This summer I have been so busy transitioning to a career change and also working on Love In Later Years that I have not been out on my bike at all . . . like since April. Yesterday afternoon I got to a good stopping place and decided to take 40-minutes for myself and go for a bike ride. I got dressed in my cycling clothes and went out to the garage and found the rear tire on my bike flat. I put the bike rack on my car and took it to the gas station and tried to pump It up, but it didn't work. Something about the connection was wrong. I thought, "Really? Today? I've only ridden on these tires like twice!" I started to feel poor and picked on. You know the thoughts right? "I just wanted to take 40-minutes and do something for myself. Was that too much to ask?"
Just as I was accepting the fact that my bike ride was not going to happen, Cathy called me. She was playing with her string quartet at a wedding, and it seemed like everything that could go wrong went wrong to make her late and nervous playing.
Of course, I will get my tire fixed and my bike back on the road. I am sure Cathy still played well and will continue to book more gigs for her string quartet. The things that went wrong yesterday were not earth shaking problems. But I remember when I was going through my divorce and the aftermath. My energy was depleted, and even the smallest inconvenience seemed unbearable and overwhelming. It felt overwhelming even to open my mail because I was afraid there was something else for me to deal with inside those envelopes.
I remember talking to a good friend of mine in 2016 about how sometimes anxiety could be overwhelming that way. He was recently divorced and told me that he also had a difficult time opening mail sometimes. He is a psychiatrist and makes over half a million dollars a year. Despite his understanding of mental health and the fact that he doesn't have huge financial problems doesn't stop him from feeling anxious and overwhelmed by small problems.
If you have been through divorce or widowed, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, please bear this in mind when you are trying to assist loved ones who are going through something very difficult and life-changing. It is tempting to sit back from a place of greater security and peace and think you must be doing it right and your imperiled friend must be doing it wrong. It is tempting to be judgmental of those who don't pay their bills or even open them. It is tempting to sit back and judge someone whose life is falling apart.
If you are one of those people experiencing a personal tragedy, having a few good friends is a tremendous comfort. Talking through your trauma is part of releasing it.
I only want to caution you that it is very easy to get stuck in anxiety and pain. After a while, it starts to define you. You know you are hurting, but your story gives meaning to the pain, so it is very tempting to hang on to it because it feels like all you have.
The good news is, it doesn't have to be that way. After a certain amount of processing, you can shift. Instead of fighting with your circumstances and continually telling yourself "It wasn't supposed to be this way!" you can embrace truth for what it is and not what you wish it was. You can understand that it IS supposed to be this way. This IS your path, and God has wonderful things waiting for you further down this path. You will find that the things you thought were trials were tender mercies. You will find that God knows better than you. You will heal, and the little things that go wrong in life won't feel so overwhelming.
I didn't understand these principles when I was going through my divorce and the aftermath, so my suffering was prolonged and felt unbearable. I allowed my finances to get into a huge mess because I was preoccupied with the one big loss in my life. So the damage from that loss was multiplied. I don't say this with any shame. That was my path. It helped to make me the person I am, and I like who I am. God knew better than me the experiences I needed to grow and progress. I also tell you this so that you can come to understand that you have the power, by the grace of God, to shift from misery and overwhelm to hope and love. This begins with being intentional about the thoughts that dominate your mind. Whenever any little good thing happens to you, celebrate and thank God. Over time, you will find you have more to celebrate than you thought. It may take awhile for your outward circumstances to reflect your inner change. But, ultimately, things are going to change for you if you do the work--which begins with your thoughts and the way you see the world. It begins with letting go of the thoughts that keep you in pain and no longer serve you, and embracing thoughts that are hopeful and filled with love and joy.