Have You Found Your Calling?

Depression is real. It is a hopeless feeling that wells up inside of you and takes over rational thought putting fears, doubt, and paranoia inside of you so that you want the pain to stop.

I know, for me, when I feel anxious, sad and overwhelmed, if I keep on the path of those feelings the endless depression will overwhelm me. Occasionally my remedy is going to bed for a day and confronting it. It is the only thing which starts me back on my journey to being able to smile and see the light.

I wasn’t feeling good this weekend and I tried to decipher if it was a real illness, meaning my stomach picked up a bug, or if my feelings of being overwhelmed with responsibility were the cause of my stomach and my tears of sadness.

I turned on meditation music and gave myself permission to wallow in bed. At first thoughts of all the things I needed to do kept churning in my mind. Did I really have to do any of them or was it my expectations that were stealing my peace? As I wandered through my life’s experiences and memories—I’m a firm believer in learning from your past to go forward to your future—I knew what was causing me to be on the edge when it came to expectations this time. I will save that for another time but what did hit me in this day of rest and meditation was the “calling.”

What was my calling? And was that part of my anxiety? We hear the question all the time from our churches, from the media, from friends and from strangers. Self-help gurus, some very good ones, promote all of us to find our calling. And our churches ask us continually “What has God called you to do?”

If I read the news first thing in the morning we have a constant bombardment from the news headlines and almost every headline has the word Trump in it, for or against. Almost every headline has a disaster in it.

My cell phone updates frequently warn about the winter storm warnings or the flood warnings. A plane crashed, kids are hungry and illegal immigrant children are being kept from their parents and mistreated. The Social Media tells us if you’re a Republican you are supposed to be upset or hate Democrats and if are a Democrat you are supposed to be against and hate Republicans.

We feel helpless in the midst of all of this chaos. So not only are we supposed to find our calling we are supposed to find it in the mess we are bombarded with everyday.

There are so many volunteers needed everywhere. I have friends that spend their lives giving and giving and giving. They are busy 24-7. Not only do these people spend their time volunteering, they also have to juggle taking care of their family and spending time with them in the midst of the good things they are doing. Have they found their calling? I often wonder about how they keep up, or do they have to make those difficult choices for society over family? I remember at times being too busy volunteering to have time to help someone in my family.

What about parents who have to run with their children, work a full time job, and still expect or are expected to be the ever present volunteer to make the world better for their kids. Have they found their calling?

I lay in my bed this past weekend pondering these questions. I do think too much. It is hard for me to just be. I pondered these questions because I felt guilty being down and depressed when so many others are spending their time helping others. How do they take care of themselves so they can give back to others?

I know we need to stop hunger, stop global warming, stop sex trafficking, stop gun violence, stop ignoring the elderly and their needs, feed the homeless and the list goes on and on and on. I know we need to raise a next generation that is respectful and responsible. These are all things I know. I read the headlines and the list seems impossible because inside all those headlines we aren’t given any good news.

I don’t know about you—these things bother me because I can’t do anything about any of it—but if I am called to do something as everyone tells me, what am I called to do? It seems when people preach or bellow about our calling they always want to make us think if we aren’t doing something out there for the world to see we are failing. We are drug down to believe rest or being busy is laziness and failure. We have to be on the move all the time. Is this what we are teaching our youngsters? Nothing we ever do is good enough in the eyes of the world.

My sister-in-law, who lived states away, years ago came to visit my mother-in-law who was in a nursing home. After visiting, my sister-in-law came to my home and told me I was called to bring my mother-in-law out of the nursing home into our home and take care of her. I felt guilty because I didn’t want to do that. Was that my call and I was ignoring it? That time I was at a good place in my life and I knew just because we had a responsibility we needed to do or had a responsibility that we could do, didn’t mean that was what I was called to do. We all do things because we need to do them. We all do things because we might be good at it. That doesn’t mean it is our calling. At least I at the time, didn’t feel like that was my calling.

As I took care of me on this lazy weekend day I felt guilty for taking the time to get it together. In reality, if someone would have asked me to do something for them that day I probably would have said yes and put my “me” day on hold. And it would have been because I have been programed to put myself second and so have many people.

The day did me good. I, in my head, know if I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of anyone else. But yet…what is my calling? Should I feel guilty because I don’t know?

What if I said, after my day of rest that I do know what my calling is NOT. I am not called to make another person feel bad. I am not called to use my words in a way that will degenerate another living human being. I am not called to hate. I am not called to judge. I am not called to be cruel.

