teeny-tiny red cabin

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TEENY, TINY, RED CABIN

Finally you get to hear about the teeny, tiny, red cabin in the woods. Nine years ago the company my husband worked for was sold and we were facing possible unemployment. We’d been praying ever since we knew.

I had just come home from teaching an evening Bible study when the phone rang. When have you ever heard of a company calling an employee after nine in the evening to offer them a job? But that’s what happened. The corporate office had had a board meeting and decided to offer him a position as  a forensic accountant. (That’s an accountant who looks for the bad guy.) The position would involve extensive traveling within the contiguous United States.  However, the job “morphed” after a year to encompass mostly international travel. 

Cool, huh?  Well, yes and no.

At first we were thrilled as we both love to travel and we were hoping I could go with him sometimes.  But when the schedule became two weeks home and two weeks traveling, it got really old, really quick. (An aside here-many marriages fail when one spouse travels that much. We survived.) I was able to travel with my husband at times because his hotel room was already paid for. We used frequent flyer miles for my airfare (he racked up hundreds of thousands in quick order).  I only had to pay for lunch which was either leftover breakfast or something from a grocery store. As far as shopping, I did very little. 

The same year we learned about the international travel is when “teeny, tiny red cabin in the woods” became a reality. The teeny cabin became our retreat from a very hectic lifestyle.  It was calming, therapeutic and revitalizing all at the same time. It was and is our “honeymoon” place.

The extensive international travel is now over. Nine years was enough.

Some fun facts about “teeny, tiny, red cabin in the woods.”  It sits at the bottom of a hill. Our main home sits at the top of a hill.  Both houses are over one hundred years old. I like old. The cabin is decorated inside in red, black and white. The bedroom, kitchen and living room are one room with the bed situated in a kind of alcove but no door.  I spent one whole summer scouring garage sales, thrift shops, and estate sales. I found:

  • Black and white fleece pillows with a bear appliqué
  • Colorful rag rugs
  • Two end tables with legs that look like branches.
  • A small drop leaf table and two farm chairs
  • Cool lime green plastic dishes which add a bit of drama
  • A small drop leaf table

We purchased a new futon (who wants to sleep on a used mattress?) and the log style bed that was already in the cabin.  A dear friend made me two birch-branch lamps, one floor-sized and one table-sized that found their way to the  cabin.

Everything was inexpensive. I’m a natural-born thrift shopper. I love repurposing things.  Modestly said, most people like how I decorate. Plus shopping at garage sales and thrift stores keeps me humble.  

(My life is good.  I have everything I need and even more. It wasn’t always this way. I would’ve managed my depression better had I asked myself what I now ask you.)

“How are you rich?” Most of us have at least one area where we are truly rich. I’ll just bet that some of the least wealthy of you (in the material sense) will be able list the most riches.  I know that with the present US economy, there are people who are really struggling. I’m suggesting though that in the midst of our struggles (depression being one of them), it helps to concentrate on the bright spots in our lives.   

 

 

as the season changes

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as the season changes (part two)

I’ve learned that depression makes one feel very helpless so I try to keep that door of helplessness shut. I remind myself that I’m the one who’s in the driver’s seat, not depression. (This has nothing to do with God interrupting my plans when ever He chooses.) I want to make sure I don’t let things happen to me willy-nilly. I’m not saying I have to plan every moment. It’s more of an inner awareness about why I’m doing what I’m doing. Am I doing what I’ve decided to do or has my depression decided for me? It about knowing what works for me. Being aware of why I’m doing what I’m doing works for me.

I know there are many who are reading this post whose every moment is filled. You would love the luxury of having some free time to worry about. This concept is still valuable though because awareness that you are indeed always making choices is valid for all parts of your life. (By the way, keeping frantically busy is just as bad as sitting in front of the TV.)

Depression seems to have a life of its own. At times it seems as though another person takes up residence inside us telling us what to do. And let’s be clear, the voice of depression will never direct you to do anything other than feed its veracious appetite.

