Breathe and Make Choices [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” ~ William James

A note from the Rejuvenation Fairy: the relief we seek may depend upon the phrase we choose. For instance, consider this phrase: coping mechanisms. What ease might become available if we viewed ourselves as something other than machines? Turn this dial. Adjust this screw. Add a little oil. Check the battery. Do this, then that will happen. Turn down the pressure gauge. Talk to others. Take a break. Cause and effect.

Breathe. Sentient beings are much more complex and subtle than apparatus made from iron and steel.

We story ourselves. For reasons no one will ever fully comprehend, we sort to the tragic. We imagine the worst. Ask any good storyteller and they will confirm that conflict is the driver. Yearnings meet obstacles and stories ensue. Everyone, without exception, is telling themselves a story. Everyone, without exception, is starring in their own movie, complete with impossible mountains to climb, monsters to face, dreams that remain just out of reach. Robert Sapolsky has it right: zebras don’t hold onto their tale of stress while human beings are reticent to let it go. We like to tell it again and again and again.

If we cast ourselves as victims in our movie, our stories will be filled with ogres to blame. If we reduce ourselves to the mechanical, our stories will be endless attempts at fixing what’s broken, looking for the right hose to replace. How to recharge the battery. The fortunate few recognize that their movie might be a story of choice. Choices made within given circumstances. The storm, like time, passes. How do we stand in it?

There’s little doubt that we are living in stressful times. There’s nothing like a deadly pandemic to turn up those mechanical pressure gauges. Add another notch or two of pressure with extreme national ideological division, cowards at the switches of government, mix in some economic stress…there are plenty of choices on the angst-menu. All are visceral. All are circumstances to the story we choose to tell, the story I choose to tell.

I came across a few universal coping strategies. Eat healthy. Exercise. Give yourself a break. Get plenty of sleep. Talk to others. Recognize when you need help and ask for it. I wondered why these good choices are reserved for times of stress. Why not give yourself a break as an everyday expectation. Talk to others. Eat healthy. Weave a calm center it into the fibers of daily life. Make choices. Especially in the story you tell yourself about yourself. The thought upon which you choose to fixate, to play over and over again in your movie-mind.

When Kerri and I fall off the pony and run around like our hair is on fire, we make chicken soup. I am the sous chef. She is the master mind. The recipe comes from her mother so the making of the soup is more than food prep, it’s a love-touch to her anchor. We touch love. And, of course, defying the advice of experts to avoid alcohol, we enjoy a glass of red wine. We choose the glasses: Jamie’s? Or Skip’s? Or Joan’s? For our wedding, we were gifted with many special wine glasses from many special people. Recently, Jay and Carol and Rob sent us wine. When we clink our glasses, we touch the depth of our support and reach of our friendships. We call 20 and laugh. As the soup simmers and the wine disappears, we realize that our hair is not on fire, that, although we are not zebras, we are infinitely capable of releasing our tale of woe. We need not cope or distract. We can grasp hold of the full tale of the enormity of our lives. We need only refocus our eyes, see the depth and expanse of our story and choices, enjoy the warming soup. Appreciate the story of the wine.

read Kerri’s blog post about CHICKEN SOUP & WINE

Hold On And Smile [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

ernie straw copy

I do not know the full history of the Ernie straw. I only know that he holds a place of reverence in our odds-n-ends drawer. And, when Ernie makes an appearance, there is general celebration, photos taken and texted, and laughter-rooted-in-deep-memory swirls like the straw through our kitchen. I watch and appreciate their glee.

I do not share the lived history that Kerri and our children share. They are, as Michael Perry taught me to say, rather than my step-children, they are my given-children. At Kerri and my wedding, my newly given-children shook my hand and said mechanically, “Welcome to the family.” And then they laughed and hugged me tight. Our memories together are new and have tender, shallow roots. We are early in the creation of our history together.

This summer, I was on Island and Kerri made a trip home to see Kirsten. During our late in the evening phone call, Kerri was thrilled that Kirsten had found the Ernie straw and was using it everyday! She sent me pictures. Kirsten posing with Ernie joyfully spiraling out of her cup. I heard Kirsten laughing in the background. Kerri joined her laughter and they giggled me through their history with Ernie.

Ernie is out of the drawer every day since Kerri broke her wrists. He fits nicely into the lid of her Hydro Flask, the only safe coffee-delivery-system. Ernie has been seen rocketing out of her wine glass, too. These days he does duty on both ends of the day.

Mostly, I’m delighted to be making memories with Ernie. The next time he comes out of the drawer I will be more than an passive watcher, a mere listener to the stories of the Ernie straw. I now have real experiences with Ernie. I am slowly entering the weave of story, the fabric of participation. And, like Ernie clutching tight to his corkscrew straw, I couldn’t be more pleased to be winding my way into this part of the tapestry.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the ERNIE STRAW

 

 

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