By the time this blog is posted, June 1st, the school year will either be over or nearly over, and summer break will be front of mind. As usual, this break has been hard-earned and is greatly welcomed. Just like in most races, the pace picks up as we near the finish line, preparing to break through the tape in celebration of our achievement.
My kids and I recently drove to Chicago to spend time with our extended family. Rain was forecasted for a portion of our drive. It was drizzling when we departed. However, as we drove west those smaller rain drops increased in size and frequency. An hour into the trip my wipers were at high speed while we slowly and carefully followed the taillights (which is all we could see) of the car ahead of us. It was made worse when a semi next to us would inadvertently deluge us with even more rainwater. Fortunately, we were able to travel out of its path fairly soon and didn’t have to white-knuckle it the whole drive. It’s amazing how quickly conditions can change, causing a storm and forcing you to change your pace and focus.
When our schedules are packed and the to do list continuously multiplies, pressure builds and it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind. If we aren’t careful and intentional about how we move through those times, we can find ourselves compromised in the storm. I know when I’m feeling stress and overwhelmed, I’m tempted to take short-cuts, to rush through tasks and often neglect nurturing the things I value (my relationships, my health/well-being, doing good work, etc). I can get laser focused on checking things off the list that I miss opportunities to enjoy the “life is good” moments. I may not allow myself a much-needed self-care break to laugh with a friend, a funny video or even at myself. I adopt a “life is too serious” stance. And for those who follow me and read previous blogs, it’s no secret that in those moments, I can get prickly. That’s my word for times when I’m short on patience, running on fumes and overly tired. That state of being usually accumulates over time. It’s a result of not pre-emptively building in self-protective measures to offset exhaustion or frustration. Often it displays itself in my relationships. I’ve experienced the damage that can be caused by prickly-ness, whether I’ve been the instigator or the recipient, it’s inflicts pain in the relationship. Small acts of neglect or disregard can build up creating tension and disconnection. The storm sets in.
Just as difficulties in relationships can feel heavy, sap our energy, and weigh us down, I am a firm believer the opposite is also true; there are numerous positive effects of relationships. I am convinced they help us heal, they give us purpose, motivation, and that collectively we are better together. Burdens are lighter when they are shared. It’s freeing to divide and conquer various tasks making them feel more manageable and less challenging or difficult. Words of encouragement or acknowledgement from others can bolster our spirit and keep us going. It can mean a lot to get a pat on the back or some type of recognition for a job well done. Those small tokens of appreciation can go far. It doesn’t have to take a long time or cost any money. Sending a simple email or text to let someone know you are thinking of them can make a big difference in their day. The extra benefit is that whatever energy you extend comes back to you. (Not that that should be your motivation, but it is a perk).
As part of our commitment to self-care as we head into the final stretch of our school year, let’s make a concerted effort to nurture our relationships. Be mindful of the little things that can create distance or dissonance. Be watchful for ways to prevent rifts and protect those you care about. Be open and honest before the storm sets in. Address the things that may seem trivial, sweat the small stuff that can divide and cause hurt. Look for opportunities to build others up around you. While you’re at it sweat the small stuff that can make a positive difference. Notice the subtle tasks others do, acknowledge it, celebrate quick wins, baby steps forward. Look for the good in situations and hold on to that, draw attention to it, share it out loud. Let’s deal with the nuances as they occur but focus on the greatness that each of us possess and shower one another with love.