So how do we become self aware? For me, anxious feelings make me sit up and take notice. If I bite my fingernails. (I hate admitting that.) If I find I’m munching on something constantly. Usually something sweet. If I don’t enjoy what I’m doing. If I can’t focus on what I’m doing. Probably most important, if I start to think too much. You’ll have to figure out for yourself what your red flags are. (I’m all for thinking and I’ll discuss the importance of choosing the right time to think about some deep issues on a later post. For now, just be aware that when you’re in a particularly low mood is not the time to think about too much about what bothers you. You will probably just end up in a worse mood.)

For today ask yourself-Am I mindlessly going through my day? Am I fully living in the present moment and not anticipating the next? Is my mind wandering? Am I feeling anxious? Am I on carb overload?

I hope you’re having a good day.

(p.s. It’s five days since the emergency visit and I’m doing GREAT! Took a depression test and I scored a ten. )

after the crisis

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after the crisis

I hear the sirens getting closer.  My heart isn’t just pounding; it’s trying to jump out of its fragile shell. Not again, I say to myself. How many times have I been through this?  Has he been through this? Four emergency vehicles, lights flashing speed up my circular driveway. People swarm everywhere. Six, I think. I become invisible.” This man is my life”, I want to scream. But I don’t. They need to do their job.   I hover nearby, ever his protector.

I ride with him in the ambulance.  Amidst what sounds like a normal conversation, I’m shooting up “arrow prayers” hoping they find their target. “Lord, keep him safe.  Help this to be nothing.” Then my prayers are for me, “Lord, keep me sharp and focused. Help me to be strong. Help me to hear what’s being said. Give me boldness to question, to confront, even to demand. Help me trust my instincts knowing they come from you.”  A peace envelopes me like it does every night when my husband wraps his arms around me and I smile myself to sleep. I know there are stronger arms than his holding me now.

Six hours later, three in the morning, we are home. It’s not his heart but a muscle that is inflamed due to all the projects he’s been doing. It is often confused with a heart attack. We collapse exhausted but relieved.

It’s now the next day.  Red flag, red flag, my mind tells me.  This is a danger zone. The adrenaline continues to flood over me now even though the emergency is over. I need to exercise more to lower the amount of Cortisol http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/cortisol.htm floating freely through my system. I find myself wanting to eat constantly. To stay busy every moment. I’m not ready to think, to evaluate.  I remember his heart attack.

After days at the hospital I was convinced to go home for a night. I remember waking up the next morning in a kind of suspended state of reality.  Coming downstairs I saw his truck in the driveway and wondered where he was. The brain fog shattered and I remembered it all too clearly. His heart stopping-literally. The electric paddles violently abusing his body. The sudden beeping of the heart monitor again. The absolute terror of it all.

I’m a smart woman.  I know the aftermath of this crisis is where “IT” (my favorite word for depression) is lying in wait to gobble me up.  I’m already planning the days ahead.  Projects to accomplish. Menus to plan. People to connect with.  Making sure I look extra good when I see my reflection in the mirror.  Knowing my time with God will be scattered and unpredictable for a few days.  Knowing that God is OK with that.

These are just quick snippets of what I’m going through right now.  Very little editing.  After all, we can’t edit history.  I want you to hear exactly what I’m feeling and thinking as I prepare for a few days battle.  Maybe my honesty will help you.

I’ll be back in a few days with part two of “as the season changes.”

hurt feelings

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hurt feelings

I have part two of  “as the season changes” ready but I wanted to share this as I promised to keep this post “real”.  That means that when the worm (depression) shows up in my otherwise bright, shiny, red apple, I need to let you in on it in real-time.

The last couple of days I encountered  a couple of upsetting situations.   Both involves people permanently in my life that I love very much.  The  first example was a vacancy  I saw in someone’s eyes.  It was like no one was home.  I’ve never seen it before and it scared me.  I’ve shed some tears.  I’m trying to convince myself that she just didn’t hear me which would explain it. I’m still clinging to that.

The next was rude behavior I received from people I have given to freely and without reservation. People I love, pray for and cry over. My husband and I have often encountered this behavior from them. What is surprising is that I continue to allow it to happen.  I tell myself I will  lovingly bring it to their attention right when it happens so I don’t continue to feed on it.  But it always catches me unaware. I saw their interactions with others.  There were “Hello’s”.  “Hey, how are you doing?”  There were friendly conversations with acquaintances. There was barely a word spoken to us. I could go on.

