Category Archives: Life Skills

Monday Morning Moment – Conflict in Marriage – The Dance of Negative Escalation – with Esther Perel

Photo Credit: YouTube, Esther Perel

Do you have conflict in your marriage? Or even in roommate, friend, or family relationships? Maybe even at work with colleagues?
Of course, you do. Oh, there’s the rare situation where people can work out their differences amicably. My mom-in-law would always say she and our father-in-law never had a fight…well, once maybe. I’ve been around them in all sorts of situations, and I have to agree. Early in marriage, they worked out a system where they served each other and the family in complimentary ways. They genuinely loved and enjoyed each other.
Their oldest son, having grown up in this sweet and peaceful home, fell in love with a woman from a very different family…a home full of love but also where conflict and chaos sometimes reigned. That woman would be me.
Over the course of our 30+ years of marriage, we have matured. With age and experience, with resultant understanding, the fights are rare. The tears and silences are also pretty much absent.
We never ever considered divorce an option. Both of us have had too much experience with divorce (in my biological family and his in his extended family). We didn’t want it for ourselves or for our parents or children. So….we white-knuckled from time to time. In the end, I’m so thankful we hung in there with each other. It’s what I tell couples considering divorce…hang in there…it gets better.
OK…maybe not always, BUT the resources for helping us to do marriage and relationships are vast and easily accessible…if not in-person then online. If one or both of you are willing to inquire.
[Also, please, this is not meant to hammer anyone who’s experienced divorce. A betrayal is devastating and feels impossible to overcome.]
Dave and I had the opportunity just this weekend to hear couples therapist Esther Perel speak. She is Belgian and the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. She is married and has two sons. Her practice is international. She is a prolific writer and a life-long learner.
After hearing this brilliant, insightful, caring woman speak, I started looking for her online. So many YouTube videos, interviews, articles. Her podcasts, too. Among the topics was something she called a dance of negative escalation. What this entails is a process whereby two persons address an issue with one of maybe 3 or 4 responses.
  • Both listening and sharing, engaged, connected which would NOT be the dance of negative escalation.
  • Both withdrawing into their own thoughts – away from the perceived conflict or threat. Not outright escalation but no resolution either.
  • Both attacking, escalating into screaming and violence until…This wouldn’t even be considered a dance probably. I’m still learning.
  • One felt to be attacking, and the other felt to be withdrawing. This is where the dance takes place).

Perel defines this dance of negative escalation in this way: a “pattern occurs when one partner stonewalls and the other, in reaction to this refusal to engage, allows their emotions to escalate…For both partners the part of themselves they struggle with today is the very trait that saved them as a child. Sometimes what works as a survival strategy backfires when we are no longer under threat.”

“It takes two people to create a pattern, but only one to change it.”
Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence

All kinds of light bulbs went off for me in reading and listening to Perel talk about this phenomenon.
There are always two sides. Two views of a situation. With two different histories (all the way back to childhood potentially). Two different emotional meanings.
When a conflict builds, the combative one, the aggressor, is usually seen and experienced as “the bad guy”. However, we all know from the classroom, that a child can be drawn into a negative response through the badgering of or intentional exclusion by another child. Yet, when the teacher is late to notice the interaction, only one child, the responder, is disciplined, and the other seemingly “good child” is left unchecked in the altercation.
We all want to be heard, to be valued, and none of us want to carry the responsibility or blame of an escalation. Four things are mentioned by Perel as being devastating to a marriage or long-term relationship. This can also be true of work relationships. Any of these can mark a relationship in peril. They are:
  • Indifference
  • Neglect
  • Contempt
  • Violence

We don’t want to go there in our relationships. Or if one partner or the other is there, the other can still begin to make positive change.

If you are in a relationship with the pattern using the dance of negative escalation to deal with issues , there is such hope! The links below are incredibly helpful…and they are just a few of the many resources available by Esther Perel and others.

I just wanted to introduce this subject. For those of you who know you struggle with these negative cycles, start with the links and go on your own journey of healing and restoration.

In her talk the other night, Esther Perel described the experience of having more than one marriage, sometimes with the same person. In a way, I experienced that with my sweet husband. We have a thick cord of continuity through our marriage, but, in ways, our marriage has passed through such seasons that almost feel like we are in a different marriage. I’m so thankful we stuck it out with each other.

Remember, a negative cycle is the problem. It may have absolutely nothing to do with the character of either spouse. “Name the cycle” rather than blaming your explosive partner or feeling betrayed by the withdrawing one. Start there. Then take steps to slow down the conflict in a safe environment in order to see what is happening underneath. With grace, accountability (external and internal), and time, you can come out on the other side, stronger, healthier, and with love rekindled and restored.

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Where Should We Begin? Podcast – It’s Very Hard to Live with a Saint – Esther Perel – excellent example of the dance of negative escalation. The podcast is an actual marriage counseling session. If you prefer reading, the transcript is here.

Marital Destructive Styles of Communication – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Couples Negative Cycles – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Naming Your Negative Cycle – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Withdrawers  Desire Safety – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Negative Couples Cycle: Finding the Bad Guy – Kevin Leapley, Round Rock Couples Counseling

YouTube Video – Fight Smarter – Avoid the Most Common Argument Patterns – Esther Perel

Emotionally Focused Therapy – a Roadmap for Working with Couples (pdf) – Tanya Radecker

Series : Marriage with a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse – Brad Hambrick – Dr. Hambrick is an excellent “counselor to the church”. He covers a lot of ground on this topic related to the different aspects of being self-centered in a marriage: the low emotional intelligence self-centered spouse, the lazy or apathetic self-centered spouse, the situationally explosive self-centered spouse, and the intentionally manipulative self-centered spouse. Fascinating. Great helps as well.

Growing in Negative Emotion Tolerance – Brad Hambrick

Monday Morning Moment – Flipping COVID Lethargy into a Larger Life Productivity – Tim Challies

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, How to Get Things Done

How do we get everything done in our day? We can’t. Well, consider that maybe we aren’t supposed to…then we choose a path…driven by external forces (the tyranny of the urgent, the job as defined by the manager, the should’s and ought-to’s)…or internal. What are our internal forces? What kind of life do we hope to live, and the product we hope to leave as foundational for those we care most about?

