Thursday, March 22, 2007

Life Saver, Anyone?

Want to be a Life Saver? We can be! I know people, and so do you, who are drowning in discouragement. We all know folks who wonder if they can handle their problems for one more day, problems that come in even more than five flavors. Overwhelming responsibilities can make us feel we're just treading water, and need a hand to pull us back on board. Sometimes we need a Life Saver, and sometimes we can be one.

I remember a time I felt like I was "going under." Many years ago I had a severe bout of depression. I laid on my couch listening to my kids argue, observing the chaos I had no energy to clean up. I had been crying for weeks it seemed, and with all the understanding Dee could muster, he felt very helpless. I put on a good face when I was out, but at home I fell apart.

One particular afternoon I was inspired (I know it was an answer to prayer) to call a woman in my neighborhood who I didn't know well. I dialed her number and when she answered, I burst out crying, and told her how helpless and hopeless I was feeling. She was so nurturing and calm, as she assured me we'd get through this, and it was all right. She said she knew what I was going through. She'd felt this way herself. When I finally settled down, she said, "Now, dear, first, who is this?" She had been a life saver without even knowing who I was! She steered me towards a doctor who treated me, and helped me through my "life attack."

At Claremont Graduate University, students can get a PhD in "Quality of Life Concerns," which is defined as What Makes People Happy? I've been thinking about this. What are some things that make me happy? I'll leave out anything dependant on another person ("When my husband brings me flowers"...."When my kids get good grades"...."When I get a raise.") And since this is a PhD study, I'll skip the shallower, short term sources of happiness (chocolate, shopping, pedicures) and dig deeper.

I'm going to list 5 things that have worked for me, that I think would work for anyone. Although the ad says Live Savers are only worth a nickel, I think the right color or flavor could be priceless to someone, so I invite you to ponder your own ideas. Leave them as comments, or blog about it yourself sometime.

Oma's Life Saving Techniques:
1. I try to have a meditation time every morning. It's my Search, Ponder and Pray time. I ponder about what's going on with myself and those I love, then I pray out loud (so I don't fall asleep, or lose my train of thought.) I count my blessings, and then I ask for very specific things ("help me think of the right way to talk to so-and-so," "bless my shoulder that it won't ache, so I can edit the manuscript.") Then I search the scriptures for some guidance. Right now I'm reading the New Testament. I just read a page or two, until I find a nugget of wisdom that feels right to me. This process can take 15 min. or 30 min. I've even done it in the car (then I try to repeat a scripture or story I know by heart, or sing a hymn.) I know it opens me up to spiritual enlightenment. I am reminded that I'm not alone, and that I'm loved. My faith is stronger, I feel hopeful and I have a desire to do something worthwhile that day. Although it sounds simple, it is a profound part of my search for happiness.

2. My spirits are lifted by music, especially in the car. I have compiled CDs for various moods with favorite songs. Just listening to Peter, Paul and Mary, the Beachboys, or John Denver can improve my mood and help me see things with a better perspective. The songs I love have a great philosophy of "We Will Overcome" and that gives me hope. I feel stronger, and bound with all humanity.

3. I'm a great believer in Mission Statements. I write one a few times each year. I don't set goals like "lose 5 lbs by June 1st" because that doesn't work for me. Instead I write characteristics I want to develop. I used to write things like "I want to be calm and organized when the kids come home from school." Now I write, "I want to use my talents to strengthen my family." Looking over my mission statements from time to time helps me see progress, and that makes me feel pride in myself, and that I have something to offer others. I want to be useful.

4. Be interested in lots of things. Days when I'm wrapped up in myself are miserable for me. If I show interest in loved ones, listen to them, and try to be encouraging and supportive I find I'm happier. If I read some history, or fiction, that gets me thinking; or read the newspaper, and watch the news, I see lots of things outside of myself. I think if I'm interested, I'll become interesting, at least to myself, and that keeps me from being bored.

5. Laugh. Talk to, or watch people on TV who make you laugh, especially at yourself or at the absurdity of life. Being happy takes a sense of humor. Look for the funny side. It's a talent worth developing. If you laugh easily, sharing that with others is one of the great gifts. It's the red life saver. Everybody likes it best.
These are my 5 flavors of Life Savers. Now will you share yours? I'm not aiming for a PhD, but I'd like to get some sort of degree in happiness!


Polly said...

I loved your lifesavers, because you have saved my life many times, just by being the woman on the always say "who is this" at the end of our 2hour conversation. I would add that keeping a gratitude journal and writing 5 different things a day that you are grateful for. Can be very simple like(referring to Jo's email)being glad you didn't get another body part stolen..or that you love your house. I say that I love my bedroom everyday!

Jake said...

So cute! You are a lifesaver to me all the time...especially next're going to need extra prayers (and Cokes!) to get you through...

Christie said...

I add my amen to you being a lifesaver. I always love your wit and wisdom!

mama jo said...

and i second the have always been a wonderful lifesaver to me...probably during my early years you didn't so much want to save me, but, kill me...i'm glad you saved my life then and now...throughout my married and chilren years you have always been there with words of wisdom or else you had just been through, thanks from the bottom of my heart....

Bev said...

and even from afar, over the net, to someone you've never met....thank you, thank you for sharing and being a ray of sunshine and encouragement!

marta said...

just like real lifesavers, you are sweet, colorful, and always handy. thanks for always being right beside us.