It’s these kind of circumstances that can really jump-start a downward spiral if we don’t stop it immediately. I convince myself these situations are catastrophic.  (They probably aren’t.) But that’s what we do when the sun isn’t shining and the days are getting shorter.  Everything seems worse than it is. So what did I do?

(I’m going to talk about my faith now so if you find that objectionable hit the exit button.)

I mentally whispered to God. “Lord, would you just put this in my “trouble” box and hang hang on to it till we can talk?” I do this often when something is bothering me as I know that I need to be in a safe place when I open that box.  For me, that safe place is time with God.

We opened the box this morning and I poured out my concerns.  Nothing held back. No pretending that I’m not scared. No pretending I’m not hurt. Just me and God. I talked.  He listened.  Then He talked through the scriptures and I tried hard to listen.

Beating depression means being honest with oneself.. That means not making mountains out of mole hills but also not making mole hills out of mountains.  If it hurts, it hurts. I don’t have to chastise myself for being human. Being mentally healthy doesn’t mean everything in our lives is as it we would like it to be.  It doesn’t mean there won’t be days like these. What is does mean is that we learn how to deal with hurt, fear, and disappointment in a healthy way. The method can look quite different for each of us.

Do you have a pre-determined method to deal with difficult circumstances?  If not, maybe today you can begin your own repertoire of healthy coping mechanisms.

the dreaded class reunion

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Duets (Barbra Streisand album)

Duets (Barbra Streisand album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

0h, no! the dreaded class reunion

Oh, no! Today is the day. The first (my husband’s) of two reunions (mine two months).  We’ve never been to one. We’ve always said if we wanted to see these people we would have.  We’ve tempered our thinking a bit and have decided there were some people we would’ve remained friends with had distance not separated us. We’re hoping they will be there.

We have no idea what to expect.  Will the snobs still be snobs or will life have taught them some needed lessons?  Will the homecoming queen still look “queenly” or will the years have robbed her of her good looks?  Will those who were “most likely to succeed” have succeeded or not? The biggest question, why does any of this matter anyway?

When I think about it, I wonder if I’ve matured at all if I’m worried about the impression I’ll make.  Really, haven’t I dealt with bigger issues by now than worrying about a high school reunion?  And yet I’ve shopped all week looking for the perfect outfit-casual but classy.  (By the way, I’ve found it. T J Maxx is getting weary of the buying and returning.) I guess the reason some of it matters is because all the people will be about the same age so naturally there’s that comparison thing going on. Have I put on too much weight? (I haven’t.) Is my hair the right style?  (Yep. I’ve colored my hair since I was sixteen and gave it up about five years ago.  It’s a really wonderful color-who knew?)

But what if someone asks me what I’ve accomplished, what will I answer? I ask myself, have I done the things I wanted to do? Have I realized some of my dreams? In many ways I have but not in the way most people would think. Most of my accomplishments don’t involve money, success or celebrity. But in all the ways that matter, I’ve accomplished more than I would have thought possible considering the messed-up, depressed teen-ager I once was.

Now that I’ve written it down I wonder why I ever was nervous. This is three or four hours out of the 4,380 twelve-hour days a year. Really?  I don’t even have to stay if I don’t want to.  So having got it all out of my system, I’m feeling better.

Perhaps I’m feeling better because of something I picked up in my research on depression. It’s called “acting as if”.  It’s a valid therapy technique and very helpful in dealing with certain areas in our lives. (like high school reunions)  It sounds contrived and fake but done in the right way and for the right reasons, it isn’t. (I will deal with this in more detail in future posts. I will be sure to title these posts “acting as if”.)  An example that readily comes to mind and which will prove very helpful for me tonight is the art of walking into a room. I don’t like large social functions, mostly because of the initial act of walking into the room. But if can walk into a room and act confident, I trick my mind into thinking I am just that. Consequently I quit shaking, my hands quit sweating and my heart stops racing. I can talk to people without being self-conscious. (This whole subject of how we can influence our body’s reactions through disciplining our mind is fascinating. By the way the Bible said it first-as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.)