A favorite old proverb of ours goes like this:Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4). Canadian writer Tim Challies presents this proverb as a parable on productivity. That “much increase” can be enhanced by having the right tools (oxen, for instance). However, given the right tools, productivity can still be very messy. Hard to perfectly control, thus, cycling back, needing the best tools for the job. Sometimes those tools are people in our lives and workplace, and sometimes they are lists, schedules, apps, or right equipment – even a vacuum cleaner (my highly organized, hard working daughter-in-law had a new vacuum on the top of her Christmas list this year).

Several years ago, Challies wrote an incredibly practical blog series on How to Get Things Done. He has become a master at “learning how to simplify life and how to maximize productivity”. Now in the era of COVID, his counsel on productivity is even more timely as we slog through this pandemic.

[Now for those of you who are essential workers and you lay down exhausted every night, it may seem this isn’t for you. However, with the restrictions of life with COVID, you probably struggle with redeeming time with family and deciding how to maximize your time off the job. Tim Challies has wisdom for you as well. Thanks, also for how you serve us all, out there every day.]

In Challies’ blog intro to his book “Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity”, he offers several work sheets useful for those of us who need to organize our thoughts and time toward greater simplicity and productivity.

Don’t try to do it all. Do more good. Better.

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, Amazon

Too often, we measure the purpose of our lives by “how much” we can get done. What if we flipped that? What if we first sort out what the mission (or purpose) of our lives is? …Given our gifts, our education, our experiences, our opportunities, the people in our circle of influence, and the season in which we live at the moment. COVID informs that as well…informs but doesn’t define.

We do the work of sorting out our purpose, and then we order our days with that as foundation. We can’t do everything, therefore, we set our days on “doing more good…better”. Does that mean my house is always clean or my inbox is always manageable? No…but it is a shift away from shame/guilt and toward intentionality and joyful making of new habits. Sometimes we will have to say no, but the “yes’s” that are then ours to speak can be so freeing.

For me, this kind of restructuring my routines and thinking toward productivity require some prayer and reflection. Then, old-fashioned worksheets help. Challies also suggests other more techy tools, but I prefer starting with pen and paper.

Challies writes: “To be productive, you need a system. You need to build it, use it, perfect it, and rely on it. Your system needs to gain your confidence so that you can trust it to remember what needs to be remembered, to alert you to what is urgent, to direct you to what is important, and to divert you away from what is distracting…When you ought to be working on your computer, you are only ever one or two clicks away from checking out your friends on Facebook or welcoming a few minutes of mindless entertainment on YouTube. Text messages provide a welcome distraction from deep thinking, and binge watching the latest series on Netflix can set you back a week. You are surrounded by temptations to laziness and may succumb far more often than you think.”
COVID has not affected my health, for which I’m very thankful. However, the physical distancing has reeked havoc with daily life, work, routines of a few months ago, and even relationships. We have to work harder…smarter to keep high engagement in life and with our people. Tim Challies’ blog series, productivity tools, and book are a great starting place…for that good night’s sleep. Sweetly exhausted from “doing more good…better”.

5 Friday Faves – Self-care and the Ever Changing Science of COVID-19, Christmas Canstructions, Clint Bruce Elites, Seasonal Kindnesses, and a Call to More Than Politics

Happy weekend. Last month of 2020. December. Much to process and to be thankful for.

1) Self-care and the Ever Changing Science of COVID-19 – This has been a week of COVID awareness becoming more personally as we lost a dear old friend to COVID and have family friends in another country battling it. We are wise to do what we can to keep it away, without giving way to the media-induced hysteria it can also bring.

The most comprehensive and accessible clinical information for all of us has come from a 39-page article by Dr. Paul Marik, professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine. This article is updated periodically so if you click on and don’t find it just search for EVMS Critical Care COVID-19 Management Protocol. It covers the prevention of COVID-19 right through to the critical management of COVID patients with life-threatening disease. The article is definitely written for the clinician, but the most salient points can be understood by any of us.

Below are his current recommendations for prevention (p. 6):

  • Masks, social distancing, and avoidance of large groups of people.
  • Vitamin D3 1000-3000 iu/day. Note RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) is 800-1000 iu/day.
  • Vitamin C 500 mg BID (twice daily) and Quercetin 250 mg daily. There are some exceptions to the use of Quercetin, so read his article.
  • Melatonin (slow release): Begin with 0.3 mg and increase as tolerated to 2 mg at night.
  • Zinc 30-50 mg/day (elemental zinc).
  • B complex vitamins.
  • Ivermectin for postexposure prophylaxis. 200 ug/kg (12 mg) immediately then repeat day 3.
  • or
  • •Ivermectin for pre-exposure prophylaxis and for prophylaxis in high risk individuals (> 60 years with co-morbidities, morbid obesity, long term care facilities, etc). 150-200 ug/kg (or 12 mg) Day 1, Day 3 and then every 4 weeks. Ivermectin has a number of potentially serious drug-drug interactions.
  • Optional: Famotidine 20-40 mg/day.
  • Optional/Experimental: Interferon-α nasal spray for health care workers.

Photo Credit: Screenshot, Paul Marik’s EVMS Critical Care COVID-19 Management Protocol

2) Christmas Canstructions – Movement Church prepared an Advent calendar of readings in the Psalms. It is also a prompt to respond to the food scarcity issue for some of our city’s residents. One item a day through the month of December.

I love canstructions, so we made one with our gathered food.

3) Navy Seal Clint Bruce’s Elites –The word “elite” has taken on an unsavory meaning in my vocabulary this year. Seeing too much of small groups of people with enormous political clout, manipulating outcomes and moving public opinion…changing the foundational values of our country. OK…then I heard Navy Seal veteran Clint Bruce talk about being elite, as a much more positive other-focused  position or attitude. Check out the short podcast below for the basics:

How to Train the Mind with Clint Bruce – Jennie Allen Podcast

Bruce talked about what it means to be elite vs. excellent. Excellent is a mentality of “done” or “arrived”. Elite is to know you’re “not done”…understanding there is always more to learn, more preparation, more experience.

He speaks (on YouTube and in numerous podcasts – look them up) about five “pursuit points” of being elite.

  • Balanced – creating a high ground (faith, family, friends) for hard days because they will come
  • Curious – doing the work of finding out what more you need to know
  • Tribal – aiming at something bigger than themselves; needing people
  • Intentional – knowing the why of whatever they’re doing
  • Authentic – real; in the light; preaching from their pain and sharing their scars.

These are just five of the points he makes and then goes into greater depth in his teaching (two talks are linked below in YouTube).

