The last couple weeks seem somewhat blurred in my memory. Day to day, fretting over which bills are past due, which bills have passed their grace period, and crunching number after number trying to figure out if and when we can get ourselves on track and how we manage to keep hemorrhaging money even when we’re nickel and diming ourselves for all we’re worth. Each day’s tips are counted and logged onto a calendar. My husband’s income is charted as well, from each of his jobs. On paper, we should be fine.
If everything went by what was “on paper,” most of the world would run a bit more smoothly.
“You’re having trouble with your mortgage payments? Hm, that’s strange. It says right here that your income is high enough to cover it. We’ll just adjust your payment history. You’re right as rain!”
And so things fall by the wayside. Things like writing and answering that question people have been shoving in my face like a durian popsicle since I was in sixth grade: “What are you going to be when you grow up?”
I’m almost thirty. My husband is almost thirty. We ought to both have answers for that by now. But he’s working two jobs, and I’m waiting tables for a living while my history degree and near double major in history and Central European Studies moulders in a box somewhere. Come to think of it, I am not even sure where my college diploma is. That’s how little it matters of late.
And so the black hole of finances has consumed us once more. I don’t have a huge number of weapons in my arsenal against it, but I do have a few.
I’ve even tried out a couple new ones. For starters, there’s Tai Chi.
I’ve always been fascinated with Tai Chi. I remember watching a group of adults move through flowing poses as a child. I thought it looked graceful — just standing by as a casual observer managed to relax me somewhat. But I never had the opportunity to try it until I discovered a free video on FiOS. The soft movements and slowness of the forms mask an underlying strength, buttressed by breath and energy. There are strength in those poses. By the end of my first few practices, I was sweating, but my breath came deep and strong as if I had just awoken peacefully from restful slumber.
I bought a five dollar DVD that included a segment on Qi Gong, which is Tai Chi’s even more mellow counterpart that focuses on healing and strengthening. Where Tai Chi is a respected form of martial art (its steady slowness makes many people assume it would be a useless form of defense, but the forms are meant for balance and defensibility, and I dare anyone to take on a Tai Chi master), Qi Gong is a renewal, a way to recuperate both body and spirit by harnessing the body’s energy. Call it chi, call it life force, call it the holy hand grenade — but it helps, and after just a few sessions, I’ve felt a difference in both my body and my level of anxiety.
And then there’s yoga.
I never thought I would be a yoga person. Someone telling me in a calm, throaty voice to reach down and casually pick up my foot and pull it up to my face makes me turn blue just thinking about it. I can no more grab my foot and lick my knee than Homer Simpson can, but the beginner’s yoga practice I’ve begun has poses that focus on core strength and building flexibility where there is none. For the kid who would just bend her leg and grab her foot in ballet class, a slow approach to these maneuvers is vital — and much less unsightly.
These are small weapons, small changes I can make to help avoid disintegration via black hole. Even if life is stressful, they create moments of clarity and calm, and my body is the stronger for it. Whatever they’ve helped to get flowing has spurred my creative juices as well, and the drive to write that has been waning over the past few weeks through the mire of stress has returned to tap me on the shoulder and smack me across the face with a very silly white glove.
I don’t have any big news yet, but I am hatching a plot. Perhaps these full body journeys of meditation and movement really have captured the radiance of the sun to shine it into the maw of the black hole.
There are some things in life that you cannot change. There are points where you have to admit you’ve done all you can for one area and only time can do the rest. In those cases, all you can do is change your focus to things you can change, the things that are in your power to alter for the better. I can’t fix my finances overnight, but I can foster a sense of well-being by taking care of my body, eating well, and enjoying the small pleasures of my kitten’s purr or my puppy’s soft coat.
As a kid, I used to go with my mom to meetings for family members of alcoholics, and I remember the prayer very, very well. And though I’m agnostic, it still seems relevant.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
What helps you combat stress? How can you holistically approach life?
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