“Acting as if” might sound very artificial and even dishonest but it isn’t really.  Barbara Streisand has stated that she is terrified every time she gives a concert. Barbara Streisand! But she does exactly what I do. She “acts as if” she isn’t afraid by walking on stage acting every bit the star that she is. Let me ask you, have you ever noticed her fear? No, because she’s acting as if she isn’t afraid and that process somehow rewires her brain into making her think she is confident. Thus her body and her voice respond to this message because the brain doesn’t know how to distinguish between the truth and a lie.

“Acting as if” is NOT a method to use to fool anyone or cause anyone any harm. It’s simply a way for you to find success in some situations that are important to you and have caused you problems in the past.  It isn’t always successful.  For example, I can “act as if” I’m a ballet dancer all I want and I’m never going to be a ballet dancer.  I might be more graceful but that’s about it.

What about you?  Is there an area in your life where this technique might work for you?  When I started to push depression back into its dark hole, this was a technique I used where it made sense. The more I acted like a person who wasn’t depressed the less depressed I was. (There were many, many other techniques I used which I will post about through this blog. I don’t want you to think that this one technique alone is going to change everything for you overnight. I wish depression was that easy to give the old heave-ho to. I’d be a rich woman!)  There’s so much more I could share with you but this post is way too long as it is. I promise that soon, I’ll be sharing much more about how you can beat depression or at least manage it.

Is there a simple area in your life you could try this “acting as if” approach? It might take a number of times before you figure out just how it works. It’s not easily explained in something as brief as a post.

(I’m still getting up to speed in setting up this blog.  I have figured out Zemanta as you can tell.  Yea!!!)

empowered

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empowered

I was going through the IKEA catalog tonight having decided I needed to do some updating to my tired looking house.  Maybe some new dining room chairs. I’m going to paint the table black but I hate the chairs no matter what color I would paint them.  I’ve already taken the doors off the matching hutch, painted it black and love it. (See post “depression and my dining room hutch”.) But looking through the catalog got me to thinking.  Why is it we women are always “redoing” something or another?  And most of us are.  There are thousands of decorating blogs that attest to this. (I do know a couple of women, though, who never think about redecorating. There’s something wrong with them, I just know it.)

I put this post aside for a couple of days and had an experience that I think helped me answer my own question.  One of my best friends has been battling a serious virus for a couple of weeks.  As she was feeling much better we decided to get together. It’s been a crazy summer for both of us, lots of family events, etc.  During the height of her illness, her sister (who lives in another country) and had only recently been diagnosed with cancer, died. My friend’s husband died less than two years ago. Talk about a double whammy.  She pretty much feels like her life has spun out of control.

Anyway, we were sitting in her living room and she mentioned how she wanted to redecorate   the room.  She was tired of it.  We talked about colors, new pictures. Well, I got busy and because I’m a frustrated decorator I started moving things around and suggesting some other changes. I suggested a small project she could easily complete the next day without taxing her strength.  She was doing much better by the time I left.

On the way home, I got to thinking about this whole “redoing” thing and why most of us women seem obsessed with it. I know the usual answer is the often quoted “nesting instinct.”  And yes, I think that’s part of the answer but I don’t think that’s the entire answer.

I wonder if some of it has to do with the fact that we feel some control when we change things around.  Most women I know feel much of their lives revolve around the needs of other people, children, husband, parents, and careers.   It’s not that we don’t willingly embrace it all but let’s face it, we don’t particularly feel in control.  When we move a few things around, add a new pillow, paint the candleholders a different color, etc. it gives us a sense of having some control in a part of our lives.  Not to mention it feeds our creative urge. I know my friend felt empowered by what we did and the possibilities of what we are going to do. She couldn’t prevent getting sick. She couldn’t stop her husband or sister from dying. But she could change a few things in her living room.

With the economic crisis and the upcoming election, I think most of need to feel a little control and if re-arranging a few things, brightening up a few things accomplishes that, why not? 

When I was depressed, I felt very much like I had no control. But I found the simple act of re-arranging some things helped, no matter how small. How about you?  Does “re-doing” a few things around your house empower you? Have you ever considered the connection between re-decorating and the feeling of having some control?  I would love to hear your comments.

dissatisfaction

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Dissatisfaction

Dissatisfaction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

dissatisfaction

My husband and I are at our “teeny-tiny red cabin”.  We bought it nine years ago, move-in ready.  It’s adorable.  We love it.  But it is only about 500 square feet.  That’s fine for the two of us but when family members come for a visit we need more space so two years ago we had local Amish people build our even cuter bunkhouse “LaCabinette”, a 12’ x 16’ building with a porch.  We left all the 2’ x 4’s exposed, walls and ceilings.  We “whitewashed” the peak in a beautiful pale aqua blue and the walls are whitewashed in white.  Except for the futons in both buildings, everything is from thrift shops. Most of the book I’m writing that I mention on my home page was written here. It is a retreat from a very hectic lifestyle and is the most peaceful place I know.