YouTube Video – Clint Bruce – Pursuing Elite: Leadership Lessons

YouTube Video – Clint Bruce Keynote – Pursuing Elite – the Five Gifts of Elite Achievers

He puts interesting twists on familiar words. He defines precision, for instance, as “not being right more but being wrong less”. Also, his definition of endurance is “being wrong less for longer than your competitor”. He also talks about discipline as being “reduction” – learning what the mission doesn’t need, so you become more agile.

Bruce referenced this scene from the film Act of Valor. It’s beautiful.

4) Seasonal Kindnesses – A new book by the Voskamp Family has sparked a new adventure of watching for and executing acts of kindness through this month of December. We are using a little star to cue up kindnesses. If I have the star, I do a kindness (or more) for another family member, and then leave that star in their home space. They then take the next 24 hours to do the same for someone else.

Seasonal (Christmas) kindnesses are such a refreshment. People going out of their way to treat others with a kind word or service. Here are just a few that have lifted my heart. Use the Comments to share some of your own heart-lifts this season.

[Also don’t let these be a negative when your capacity is stretched about as far as it can be. Enjoy kindnesses coming your way. Even a smile crinkles through a COVID mask, or a word of gratitude is enough to lift the spirits of others.]

  • Mike is one of our faithful delivery guys. Excellent and kind in all he does.They deserve special treats and some sweet folks make sure they have them (I confess it isn’t me…but it has inspired me). 

#ThanksForDelivering – UPS Coloring Sheets

  • You know those people who, no matter when you show up, they offer you a snack or even a small plate to nourish your body and soul?

 

  • My 5 y/o granddaughter remarked recently when seeing a neighbor’s yard, “She’s so festive!” Fun and festive! Thankful for all the work that goes into bringing some extra light into our dark winter nights:
  • Those friends and family who still send Christmas cards, little presents through the mail, and even a tea break:
  • Times together tempered by COVID restrictions:
  • Brunch geared toward grandchildren – them telling jokes to each other 
  • Christmas brunch with friends – provision made for those of us (more COVID-vulnerable) to hang together outside, warmed by a fire pit and a bowl of chili. S’mores station for dessert.

5) A Call to More Than PoliticsThis weekend President Trump comes to my beloved home state, Georgia. Another huge rally. Some are reporting this may be his last big rally as President of the United States. Do we look to him for hope? Do we look to the next administration for hope? “Evangelical Christians”, as a political bloc, have taken some heat over the last four years for their/our perceived support of our current President.

As an evangelical Christian, I will take the heat…not for any party’s benefit at keeping us divided, but because of the worthiness of Christ. Our greatest hope is not in either political party. Our greatest hope, which, by the way, will never be disappointed, is in the Kingdom of God, the worthy reign of our Messiah. What is our hope? To infuse our lives, to overflowing, with the Good News and great goodness of God Almighty. He is for us. Let’s get our heads and hearts right and stand for Him…as we reach our hands out to all around us. No government can do what He means to happen in this world – for our good and His glory.

Photo Credit: Len Lacroix, Seeking the Lord

If My People Who Are Called By My Name – Len Lacroix

This medley by the worship community Tribl says it all through the songs Is He Worthy?, Agnus Dei, and We Fall Down:

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Bonuses:

“Covid ended our marriage”: The Couples Who Split in the Pandemic – Emma Ailes

Songs of Hope: A TGC Advent Concert

With all the hard this year, there must have been a huge harvest of Honeycrisp apples. Look at this price!

Here’s to all those gardeners out there (my husband being my favorite) who tend their gardens through the winter to bring beauty all year round. Those behind-the-scenes people in our lives – yay!

5 Friday Faves – A #COVID Walk with a Friend, Monopoly Money, Thanksgiving Memory Making, and Back to School (Please)

1) A #COVID Walk with a Friend – We planned a walk and then my friend thought of the conference she had attended days before, and decided it was safer for me, potentially, for us to walk together “remotely”. It was lovely.

We did our walks in our own neighborhoods while talking on the phone with each other.

Took selfies after the walk in our respective neighborhoods – not our best look but exhilarating the time outside and “with” each other

What have you done to stay in touch with friends/family during these days of COVID? Please comment below. I saw just this week how one extended family connects over zoom once a month, playing games they have adapted to a screen. Seems we can come up with lots of memorable ways to stay closer in touch. We await your ideas.

2) Christmas Commercials (Adverts) – Some of the best ads are the ones that pop up over Christmas. Greetings from stores, companies, and other organizations. Here are just a few (have a cup of tea/coffee sometime and do an internet search for these (both past and present). Lovely, some funny, some nostalgic – all commentate on culture as well, through the years.

So much Santa Claus (sigh…) but had to include this one also – longish but beautiful visuals and a determined dad:

Do you have favorite Christmas adverts? Please share in Comments.

3) Monopoly Money – It wasn’t so long ago that special grants of money for disaster response from the government measured in the millions. Those days are long gone. Now we talk trillions.

For some time now, I have at the top of my issues for the Office of President these three: Life/Abortion, Supreme Court, and national debt. Now, our debt seems completely off the radar. Whew…

Some of us were talking about this issue and the phrase “Monopoly Money” came up. That’s what it’s like…as money poured out, in response to the COVID-induced economic response, to almost everyone in the US, regardless of need. Where does that money even come from?

Our current President didn’t seem to have national debt on the top of his promises (many of which he kept), and certainly our President-elect isn’t concerned with debt by all the very expensive promises he is making. The whole idea of targeting the wealthy for tax increases is short-sighted. The wealthy aren’t stupid. They can move their operations where the tax base will be more in their favor. If the highest-eschelon wealth-owners (the supposed “1%” in the US) care about those in need, they are already assisting in their own ways.

End of rant. Note the links below. Fascinating.

Coronavirus Is Going to Be Expensive. Too Bad the Government Is Already in Massive Debt – Eric Boehm

How the Federal Reserve Literally Makes Money – William J. Luther

Be Informed: National Debt

4) Thanksgiving Memory Making – Masks on and physical distancing, it was a tender time.

Lewis Ginter GardenFest of Lights with as many of the grands as were available:

Then Thanksgiving Eve, we did our annual crazy family picture experience (thankful for friends who provided the behind the camera entertainment for the children). Here’s just one of the many pics taken. Our kiddos. The rest of the pics wait for Christmas.

