Things break. This is not a pessimistic viewpoint or a negative one; it is a reality and one that we must face as we go through life. Lately I have experienced a lot of breaking with the one thing that everyone else takes for granted: Legs. Due to my extremely high amputation it is essential that I see prosthetic providers very specialized to work with my condition. After searching for nearly two years I found a reputable provider about three hours from me (which still beats the drive I had been making to Long Island, NY). But still, the fact is that my legs break.
The past few months as I have become extremely active I have experienced more breaking than ever with the leg’s straps, nuts and bolts, things popping out where they shouldn’t; you get the picture. I have broken my leg when walking, sitting, cooking, and dancing! I guess you can say I have become pretty good at “breaking it down” and “break dancing” on many levels.
The biggest struggle I have with all of this is the disappointment when my leg does break. My reaction can greatly vary depending on the emotions I am feeling. Usually when my leg breaks I am steam-rolling along to accomplish a million and one tasks and suddenly at the absolute worst moment I feel a “pop” and know it is a goner. This can be incredibly frustrating because I am forced to stop everything I am involved in and safely maneuver myself to a place where I can remove the leg privately and find out just what has happened, whether it can be fixed easily, and how to finish what I was doing without two legs to stand on. Needless to say, this alone can fill my “window of capacity” very quickly and leave me very empty and lacking empathy and grace for the next few hours or even the entire day.
Let’s be honest, we all have something in our life that breaks down at the moment we need it most! Is it your car when you have an appointment? Your bank account when you need to make a withdrawal? Is it your relationship right when you are about to have company? Is it your child in the middle of a store? Is it when you are rushing and end up knocking over something in your home as you watch it shatter? All of this is breakage that needs to be dealt with and can easily influence our entire day in a negative way.
Bryan Post describes being in a state of stress as having “closed fists to one another”. When we are in a state of stress (usually after breakage of some sort), he explains, we completely close up and go into a state of survival. There is no peace, no outreach to whatever is breaking down, and most importantly there is no love flowing out from us during a state of survival. I believe it is very important for us to live life in a way that we get the “bigger picture” of stress so when the unexpected “break down” does happen we are not already at our capacity.
Notice earlier when I was talking about my leg breaking I made note that I was already “steam rolling along”. So when my break happened I was already pushing the edge of my capacity and operating on the border of stress. Why do I do that to myself? Why do I not take one task at a time, stop when I need a break or need a rest, and stay in tune with myself? If I were operating from a place of this peace when my leg broke I would have had the capacity to take a step back and handle the disappointment from a perspective of loving myself and not cursing my situation (and everything around me!).
How do you respond when something in your life breaks down? Do you see a pattern with being “in a hurry” or being “already stressed out” leading up to the point of the break? Do you feel often that “this one thing here was the straw that broke the camel’s back”? Why do we allow ourselves to get to the point that we are so stressed out and working out of such a small window of capacity that when one unexpected thing happens (like a break) we completely lose focus in our minds and freak out?
Recognizing our patterns leading up to “breaks” is very important. We cannot always be the victim in our situations. Things do happen. Things break. It is our responsibility to be operating through our daily life in ways that makes room for things like this to happen without sending us over the edge. When I have my leg appointments in New Jersey I leave 40 minutes earlier than needed because I like to leave room for the inevitable to happen. If there is an accident, bad traffic, a wrong turn on my part, or any other problem I want there to be enough time for me to work around the problem without my capacity window being already full by no time allowance. So by giving myself extra time I am making extra capacity for dealing with the inevitable. Did I just make a wrong turn? No big deal, we have forty minutes to work with. Is traffic slower than usual? I don’t need to tail-end anyone I have extra time!
Do you see how we can take specific actions to enlarge our window of capacity and therefore allow ourselves to live in a stress-free state of mind?
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
The Lord gives us very simple tools that we can apply to our daily lives. He has already given us peace; we need to now operate from that peace. We need to find the tools that are provided for us so that we can live in a state of awareness. Aware of ourselves, aware of God, aware of His Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
“ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Let’s use whatever tools apply to help get us back in the present moment. Let’s stay away from the cliff of stress. Let’s process our feelings in a way that extends grace and peace, allows for disappointment, and doesn’t lash out in anger.
After all, things will break. But we don’t have to.
(Tune in next week for another very specific tool to guide us away from cliffs of stress! https://crutchprints.com/2014/01/16/things-break-but-we-dont-have-to-part-2/)