Now that you know how much I love it here, you’ll be surprised at my reaction to what I’m going to tell you.  I’m embarrassed to share this with you but I promised to always be honest. Anyway, my husband and I were talking a walk along the dirt road around the corner from “teeny-tiny red cabin” and we come upon this big, beautiful home under construction. The owner invited us in to look around once he learned we were neighbors. The inside was everything I could imagine, even unfinished. Our teeny-tiny cabin would fit inside the living room alone. My heart yearned.  I was envious.

Why is satisfaction so tenuous?  So fleeting? What makes us perfectly happy with our lives and then whoosh; it’s gone when we see something better? How do we go from being discontent with what we genuinely love to wanting something else? Surely, it can’t be that we don’t realize there’s always something better?

I’m afraid I can only pose the question. I don’t know the answer. I do know though, that dissatisfaction can lead one down some dangerous paths.  It’s easy to go from dissatisfaction in one area in our life and generalize it to other areas in our life. For one prone to depression, that’s not a good thing.

For myself, I’m careful to maintain an attitude of gratefulness because down deep I am very grateful for everyone and everything in my life.  My envy of the beautiful house was very short lived. Do I still love it?  Yes.  Would I love it if it were mine? I think so.  But does my teeny-tiny red cabin still bring me more contentment than anywhere else on earth. Yes. Am I grateful beyond belief? Yes. Was my sudden envy something to be ashamed of? NO!

I’m just human, that’s all.

I once read that one of the ways to avoid purchasing things we don’t need is to look at the things we see in stores as if they were in a museum. Beautiful to look at but not to buy.  That’s what the house around the corner has become for me. Beautiful to look at, but not mine to have.  “Teeny-tiny red cabin” is my piece of heaven and nothing changes that. Should someone buy the lot next to us and build something grand, I’ll go through the usual first pangs of envy and then I’ll come back to “teeny-tiny red cabin” and be glad it’s so small because I can clean it in an hour. So there!

Dissatisfaction can result in good outcomes if our dissatisfaction leads us to make necessary changes. We probably make few significant changes in our lives without some initial dissatisfaction. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I think we all know the difference between dissatisfaction that serves no purpose other than making us envious and dissatisfaction in areas that could lead us to constructive change

There’s a truism I run across all the time-“There is always something to be grateful for—always.”

What about you?  Have you find yourself dissatisfied with something and then realized your mood had taken a nose dive?  What could you do to feel more satisfied with your life? What in your life can you be grateful for?

peace with my hair

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peace with my hair

O.k., today’s post may seem silly. What does hair have to do with depression? Actually, more than you might know. I got to thinking over these past nine years of depression-free, pill-free years. The one constant was my hair. It’s wild, unruly, and I have a lot of it. I’ve colored it for years but somewhere in these nine years, I gave that up. At least the permanent color. Sometimes I still add a temporary color that fades away in a few short washings. All it really does it tone down my too-bright hair.

I guess I’m bringing this up because I just looked at some recent pictures of myself when I thought my hair looked good and, well, -it didn’t. Our hair humbles us like nothing else and we need to make peace with our constant dissatisfaction. It’s just hair, after all.

In addition while most women over forty have short hair, I’ve gone the other way and have relatively long hair. I just think I look better in longer hair. Besides, can I just say it? I don’t want to look like other women over forty who all have the same short hair cut. Hair should move, shouldn’t it?

I can actually gauge somedays what my mood is going to be like by what my hair looks like. Every woman alive knows that “a good hair day” is a good day in general. But when you deal with low moods it’s even more important. I take great care to make myself and my hair presentable every day. It helps set the tone for the rest of the day.