On schedule the Christmas cactus begins to bloom. 

Thanksgiving morning, we had brunch with our kids. They did all the cooking. It was splendid – both the food and the time together. I will never take that for granted.

Then onto Delaware to spend the rest of the holiday with Dave’s mom and brother’s family. Sweet times on the Eastern Shore.

MomMom with her two boys.

The grandson who had to miss because of work came for a visit still.

Facetime with the big and little cousins:

#TurkeyLoveliness the day after Thanksgiving:

Home again – sunrise over the Eastern Shore and then Christmas lights that night back home in Richmond:

10 Ways to Connect Deeply at Thanksgiving – Ken Sande

5) Back to School (Please) – Both the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci agree that students need to be back in school. We all probably have very strong feelings about this. We don’t want our children to lose a school year with online learning (with the best efforts of their children). Nor do we want them infecting school staff or bringing the disease home. If we “follow the science”, it seems our concerns regarding COVID are unfounded. What do you think?

Save the Children – Kevin Roche

In-Person School During COVID-19 – Healthy Children

It’s Not Just ABCs – Preschool Parents Worry Their Kids Are Missing Out on Critical Social Skills During the Pandemic – Michele L. Stites & Susan Sonnenschein

Operating Schools During COVID-19: CDC’s Considerations

Photo Credit: The Micro Mama, Facebook

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Hope your weekend is relaxing and full of good health and sweet times. Thanks for stopping by here.

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Bonuses:

How to Get Smarter Every Day, According to Neuroscience – Jeff Haden

Feeding Nashville – feeding those in need and putting restaurant employees, whose jobs have been affected by COVID, back to work

Covid-19: Politicisation, “Corruption”, and Suppression of Science

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

Prayers in Time of Infectious Disease

Prayer in Time of Plague

Prayers Amidst Coronavirus Crisis – The London Oratory

A Prayer in the Time of Plague – Rabbi Martin S. Cohen

Below is a Facebook thread from a friend of mine – she spoke with exquisite clarity on what it is for Christians in the US right now if we are not aligned politically with what is deemed the most popular opinion at the moment:

2020 US Presidential Election – tucking this in here at the bottom of Bonuses. No matter our political party, this election was the first one in my adult life when some of the states just stopped counting the votes election night. That was confusing, with no real rationale.

When to Expect Election Results in Every State – Fascinating graphics

Anyway, it’s been a strange ride for all of us. The certification of all the states’ votes is in process as is are the legal cases involving some of them. I do believe we will have a peaceful transition of power if President-Elect Biden continues to hold that position. It doesn’t hurt that our electoral process is being scrutinized. As a nation, we must all be able to trust our electoral process. It’s fundamental to our values in the US.

Reasons Why the 2020 Presidential Election Is Deeply Puzzling – Patrick Basham

Anomalies in Vote Counts and Their Effects on the 2020 Election

Fact Check: Vote Spikes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania Do Not Prove Election Fraud

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s “Spirit”, Reducing Brain Fog, Crucial Conversations, the Precious Nature of Life, and What We Have in Common

1) Beyond the Guitar’s “Spirit” – Below you will find the latest Beyond the Guitar video from the 2002 movie Spirit: the Stallion of the Cimarron. Nathan’s treatment of “Homeland” theme by masterful composer Hans Zimmer 2002 movie theme is beautiful. One of the commenters on his YouTube video stated that it was as if Zimmer composed it for guitar. Nathan’s arrangement definitely does justice to this incredibly triumphant orchestral piece. Enjoy!

2) Reducing Brain Fog – Brain fog is an inability to concentrate. It is essentially a feeling of “being in a fog” – you feel slowed-down, tired, draggy, unable to think clearly or even find the right words at times.

Photo Credit: Marcus Aurelius, Pexels

Writer and business consultant Thomas Oppong wrote this brilliant article on what we can do to reduce brain fog. He goes into great detail so be sure, if you struggle with this issue, to read his piece. He doesn’t quote from the science literature but his takes on the six points below make enormous sense. All worth a try.

  • Give up the clutter. – Decluttering bit by bit will lower stress and sharpen focus.
  • Stop the multi-tasking. – “Narrow down your most important tasks to 3, and then give one task your undivided attention for a period of time. Allow yourself to rotate between the three, giving yourself a good balance of singular focus and variety.”
  • Give up the urgent distraction. – We have our lists and our goals, but the easier and lesser things around us draw away our attention. Resisting the distractions help us stay on track.
  • Stop feeding your comfort. – Beware of the well-worn ruts in work and life. “Seeking new experiences, learning new skills, and opening the door to new ideas inspire us and educate us in a way improves mental clarity.”
  • Don’t sit still. – Plan physical activity into the day.  It helps us stay mentally fresh and focused.
  • Stop consuming media and start creating it. – Social media can rob us of our hours and energy. “Let creation determine consumption. Allow curiosity to lead you to discover and pursue something you deepy care about. Make time to create something unique. The point is to get lost in awe and wonder like you did when you were a child. When you achieve that feeling from a certain activity, keep doing it!” – Thomas Oppong

How to Overcome Brain Fog From a Long-time Sufferer – Tim Denning

3) Crucial Conversations – So many conversations don’t happen because they are just too risky. They make us feel too vulnerable. Yet we long for deep conversations. For conversations that enlarge us and bring understanding, even between people who don’t share opinions or worldviews.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, & Laura Roppe

Top 10 Takeways From Crucial Conversations – Tabitha Bower

Last week, I listened to a Jennie Allen podcast on “life-giving conversations”.

Between the current political division and the physical distancing necessitated by COVID, we are having fewer crucial conversations. That’s not to say we aren’t on video meetings or phone calls for much of the day, but we have to work harder to have satisfying conversations.

March 2020 (BC – Before COVID mediation)

April 2020 – AC (After COVID mediation)

Certainly conversations between people who disagree are happening less. They are just too hard. Especially via screens. Especially when opportunities to talk deeply are just not there.

What got me thinking about this is a couple of podcasts (see below) and also watching (and feeling) the strain of months long requirements of video meetings with work (and church) groups…instead of in-person opportunities.

How to Have Life-Giving Conversations – Podcast – Jennie Allen

How Shame Affects All of Us – Podcast – Jennie Allen with Dr. Curt Thompson

Crucial conversations, whether one-on-one or in a group structure, are harder these days. How can we get past the superficial or the daily grind kinds of talk? I’m thinking there’s a discipline we can develop – to really dig in and want to know the person(s) in front of us and to ask questions and pose topics others can really engage with…especially if we can communicate that we are safe with each other.

