silence watching the sunset, watched some tv with my husband, took a bath and went to bed.  And I didn’t think about anything.
  • Most of all, I realized when I rest and relax when I am tired, I am treating myself with grace and compassion.