It’s the end of July. I have had no less than three panic attacks this week alone because August is right around the corner. With August comes a lot of stuff. No, let’s change that. August doesn’t really come with a lot of stuff. IT IS PURE MADNESS for our family. There’s no way to sugarcoat it, there’s no way to be nice about, it just is what it is. This year though, we find ourselves entering the month of August after having a really rough July.
Between the acts of violence that occurred throughout our country, our city, and our college, we then had some really rough and emotional moments to tackle as a family. We’ve been moving through the stages of grief and processing the feelings of death, abandonment, unfairness, and uncertainty…daily.
Unfortunately, as much as I want to, I can’t go hide under my covers to cry until December 31 and hope that 2017 is much better. There are school supplies, new clothes, a family weekend in Mississippi, fish camp for freshman orientation, meet the teacher, and summer homework for AP English that needs to be completed. And these are the things I’m thinking about off the top of my head.
As I pause to hyperventilate, I want to tell you that I am going to get through this. My family is going to get through this. If you are feeling overwhelmed about the upcoming school year – or life in general – you are also going to get through this. Here’s what you need to do now.
Pray like your life depends on it. We should actually be doing this anyway because our lives do depend on it. We are fighting a battle with the enemy like no other. Have you seen the movie War Room? Have you read the book Fervent? And more importantly, are you teaching your children to pray and be honest about the war they are fighting for themselves, their families, and their friends? Early on this summer, we participated in two activities that I am convinced shaped our responses to the drama of the world. 1. We read the book The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer. Shirer is no stranger in our home. Her books adorn my shelves, my Kindle account, and this blog. This past spring, she released a book for middle-schoolers that clearly identifies a child’s role in fighting an unknown enemy as a warrior. When I announced we’d be reading this book as a family, I heard the usual groans and moans, but reading the fictional account of the 12-year-olds who fought actually helped prepare my teens for the battles of their own.
The second activity we did was watch a movie entitled The Reconciler. When we watched it in June, we had no idea that its message would prove to be vital to our family. Even though you are hurt, even though someone else has wronged you, reconciliation is important for your peace of mind and your personal relationship with God. During this month, the kids and I lost two people who were very close to our family. Those losses were not due to death, but to distrust, abandonment, and a lack of care and concern for our needs. For us, both relationships are gone. However, the reconciliation here will occur in our relationships with God and no one else. We are not forgetting the wrongs that have occurred, but we are forgiving those who we need to forgive and choosing to reconcile for the sake of our healing. Even if other circumstances dictate we cannot be active participants in each others lives again.
Get some fresh air. This summer we started hiking. We are not your typical athletic, outdoorsy family at all. When we were sad though, a few walks on local trails helped us feel better. It was hot, we were tired, we drank a lot of water to stay hydrated, but we always felt better afterwards.
Take care of your physical health. It’s no secret that I live with thyroid disease. With that comes several routine practices that I MUST do. My kids live with asthma, eczema, epilepsy, and vitamin d deficiency. If we don’t pay attention to our physical bodies – which includes managing the stress in our lives – our immune systems will suffer. This means we can’t forget to take our vitamins, eat healthy, and get enough rest at night. As a matter of fact, I started the summer talking about my sleep project. You can read more about that here.
Enjoy the blessings. For about 10 days in the month of July, I didn’t have to drive a car that I owned. As a matter of fact, I drove a brand new 2016 Mazda CX-5. That meant that the kids and I were able to cruise around town in a shiny, red car that got great gas mileage, handled the road well, and took my mind off the sadness. For those 10 days, I didn’t worry about getting my oil changed, the tread of my tires, or even the gas mileage. As our family mourned for families who lost their sons to the hands of those entrusted with their safety, and as we grieved with other police families who lost their loved ones to senseless acts of violence, I didn’t have one worry during the motorcades and travels to memorial services and funerals. I #DriveMazda already, so I knew this car would fit into my family’s lifestyle, but with the latest safety, eco-friendly, and road assistance technology, it was a dream to drive.
Force yourself to have adult time. I knew better than to disappear from life completely when the month got rough. I stayed in touch with close friends and family to let them know that something wasn’t right for us. When I could talk about it, I did. For the most part though, those conversations were electronic — via text messages, FB messenger, and email. When I’d get invitations for lunch or dinner or to meet up, I truly thought I shouldn’t go. I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer, and truthfully, I didn’t have the energy to cry more. One friend though, sent me a text message one morning to ask me about meeting for lunch. Just as I almost said, no, I felt God say, “Go.” That lunch not only helped me process what was happening in my life, it taught me that life does go on – even if you’re sad – and we ended the afternoon synchronizing our calendars for the next month.
Eliminate the noise and disconnect. Social media is noisy. As someone who fluently speaks the languages of likes, shares, and follows, I’m typically hearing that noise 16 hours a day. When you’re world is crashing around you, the noise has to decrease. If not, it will cost your sanity, your ability to recover, and you will find yourself wrought with even more anxiety than you had to begin with. Take some time off from the noise and disconnect. The world will continue without you.
Do something different. One of my summer bucket-list items was to explore the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex as tourists. July was going to be an amazing time for us as I was launching a Dallas Staycation feature on this blog. In June, a popular website name the DFW area as one of the worst places to have a staycation and I was offended and determined to prove them wrong. We started the month with one goal: to show you everything awesome that a Dallas staycation can offer. Our plan was to travel Dallas, Ft. Worth, and everything in between. When tragedy struck, the only staycation I wanted to do was to stay in my bed. But we didn’t. We altered our plans slightly and instead visited places we haven’t visited much before. For us, that meant spending a lot of time in Arlington, Irving, and exploring hidden gems for the best pizza, pancakes, and snow cones.
Acknowledge the pain and the grief. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be disappointed, and it’s okay to feel like the world is crashing around you. Let yourself have those emotions, because if you don’t they will hit you at the most unfortunate times. Like maybe in the checkout line at your local grocery store.
Control what happens once the chaos enters your house. I have written about several spiritual mentors that I’ve had in my life before. I have never personally met several of them before, but for a few, I have the pleasure of seeing them in person, even at my local coffee shop or church events in Dallas. Dr. Lois Evans is one of those people. I watched a webcast with her recently and she mentioned how as a wife and a mother, Titus 2:5 guided her life. When she talked about the important of that scripture, she also mentioned how part of working in your home means that you need control the chaos that enters your house. I may not be able to prevent certain things from happening, but I can control how it affects us, and how we process it. When the chaos comes, I will control it, it will not control us.
Seek the lesson you are supposed to learn from this. A few of my friends have asked if I’ve thought about why or how some of the devastation hit us. My answer to that is no. I have thought about why certain events happened so closely to each other, and even though they appear unrelated, I know that they all happened for a reason. I’m open to learning the lesson I’m supposed to learn; and especially understand the connection between the traumatic events.
Plan for the future. I finally accepted that August was coming in the middle of the night on July 26. The next day we bought planners, stickers, and everything we needed to get our minds right for the upcoming year. We checked the school supply lists, we compared the new school start and end times, and we reviewed the school calendar for the new year. We also talked about attending high school and college football games, making homecoming mums, and travel plans.
Whatever you do, please know that life gets rough for everyone and you definitely do not have to weather these storms alone. The magic in the healing is to get up, get out, and embrace the changes. And if all else fails….pancakes work quite well!