“We want to be seen and known in the place we live… we want to ask questions that invite people to be curious and creative. Tell me about something this past week that was really hard for you. Caused you joy.  That caused you to be creative. Regularly take time to validate that in each other. We want to invite people to be curious and creative.” – Jennie Allen, Dr. Curt Thompson

Anything with psychiatrist and writer Dr. Curt Thompson involved is great quality content. Whether it is on belonging, vulnerability, shame, or dealing with physical/social distancing, he has a wealth of practical and neurologically sound counsel. Just watch the YouTube videos with him talking.

Thoughts?

4) The Precious Nature of Life – What we think on this has divided our nation – those more for life from conception and those more for the rights of the conceiving adults.

As a mother and grandmother who has lost all but one of her cherished older relatives, I want to celebrate the precious nature of life. I want to invite you to celebrate as well.

We never know when we will be gone from here or when those we love will be either. We just never know. Thus, the imperative to not let anything stand in our way of loving…or at least honoring the lives of those in our own.

Why this for a Friday Fave?

The 21 y/o son of friends of ours died this week. The whole wrong gone of this dear young man has stopped us all in our tracks. God’s grace holds people up…as does His grace with clothes on, friends and other family, leaning in to love. His passing has been very much on my mind, and his parents on my heart.

Canadian author Tim Challies also lost his son, Nick, recently…also suddenly. 20 years old. We are thankful that the Challies family has a huge circle of support, too. He has been writing about their loss of Nick in a series of blogs. Here is one: The Cruelty of Quarantine: A Lament.

If you could use some help with your own grief, walk with Tim through his.

Cherish these loved ones we’re privileged to have in our lives. In all their scruffiness, various differences, political activism or not…they are gifts to us. We don’t throw them back. We figure out how to love them and be there for them…and hopefully, they do the same for us.

Right?

COVID (and its mediation) is putting incredible stress on our lives and relationships. Important to keep our eyes and minds clear on the precious nature of life…not just ours, but each others, of course.

5) What We Have in Common – When there are rifts (political or familial) or a growing discontent (in a relationship or at work) or a vain sense that life could be better with someone else, it’s good to give pause to that thinking, and consider: What do we have in common with each other? What might we be giving up that we may not see in the every day but that, once out the door, we may miss and regret the decision?

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Think of the person(s) you’re may be having difficulty with. Now, come up with what you have in common, make as long a list as possible. Be creative.

I’m thinking…ok, here goes:

  • We share the same core values.
  • We care about the world we’re leaving to our children.
  • We both want to be successful, but also to be effective.
  • We’ve both lost a parent (or two).
  • We are both American (fill in your country) and we care about our country.
  • We’ve both been to the doctor way too many times this year.
  • We both struggle with insecurity, although it surfaces differently.
  • We both have trouble talking with each other about these things.
  • Yet, we both know we are a part of a greater story.

Can we take the things we have in common and move toward each other instead of more apart?

_________________________________________________________________________

Just a few thoughts that didn’t get laid down until after a busy, lovely weekend. Hope the rest of your week is peaceful and full of good.

Bonuses:

How to Overcome the 5 D’s of Leadership and Life: Doubt, Distortion, Discouragement, Distraction, and Division – Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast – with Guest Jon Gordon (Podcast & Transcript)

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple – Deena Shanker and Lydia Mulvany

Fall Leaves in All Their Glory (Before the Rains Came)

Wednesday Worship – What Are We Defending in Anger – Who Is Your Defender? – Francesca Battistelli & Steffany Gretzinger

Photo Credit: Wendell Berry, QuoteFancy

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.James 1:19

The LORD will fight for you, and you must be quiet (stay still/hold your peace).”Exodus 14:14

Have you been angry lately? You find an internal burn firing up over an offense? An injustice. A false accusation. A public rebuke. A mean comment. A certain look or tone.

Your anger rises, and you feel justified – to react, to strike back, to level…that person or persons “at fault”.

Anger in itself is not a sin. What we do with it keeps it righteous or turns it into something damaging. God has shown us what righteous anger looks like. He also warns us about anger turned sinfully toward ourselves or others. Or even toward Him.

He will take our anger…because He loves us and won’t stop loving us.

This week, I listened to Bible teacher Jennie Allen‘s podcast on Anger. It was a great launch into a deeper look at anger. In her podcast, Allen referred to a sermon by Pastor Tim Keller.

YouTube Video – The Healing of Anger – Tim Keller (12 minutes in, for sure, but all of it is important so take the time)

In this podcast, Keller tells of how just waiting on his food order in a restaurant, he found himself getting angry at the wait. The question came to him, “What are you defending?”

“Anger is defending something you love.”

When we get angry, we may be defending our own (or someone else’s) rights or entitlement to something. It could be our reputation, our ego, our sense of importance. What do we love? We will defend it.

“What is it that you love so much?…I’m afraid of how I’m going to look, I’m afraid that it’s going to come out…I’m defending my ego. I’m defending me…There’s a place in Jeremiah where God says, ‘Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.’ [Jeremiah 45:5]…We are ordering our love…Disordered love [leads to] disordered anger…”Tim Keller

If God’s love is not more important than any other love, we will be at the whim of disordered anger.

“When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, it is essentially an ‘idol’, something you are actually worshiping. When such a thing is threatened, your anger is absolute. Your anger is actually the way the idol keeps you in its service, in its chains. Therefore if you find that, despite all the efforts to forgive, your anger and bitterness cannot subside, you may need to look deeper and ask, ‘What am I defending? What is so important that I cannot live without?’ It may be that, until some inordinate desire is identified and confronted, you will not be able to master your anger.” – Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods

In his sermon, Keller talked about three ways we deal with anger. We either stow (stuff) anger, blow anger, or slow anger. Neither of the first two types are good for us or for anyone else.

God calls us to be slow to anger. He knows our frame. He loves us and He loves those who “make” us angry or whom our anger targets.

If we die to our rights/entitlements as God calls us to do, then our love for Him and for others becomes ordered in such a way we are less prone to striking out in anger.