I don’t know what my calling is. I don’t know if I need one. If I stick to what I know I am not called to do, would that be enough? If all of us did that, would we need all the venues we need today to combat those things?

Perhaps our calling is the gift God gave us when he gave us our magnificent bodies and what we are called to do is to take care of them, and then the rest will all fall into place because we will be peaceful and whole.

Perhaps all we really are called to do is to love one another. Rather than being confused about all the material and societal mores to live up to, we could rest in our journey if we felt love from others, for others, and for ourselves. Wouldn’t the headlines be fun to read each morning? In spite of whatever is happening in our lives whether it showing others who we truly are, weathering storms, the personal and the weather related, love would get us through.

I’m Catholic—-Wait, I’m Lutheran—-Wait!

Chapter Three: I Am The Sum of My Ancestors

I grew up in a staunch Catholic family, kind of. One part of my family, my mother’s side, was Catholic. My dad was United Brethren which then merged with the Methodist Church in my community. My dad’s family had Baptist, Assembly of God and even Jehovah Witnesses on his side.

I remember the first time I met a Jehovah Witness cousin from California. I was a teen and I was a little scared from what I had been taught from my Catholic roots but she was just like me and religion didn’t stand in the way of our friendship. I couldn’t figure out why I should be scared of her because she was from another religion that was not accepted in our Southern Minnesota culture.

I was taught the Catholic Church was the one true church and we were only ones that would get into heaven. I went to a strict Catholic School and having a sensitive spirit I was terrified of the nuns except maybe one or two. Their punishments could be hurtful. And I was terrified of sin and the repercussions. Which we still should be now. Sin is not exclusive to Catholics.

Although confession I thought was interesting. We were taught me to say “Bless me father for I have sinned” and then recite how many times we lied or disobeyed etc. from our last confession and then the Priest could give us absolution. I always guessed the number of times I did something because who kept count and as a child who could remember. And I never felt any better after I left the confessional. I always worried when I went to communion that I maybe shouldn’t go because I left something out. We also had to fast before communion and it was hard to make sure I didn’t eat the specified number of time before communion and what would people think if you didn’t go to communion?

It was also a sin to not go to church on Sundays so unless I was sick, Sunday Church was a weekly occasion along with Mass every morning when I attended Catholic School. When I was young the Mass was in Latin and I didn’t understand a word. It was a mysterious ceremony and then in school, we learned to sing in Latin. Again, mysterious words to a second and third grader.

There were many strict rules. And we learned many prayers which I still say today, at least the ones I feel move me spiritually. I feel that was a good thing. We were told never to question. And…I could never go to church with my father because he was Methodist and it would be a sin.

I always felt that loss of going to church as a family. There is something that connects us when we worship together as a family.

During my teenage years, my outlook on religion made me begin to question my Catholic roots but I did so silently. In my various high school activities, I met a Pastor at another church and I liked what he stood for and how he interacted with the teenagers at his church.

We used to have what was called Release Time on Wednesdays where we would leave school for an hour for religious instruction. The Lutheran Church had some good discussion topics pertaining to what as teenagers we were going through. Some of us skipped our Catholic instruction from time to time to go to Release Time at the Lutheran Church with our friends because they were giving us answers and help with our teenage angst. It was a little sign of my first rebellion. And I might add in those days you had to have a note to stay in school and not go. Times have changed.

Next Blog: My Lutheran Journey

Can Optimism Live Inside Depression?

I try to be optimistic. What many of you may not know is optimism doesn’t come easily to me. It used to be easy to be optimistic when I was younger but life has a way of beating you down,and chemical changes in your body, and pessimistic environments can add to the problem because misery loves company. I sank into the mire of the muck of life.

I think I have battled depression since the birth of my third child. That seemed to trigger something inside of me. Not only was I prone to crying and doom and gloom, I was prone to anxiety. Professionals told me it was depression brought on by chemical changes  along with some things in my personal life that might be a trigger, but I didn’t listen. After all what did professionals know? And I didn’t like the way the pills they gave me made me feel. Looking back I believe if I would have believed the professionals, I would have had to look at some things in my personal life that were not working and I wasn’t ready to do that.

But I functioned, smiled on the outside, laughed, and kept on going. I can’t say I was debilitated by depression but I always felt a sadness on the inside, a numbed joy. I didn’t alway experience joy the way I felt other people did but I kept smiling on the outside. I kept telling people I loved what I was doing and I kept busy so I didn’t have to examine what I was feeling on the inside.