That’s why hair is important. The last thing a depressed person needs is to look in the mirror and see a disheveled wild person staring back at them. I’m not saying that if I’m weeding my garden or painting a room that my hair never looks messy. Remember, I said I like my hair to move. I’m talking more about the effort than the result.

So if you’re having a bad day, do this one thing for me. Go wash your hair and do something with it. It’s kind of amazing how mild to moderate depression responds so well to the constructive little things we do. If you’re really down, I know, I know, it’s an effort to even get off the couch and move. But, please, do it anyway. It doesn’t cost anything(unless you use really expensive shampoo). It requires very little time.

Do you find that if you look better, you feel better? Or are you wanting to look bad so people will feel sorry for you? Good question, huh?

competition versus enjoyment

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competition versus enjoyment

Whoa!  I’m too competitive.  I’ve been playing “Words with Friends” over the week-end.  I really like the game, but it wasn’t until this morning that I realized I don’t enjoy it.  I want to, I just don’t.  That has to change. What’s the point of playing if it can’t also be fun?

So today I’m choosing to have fun.  It’s o.k. if I lose. I’m learning lots of new words, words, of course, I’ll never use. And I at least have the honor of once beating my never once defeated husband.  By the way, he’s never lost a game, except to me. That makes me feel a little cerebral.

I never connected depression with competition but I think there just might be one. When we can’t “play” because we have to win, we set ourselves up for anger and anxiety. We spiral to, “I’m not smart.  I’m not good at anything.” I got to thinking about how I have to win my point in a conversation or my mood drops.  How I have to look good in the mirror everyday or I feel unattractive.  How I always have to be “on”.

That’s going to start to change today, even if it’s only a tiny bit.  I know I’m going to lose a game of Words With Friends today because I’m playing against some tough opponents. (I hope there not twelve!) When I lose I’m going to convince myself it’s only a game and no one knows anyway. (I am keeping score of course.  It’s what I do. Hmmm.  Maybe that’s another area I need to examine.) 

Anyway, how are you at losing? Anything? Even your keys.  Does it throw you into a tailspin? If it does, maybe you, too, need to reexamine these areas.

guilt-free joy

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guilt-free joy

Some of us are just born old. Asking us when we knew we had grown up is like asking us to solve a quantum physics problem in our head. We simply have no frame of reference; we’ve always felt grow-up. As children we felt the weight of the world on our tiny shoulders even though they weren’t ready to carry such a load. Atlas may have shrugged it off but we couldn’t. Circumstances of our childhood conspired together in such a way as to guarantee we would skip over some important stages. The sense of wonder, freedom and innocence eluded us. Fun became a four-letter word.

We see smiling pictures of ourselves in our parent’s photo albums and don’t recognize ourselves because of those smiles. We do remember some good times, like catching fireflies on a summer’s evening and jailing them in a glass prison. We remember making tents out of blankets and playing in them with our dolls. We remember rolling lopsided balls of snow into distorted snowmen. We can even remember hugs and kisses and warm moments of intimacy. But we also remember fearing that those cherished moments would slip away too soon. And they often did. We knew those singular moments weren’t our real life; they were just cruel snippets of what could be, what should be.

There is an old southern saying that states, “If you don’t crawl before you walk, you will crawl before you die.” I think it’s supposed to mean that we are meant to experience certain phases in our life at appropriate times and if we don’t, we will experience them inappropriately at some other time along the way. Becoming an adult too soon is one of those “not crawling before we walk” kind of experiences. Doctors tell us not to push our children to stand up too soon because their leg muscles haven’t developed properly and it could cause injury. The same is true for our emotions.

We were forced to experience adulthood way ahead of schedule. Our under developed emotional muscles were simply not ready to take on such mature themes. But we became very adept at carrying our burdens because we were survivors. When life gets overwhelming now, we put our big girl panties on and tell ourselves to “grow up for crying out loud”. The truth is we do a pretty good job; we have been trained well.

I finally became a grownup when I realized I could have fun, even pursue it intentionally. I now enjoy life without feeling guilty. I no longer feel I’ve ignored the suffering in the world just because I laugh. Maybe laughter is what helps up grow compassion. It gets our minds off ourselves for awhile and consequently we can think of others. I am more compassionate now, give more financially now and extend myself more now because I’m a healthier person over all.

How about you? Are you grown-up enough to laugh and have fun?