Defending ourselves using anger is exhausting and can leave relationships broken or destroyed. When the situation is someone else angry with us, Keller gives us a way (the way) to deal with the disordered anger: A surgical strike on disordered anger from another without losing the relationship:

  1. Come in close.
  2. Insist on the truth (staying with what you and he/she know is true – not just how you/they feel.
  3. Absorb the pain of their disordered rage without paying back.

This is huge.

This is what Jesus did for us, in his life and death. This is our great Defender.

Francesca Battistelli with songwriter Steffany Gretzinger gives us a beautiful anthem in praise of our “Defender”.

Let’s worship together.

You go before I know
That You’ve even gone to win my war
You come back with the head of my enemy
You come back and You call it my victory, oh-ooh

You go before I know
That You’ve even gone to win my war
Your love becomes my greatest defense
It leads me from the dry wilderness

And all I did was praise
All I did was worship
All I did was bow down, oh
All I did was stay still

Hallelujah, You have saved me
So much better Your way
Hallelujah, great Defender
So much better Your way

You know before I do
Where my heart can seek to find Your truth
Your mercy is the shade I’m living in
And You restore my faith and hope again

And all I did was praise, ohhh, oh-ooh
All I did was worship
All I did was bow down, oh
All I did was stay still, stay still

Hallelujah, You have saved me
So much better Your way
Hallelujah, great Defender
So much better Your way

When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart
When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart
When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart

Hallelujah, You have saved me
So much better this way
Hallelujah, great Defender
So much better Your way
So much better Your way (I know it’s so much better)
So much better Your way (I know it, I know it)

And all I did was praise
All I need to do is worship
Lord, I will just bow down
I’m just gonna stay still*

*Lyrics to Defender – Songwriters: Steffany Gretzinger with Rita Springer and John-Paul Gentile

Story Behind the Francesca Battistelli’s New Song “Defender” – Mornings with Rebecca and Burns

100 Bible Verses about God As Our Defender

YouTube Video – Heartsong Cedarville University – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Monday Morning Moment – Gratitude and the Brain – All Good Gains

Photo Credit: Twitter

Have you noticed the increased expressions of gratitude on your social media? At least in the US, we are gearing up for Thanksgiving. Some of us take this occasion as an opportunity to daily and publicly express our gratitude. Based on what we know from research, this could make November one of our happiest and least stressful months of the year.

Below you’ll find quotes from some of these authors, reporting on both clinical research and anecdotal data that support how the practice of gratitude can actually alter our habits of thinking and our sense of well-being. It’s all good for us and those around us.

“Our brain is always on alert to threat and is more predisposed to look at the negative side of life [stress response]. There are many things that happen to us everyday that are positive but we don’t notice them because we are always looking for the next threat to us. Now these actions are below our level of awareness. It takes some concerted effort to get our brain to move to the positive side of life. And that is where paying attention and expressing gratitude plays a role in establishing that positive mindset. When we start to place attention on the positive events in our life our brain responds by producing the neurotransmitter dopamine…We do feel better when dopamine is flowing but that also makes are brain wanting more – so it becomes the motivating neurotransmitter also…In addition, the brain loves confirmation bias: it looks for things that prove what it already believes to be true. Dopamine then strengthens that action. So if you start seeing things in your life that you are grateful for, your brain will start looking for more things to be grateful for.”Patricia Faust, How Gratitude Affects the Brain

Six Habits of Highly Grateful People – Jeremy Adam Smith

  1. Once in awhile, they think about death and loss. – As we think of past losses and future losses (say of those we love), we remember and reflect on the good we’ve known in those situations or relationships. Of future losses, we then take action to savor and bless those persons while we have them near.
  2. They take time to smell the roses. – Whether our current situation feels difficult or just mundane, we look for the beauty.
  3. They take the good things as gifts, not birthrights. – We see entitlement for the life-diminishing thing it is.
  4. They’re grateful to people, not just things. – We can be thankful for great food, for blue skies, for warm clothing, but we go beyond that to the one(s) who provided the good we have.
  5. They mention the pancakes. Being grateful for the specific little things disciplines us to enlarge our gratitude for the greater things in our lives. Those things that can cause stress if we don’t remember the value and significance in them.
  6. They thank outside the box. Even in adversity or hard times, we can find things for which to be grateful. Gratefulness doesn’t minimize the difficulty; it actually strengthens us to endure.

What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? – Robert Emmons

“Given its magnetic appeal, it is a wonder that gratitude might be rejected. Yet it is. If we fail to choose it, by default we choose ingratitude. Millions make this choice every day.

Why? Provision, whether supernatural or natural, becomes so commonplace that it is easily accepted for granted.  We believe the universe owes us a living. We do not want to be beholden. Losing sight of protection, favors, benefits and blessings renders a person spiritually and morally bankrupt.  It’d be hard to improve upon the words of our 16th President in 1863:

‘We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation ever has grown; but we have forgotten God! We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.'” – What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? – Robert Emmons

8 Ways to Express Your Gratitude

  1. Keep a gratitude journal.
  2. Write a gratitude letter to a past mentor or teacher.
  3. Count how many things you can find to be grateful for in each room of your home.
  4. Listen to a guided gratitude meditation [my suggestion if you don’t prefer guided meditation: spend some time in the Psalms].
  5. Start business meetings with a “what went well” one-sentence reflection.
  6. Savor receiving thanks.
  7. Take a daily photo of something you are grateful for and post to Instagram or Facebook, tagging it with #365project.
  8. Try a gratitude jar or tree.        – Tamara Lechner, The Neuroscience Behind Gratitude: How Does Cultivating Appreciation Affect Your Brain?

So…what are you grateful for at this moment?

How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain – Joshua Brown, Joel Wong

How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times – Robert Emmons

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy – Nancy Leigh DeMoss

The Science of Gratitude – a White Paper – UC Berkeley

Photo Credit: Robert Emmons, Greater Good, Daily Good

5 Friday Faves – Amazing Grace on Guitar, Visual and Auditory Feasts, Be Comforted, Pumpkins, and “Gone Fishing”

https://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Blog-Friday-Faves-006-2.jpg

Happy End of the Week! October has flown by, right? This weekend there is so much going on. Halloween or Reformation Day whichever way you’re inclined to celebrate. November 1 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Daylight Savings Time ends so we have an extra hour of sleep to prepare for Sunday (do small children actually ever sleep longer?). Then in the US also, the countdown to our Election continues – praying for peace.

