The Canvas

I have walked through a deep and long valley these last few months. It has been hard and exhausting. Aside from family and a few close friends, I have kept this journey very close to my heart. It has been a strange and foreign terrain to navigate and I have been thankful for the support from loved ones even when my actions have been out of character.

It all started back in December. I think the combination of my daughter’s finger being severed, a new job for my sweet husband, my son’s family moving out of the country and then yes, for me, the cherry on top, the piece de resistance, my 45-year old hormones raging full force into peri- menopause.

I know as a society we go back and forth on what is appropriate to divulge for public consumption from the bowels of our private lives, but I think most of our motivation for privacy is pride, fear of judgment and feeling vulnerable, exposed. Most of us do not want to rip the carefully-placed tape we have strategically positioned over the cracks of our lives- the embarrassments, the humiliations, the failures, the imperfections. We tell ourselves why dwell, no one wants to see the junk; we fear rejection. We do this everywhere and even in church-clean ourselves up before we step out the door.

Why on earth do we do this to ourselves? As if we live in a perfect utopia. Life in this world is messy. But truly, the ironic twist in our quest to present our lives with a polished veneer is the beauty in the imperfection. Don’t we cherish the most the goofy candid photograph, a child’s amateur drawing, the cracks and crevices that help make up the Grand Canyon, the wisdom shared and held in the eyes of one who has lived a long life and knows life carries peaks and valleys?

I am thinking about the nighttime sky. In my mind’s eye, I am envisioning the most beautiful sunset. Picture it. The sky has clouds of deep blue and baby blues that seem to roll across our outdoor ceiling. Vibrant pinks and reds with hints of oranges and white are splashed across the darkening clouds as if the Master has taken a paintbrush and gently moved His hand back and forth. A beautiful, breathtaking, serene image. Then you notice out of the corner of your eye the hot, humid, exhaust of a jet that has been speeding across the sky. Does it ruin the image? Do we stop and say, “Oh I can’t take a picture now; it is ruined!”?

I hope we don’t. I hope it barely warrants a hesitation or recognition. I hope if anything, we stand in awe for a moment that thousands of miles up in the sky a person is flying people in a jet, which has made the white streak across the sky. Maybe it doesn’t have to be viewed as an imperfection, something to resignedly accept into the canvas of our picture; just maybe we can see the wonder in the knowledge that man does fly.

I think we should view our own imperfections this way. They aren’t to be hidden ashamedly, just accepted. They are all part of our journey in life that one day, at the end of our lives, will paint the beautiful sunset picture that reflects the entire beauty, the whole picture of our amazing lives. Sometimes being able to share openly that there has to be the valleys- it is in the valleys we grow and learn and we are stretched, so that we can appreciate the majesty as we make the climb, once again, up to the peak.

So, if you are related to me, and you are at the doctor and he asks, “Anyone struggle with any depression, anxiety or panic in your family?” Please say, “Oh, yes,” and insert my name. Don’t whisper it; state it firmly and boldly. And then take a quick moment to add, “Oh, but in her season in the valley, she was able to find more beauty and love in the world and to have a greater appreciation for life than any so-so day could ever give her. It has placed an amazing brushstroke of color across her life canvas.”

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What does your canvas look like?

I will have a side of oranges with my anxiety, please

A lot of life circumstances can seem overwhelming sometimes. Illness, job security, physical moves, day-to-day responsibilities and I am sure we can all fill in our own blanks.

I have found myself struggling with a bit of anxiety lately. I seem to muddle through fine and then, ahem, a certain hormonal time of month will come and I am washed in a sea of strong feelings and fears. You don’t have to be a girl to relate to feelings of anxiety, stress, and feeling overwhelmed, but I am sure if you are of the female persuasion you can relate for sure. Or fear not, if you can’t, some day one month you will, I am confident!

I am normally a sure-footed, confident kind of gal so the way I have been periodically feeling has been a struggle. I hit a point where I frantically want to run from my feelings. I think we all do this in different ways and for different reasons run from the out-of-control feeling. We call it shopping therapy or man caves or forty more pounds from over-eating. Maybe over-exercising or zoning for hours in front of mindless TV. Maybe we overcommit to activities outside our home or stay at the office just a little later than needed.

I find myself tired of running. Tired of fighting the emotions I don’t like and want to control. So I have been seeking rest and methods of relaxation. I am a Christian, so for me God, His Word and prayer have been a major part of my arsenal in my fight. But I also have been searching for practical ways to bring down my heightened state of emotional angst.

Oranges. I found several articles that oranges have a calming effect and can be a relaxant. So being the doer and fighter I am, off to the grocery store I went. Go ahead and picture it. Me walking around local grocery stores everywhere in search of the perfect orange. Trying to secretly discern from the outside what kind of juicy therapy awaited me on the inside. So many to choose from: naval oranges, clementines, tangelos, cara caras, tangerines and the list goes on and on.

I have tried them all during this season of my life. I think I have pretty much decided the smaller ones pack the most aromatic punch. And you know what? They do help. Is it the act of peeling the skin? The breaking through the tough outer layer and little by little pulling back the shell? Is it the fresh, alive, almost fizzing scent that permeates up through your olfactory nerve and travels to your brain and says relax!? Is it the way the strong calming odor clings to the inside of the outer layer, showing how strong it really is deep down?

I am sure it is some of the above reasons and many more why I take a side of oranges with my anxiety. So the next time you are stressed or feel like you just need a ten-minute break or you are hungry for an orange, step out there and join me in the quest for a relaxing whiff of orange. Go ahead – put on some music, light a lavender candle, read a book, sit in the quiet and peel your round orange fruit of choice.

Maybe you will decide it works for you too and you may get bold, throwing one in your bag everywhere you go, just in case anxiety strikes waiting at the doctor’s office, right before a big test, getting ready to give a work presentation. Go ahead, you know you want to try it now. But one warning: if you go in close – and I advise that you do – to really breathe in the uplifting citrus fragrance, either check the mirror or ask a buddy to make sure you aren’t wearing your new found fruity friend’s pulp on the end of your nose.
Happy Smelling!

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