I raised my family with my husband. I was the ultimate volunteer. I was a good employee at jobs I claimed I loved, and life kept hopping along.

A few years ago after a couple of breaks of bones, deaths in the family and a change in our life financial circumstances I became ill. It was an actual physical illness that I could not seem to recover from–pneumonia, drugs causing a serious case of acid reflux disease and severe depression and anxiety. I could not leave my house–I did not want visitors–even my children and grandchildren and they didn’t want to be around this basket case of a person anyway.

I had a few friends that stood by me through thick and thin. They did not abandon me in my depression and anxiety and neither did my family. My daughter, who is a Pastor, was especially helpful and told me I needed time to grieve all that had happened in the ten years before. I had kept on going like an energizer bunny through everything and I hadn’t taken the time to grieve the loss of my mother, our secure financial position, a divorce in the family, a change of jobs and starting a new business I really didn’t want to start, although I didn’t admit that to anyone. I had to let my dog go who I loved deeply because it was thought he was part of the problem. My best friends had also moved. All of these life changes took me down and I didn’t want to get back up. I might also add that during the past year I had went off a low dose of medication I had started after a severely broken leg and surgery. I had been taking  it to to help with the anxiety triggered by that break and months holed up in my house. I felt it was a weakness and so I tapered off and quit the medicine.

I had cried and smiled during the last ten years and I could smile no more. I had days when I felt I couldn’t go on and I know God is good because at the exact moment I was crying for help I would get a phone call from an unexpected source saying, “God just put on my heart that I needed to call you right now.” Those phone calls got me through another day and another night. I might add, although I never considered suicide, I can understand because when you are drowning in anxiety and depression you just want the pain to stop.

Little by little I found my way back, through prayer and small steps. I began to write on this blog a silly story. Each day I woke up with the next chapter in my mind. I distanced myself from things that were causing toxic feelings in my life, that made me feel less then. I found positive people to be with, meaning they had a positive outlook on life. Their glass was half full instead of half empty. I read positive stories, began a gratitude journal and a prayer journal. I read encouraging blogs and happy upbeat stories. Every day I felt a little better.

The best thing I did was reach out to the readers of my column and explain the problems I was having. One of the most difficult things during this time was trying to write an upbeat column week after week. There was no creativity inside of me and I fear it showed in the columns I wrote. Once I shared with others what I was going through the the real healing began.

I am sharing this because I know there are others out there like me. I feel my life has become about my books and silly writing and my goal is to make people people smile and laugh. I think I am doing that.

I feel by not sharing the other part of the process I am being deceitful. Sharing optimism helps me stay optimistic, but for me it is not always easy. Every day I wake up and that chemical or gloom and doom person rises to the head of my morning and I have to make a decision to find something postitive to start my day. I need something to feed me and if I don’t do that, my day is up and down or down. For me, and I imagine for many other people it is work maintaining a positive attitude.

There are some days I just can’t do it. I wallow in self-pity, gloom and doom and tears. There are some days I just have to do that. I can’t pretend it isn’t there anymore and I let myself have that time to mourn, grieve and cry. Of course this affects my health and then I usually spend another day visiting my beautiful bathroom. Sometimes those days come when I spend the week or days letting cutting words, others opinions and worry reign in my heart without acknowledging these things are bothering me. Again, I am toughing through it and smiling on the outside. But I now know when this is happening I know I need to find something positive to feed myself.

We live in a real world that is not always positive. It can take us down if we let it. I have to fight everyday to not let myself be taken down again. I have admitted and take a very small dose of an anti-anxiety drug again, I have meditations that I use and positive reinforcements on hand all the time. I love the smell of lavender as it calms me down. Each person has to find their own way through the maze of sadness that might take them down.

This morning,after one tough day this weekend, I felt I needed to share because I want others to know there is hope, but it might be work to find it, but it is worth it because living with optimism, gratitude and joy will change your life. You need to know it is fine if you can’t feel that everyday. That is my opinion only. Every person needs to find what gives them joy and go with it.

This blog is usually about my books but I think I am going to change it out a little and make the blog on my website about my books and my writing. My goal has always been to make someone’s day a little brighter and a little better but I don’t think I can do that if I am not real and own my feelings. So that’s it. I don’t know where this is going to lead but I will share my days, my ups and downs. I hope you will do the same and if this post wasn’t what you expected I apologize, but I felt it needed to be shared so if there is one person that has felt the same way I have, it will help them to know there is light waiting for them in the world.

I have this painted on my bathroom wall. It reminds me everyday to look for the crystal rain.image