1) Amazing Grace on GuitarNathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) surprised us this week with his arrangement of the great old hymn Amazing Grace. This hymn was written over 240 years ago by John Newton, a slave ship turned minister after he himself was captured and captivated by the amazing saving grace of Christ.

What Nathan does with this old standard (often rendered on bagpipes) will really touch your heart. He takes a melody often used to comfort the bereaved at funerals, and gradually moves it up-tempo to a march of triumph. Just beautiful!

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun. – Harriet Beecher Stowe (added the final verse to the hymn)

YouTube Video – 50 Countries Affected by COVID-19 Sing Amazing Grace

[Amazing Grace has inspired at least four of my blogs. When you have time to read…so much beauty and fortitude for life in this hymn.]

Worship Wednesday – #Woke – What It Means to This Believer – Amazing Grace – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Finishing Strong with Amazing Grace – Deb Mills

Amazing Grace – On the Edge of Our Seats – Will She Remember? – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Deb Mills

2) Visual and Auditory Feasts – Sometimes our senses are just wowed from multiple simultaneous sources. Our memories of holiday meals, for instance, attach visual, auditory, and olfactory experiences with them. Concert performances (either in-person or online) van be an assault on our senses or a beautiful feast. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing/hearing For King & Country in concert. Their use of various instruments (especially their drums) is winsome and effective, and their light shows are spot on.

A few years ago, they introduced their own version of Little Drummer Boy. To be honest, until their version, I wasn’t a big fan of that little song. Now…if you haven’t heard it, prepare yourself for a feast!

Another video of the song from the 2019 CMA Country Christmas (I’m thinking their light show team also did the lighting for this one):

YouTube Video – The Blessing (Global Choir) – Live From Elevation Ballantyne – Elevation Worship

YouTube Video – King’s College “Once in Royal David’s City”

YouTube Video – King’s College “O Holy Night”

By the way, For King & Country’s latest album just released – A Drummer Boy Christmas – a much softer, worshipful album, but again…wow! Here’s the video of the title song.

3) Be Comforted – What can we learn from our childhood memories that will help us in our relationships as adults? Writer/counselors Milan and Kay Yerkovich‘s book How We Love – Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage ask an interesting question:

“Can you recall being comforted as a child after a time of emotional distress?”

They continue to coach about comfort or the lack of it.

“We are looking for a time when you were significantly upset and a parent offered consolation and relief…Sometimes people who haven’t experienced real, soul-level comfort have trouble understanding what exactly it is.”

“Related to the comfort question is this: How was conflict handled in your family? If distressful feelings were soothed or problems were resolved when you were a child, you experienced comfort and relief.”

The Yerkovich’s offer three elements as essential parts of comfort:

  • Touch
  • Listening
  • Relief

“Comfort is not possible unless an emotional connection was made.”

[If you have no childhood memories of being comforted or you missed an emotional connection with your parents growing up,] “We’re not trying to turn you against your parents or give you a target at which you can shoot arrows of blame. Most of our parents did the best they could and were simply working with the tools they had.”

These quotes from the “How We Love” book launched the reader into a journey of discovery on how our experiences with being comforted have impact on how we comfort those we love. An excellent resource for married couples but also a help for extended family, friendships, and even coworker relationships.

I’m just digging in but really anticipating learning and growing.

4) Pumpkins – ‘Tis the season. Our church throws a pumpkin patch event every Fall for the enjoyment of our community and in support of a local ministry to homeless. This Fall, with COVID and all, we almost didn’t….but we rallied. Just a few pics celebrating the beauty and variety of pumpkins.

5) Gone Fishing – My husband loves fishing…being outside and on the water, hanging out with a friend or family member, improving his catch. It’s a joy for him. For me? It’s a once-a-year outing. I do however love nature…and time with him, of course. This Fall morning last week started with a thick fog that paled the color of everything but broke with the shimmering sun pushing through.

I did catch a fish (score!) and he caught many more…it was a beautiful day and I wanted to share it with you.

[OK, full disclosure: the sunset pic was taken by our son, Nathan, who took my place in the boat in the afternoon. He and his sweet son. It was a good day both in and out of the boat.]

Enjoy your weekend. Thanks for stopping by. By the next Friday Faves, we’ll know how the US elections went. Praying!

Bonuses:

Quote for Today:

“We are participating in the orderly transfer of administrative authority by the direction of the people. And this is the simple magic which makes a commonplace routine a near miracle to many of the worlds inhabitants: the continuing fact that the people, by democratic process, can delegate this power, yet retain custody of it.

Perhaps you and I have lived with this miracle too long to be properly appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.”Ronald Reagan, Inaugural Address as Governor of California, 1967

How the humility required to apologize restores & heals

Yard Visits – During COVID, drive-bys and yard visits have been so life-giving. We have been so blessed by planned and impromptu visits with friends. This week, our friend, Thiago, dropped by. He is an entrepreneur/film producer in California now…so such a visit is rare. And a complete joy.

The Lost Art of Having a Chat: What Happened When I Stopped Texting and Started Talking – Rebecca Nicholson

100 Frugal Habits to Live By If You’re Trying to Save Money – Shifrah Combiths

 

Monday Morning Moment – I’m Going to Change the World…or At Least Try

Photo Credit: Inblix

[Adapted from the Archives – here and here]

My husband always brings me coffee. He did again this morning. When I asked what he had on his schedule, he replied, “Work…the usual stuff”.  Then he asked about my day ahead.

“I’m going to change the world.”

Now, that isn’t a usual Monday morning response. It actually surprised me. I really have absolutely nothing on my schedule. Nothing.

When he gave his take on his day, it reminded me of our Sunday night.

We both sometimes struggle with a bit of depression and foreboding on Sunday evenings…especially after a sweet weekend.

Kind of a shudder and shake preparing our heads for a new week.

Well…it’s Monday morning now…who knows what can happen, if we look for it. I am going to clear my head of all the sluggishness that’s set in from devouring too much political news…it’s a new day.

Making the bed every morning has been a habit of mine since childhood. Somehow in the middle of the chaos and clutter of life, that “made” bed stands in hopeful defiance.

Blog - Make Your Bed - habit formation (2)

Admiral William H. McRaven a highly decorated Navy Seal, retired in 2014 from a 37-year military career. He oversaw Operation Neptune Spear – the military operation that culminated in the death of Osama bin Laden. In the year of his retirement, he was commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony of University of Texas – Austin. Blog - Change the World - Make Your Bed - pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

As he encouraged the young graduates, he told of 10 lessons in his SEAL basic training. Beginning with “Make Your Bed”, they follow in brief (you can watch the video of his speech or read more detailed highlights here).

10 Life Lessons to Change Your World

1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

4. If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

6. If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

10. If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

Steve Nguyen, Workplace Psychology

Adm. McRaven closed the commencement speech with the following challenge:

“Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often . . . but if you take some risks, step up when the times are the toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up….if you do these things, the next generation, and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today, and what started here will indeed have changed the world for the better.”Navy Adm. William McRaven

 

You WILL change the world!

Besides making the bed, a habit of prayer and time in God’s Word also helps clear my head and set the course of my day. This morning, a resolve was stirred afresh to set myself on the course of a world-changing God. He loves us and will work good out of every situation for those who love Him and respond to His call on their lives (Romans 8:28).

A powerful piece by Jon Bloom a few years back continues to encourage and inspire. Below is just an excerpt:

“You will change the world, more than you know. And because of that, because your life will impact so many others, Jesus wants you to live prayerfully (Ephesians 6:18), walk carefully (Ephesians 5:15), and seek his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). If you do, if you faithfully invest the “little” he has entrusted to you, no labor of yours in this life will be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58) and he will entrust you with more in the life to come (Matthew 25:21).”Jon Bloom, Desiring God

You Will Change the World – Wisdom from Jon Bloom – Deb Mills

So to you out there…and especially to you, Dave…the bed’s made. Praying for you and for me…as we prepare and brace ourselves to change the world. Who knows what God will do as we stand ready?!Blog - No Life wasted 11

[Postscript: Thank you, Dave, for your willingness to follow God where He leads you…and all the amazing people, memories, and God-lessons we have in our lives because of that willingness. Thank You, God, for every stamp in my passport, and for being there every step of the way…including this very day. Help me to take hold of it…I can change the world, because of You.]

 

Monday Morning Moment – Building Our Own Personal Surge Capacity in the Longer Stretch of COVID-19

Photo Credit: Long Running Living

Let’s talk about capacity! I’m still working on my Monday blog on a Tuesday. One of the fall-outs of COVID.

What started, in our country, as a sprint in March is turning into more a long-distance run. 6 months now. 184 days thus far of physical distancing (for this medically at-risk person).

Remember how we first thought it might be just 2 weeks of quarantining to eradicate the threat? OK, I was super-naive.

We’re becoming weary of certain words and phrases. Pandemic. Unprecedented. Uncharted. New normal. We’re all in this together. Even social distancing. [I was thankful when that phrase went out of vogue and “physical distancing” replaced it. “Social distancing” put a wrongful prescription on its hearers. We need to physical distance, yes, but never social distance. We have learned.]

Remember when surge capacity became a worrisome phrase in our daily news cycle. Will our hospitals have enough ICU beds and ventilators to properly care for the rising numbers of persons with grave cases of COVID? That was the fear. We heard the daily troubling reports from New York state officials. Those reports were heard, and hundreds of ventilators were sent, as well as the provision of field hospitals, even the arrival of a huge hospital ship.  Peak hospitalizations with COVID have passed for now. Surge capacity tested and proven ample.

Why does this matter?

Each of us has our own surge capacity (related to stress, trauma, loss). During COVID, we are all having it tested. Some more than others. I think of parents trying to juggle work, child care, and monitoring schooling. Teachers preparing in-class lessons and teaching remotely as well in the various hybrid programs. Essential workers. First responders. Hospital personnel.

Here is a general definition of capacity-building. It is where we are.

Capacity-building is defined as the “process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world.” An essential ingredient in capacity-building is transformation that is generated and sustained over time from within; transformation of this kind goes beyond performing tasks to changing mindsets and attitudes. – United Nations Academic Impact

Remember when we first started experiencing COVID (at least in the news)? We had big plans for the physical distancing and working remotely and the time we would recoup in that experience. We would take a college course, learn a new language, renovate the house, or declutter our lives.

Then we were surprised at the sluggishness that we encountered. The dullness. The quiet that gradually turned into isolation.

We mentally prepared for a sprint, but the rules changed. We had to change how we ran to set our minds and bodies for a longer run.

Science journalist Tara Haelle recently posted an excellent piece on human surge capacity. “We need to recognize that we’re grieving multiple losses while managing the ongoing impact of trauma and uncertainty. The malaise so many of us feel, a sort of disinterested boredom, is common in research on burnout, Masten says. But other emotions accompany it: disappointment, anger, grief, sadness, exhaustion, stress, fear, anxiety — and no one can function at full capacity with all that going on.”

[Her article is one of a collection of three articles at Medium.com on capacity, power surge, zoom fatigue, and workplace diversity and inclusion.]

Haelle writes in detail on our surge capacity and how we can endure and actually build capacity for this season of prolonged uncertainty. Her main points follow (read her piece for greater detail).

  • Accept that life is different right now
  • Expect less from yourself
  • Recognize the different aspects of grief
  • Experiment with “both-and” thinking
  • Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you
  • Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
  • Begin slowly building your resilience bank account

We don’t want to fall victim to what seemed like it would be a sprint but has turned into a marathon. Organizational psychologist and professor Adam Grant tweeted wisdom about the problem of becoming sluggish or judging that in others. [I do disagree that we’re all socially awkward now…just pointing to his Tweet.]

Photo Credit: Twitter, Adam M. Grant

Moving into the 7th month of COVID experience, we are making decisions on how to better maneuver. Still committed to safe practices but re-engaging in life with people we love…people whose influence and very presence we have missed in these physically distanced days.

Life is precious. There is a balance in what is real and how we can build capacity to meet that reality. Otherwise life becomes something less. We know what’s working and what’s not. If not, we can counsel with each other. I say we go for it…stretching ourselves out for the long distance run, bringing all those we can along with us.

Forgive the “motivational speechiness” – it’s what happens when I think too long on something and yet lack the answers. Recognition, desire and hope all together birth action…so let’s get after it!

Please post in Comments what is working in your life to build capacity. See you on the road.

[Postscript: The image below is one sort of those “both-and” situations Haelle prescribes. We as parents teach our children had to be resourceful and responsible in hard times, and we also teach them how they might make the world a kinder place for us all.]Photo Credit: The Purposeful Parenting Movement, Facebook

I’m Listening – Talk Has the Power to Save Lives – Radio Show