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Doing What Must Be Done

Rev. Carol Bodeau

As I write this, I am thinking of a number of people in my life—people of all ages—facing challenges that require them to do things they don’t want to do. Face a medical treatment, find a job when they’d rather not have to, move to a new city that isn’t their first choice, apply to a new school when the dream school fell through, grapple with difficult financial challenges…all things that they would rather not have to face. But, as I found myself counseling a young adult recently, avoiding these challenges generally makes them worse, not better.

So how do we balance confronting the things that seem impossible, that feel like they will swamp us, with self-care, kindness and compassion? How do we know when to push, and when to rest? This isn’t an easy question to answer, and each particular situation requires its own nuanced solutions, but maybe there are some guidelines that are helpful.

I am reminded of a practice rule for yoga: in the physical challenge of a yoga practice, the idea is to do just enough to feel that you are at your edge, but not so much that you are causing pain. But this requires being able to identify the difference between self-growth, or stretching, and self-harm, or pushing. In yoga, each stretching pose is often counterbalanced by what’s called a ‘resting’ pose, and it seems to me this is a good guideline in life, as well. When we are faced with difficult challenges, it can be helpful to alternate between doing something difficult—making one phone call, filling out one form, packing one box—with an act of compassion or self-care, like watching a movie, calling a friend, or getting a massage.

If you happen to be the sort of person who is able to just push through difficulties, then you may find it easier to give yourself a ‘reward’ at the end of completing the hardest tasks. Get it all done in one big push, and then be glad it’s over. But some things just can’t be tackled like that. In cases where the latter is true, breaking our challenges into manageable pieces can help.

When I moved to Tennessee, I had no job, no money (the divorce settlement was over 6 months overdue), no network of friends or community, and no real plan. It was, to say the least, challenging. The only way I got through that year was to alternate tackling challenges with doing things that made me feel better, that gave me hope. I alternated Hallmark movies with job searching; researching starting my own business with baking myself gluten-free pancakes; grieving and panicking with peaceful, healing walks in the mountains.

Life can be really challenging sometimes. There are days, or weeks, or seasons when we find the world situation, or our personal lives, hard in ways we aren’t sure how to manage. But we can always practice some self-care. One of the things, perhaps, that ‘must be done’ when life is hardest, is be kind to ourselves.

So if you or someone you care about is struggling, perhaps it’s time to take a break, take a rest, and do something enjoyable. The challenges will still be there later, but maybe even a short time of relaxing, putting the worries aside, and focusing on joy, can give us renewed hope, courage and energy to do whatever else needs to be done. And you can always turn to the support system that is offered by our community at Westside. If you need some encouragement, don’t hesitate to let me or someone on the Caring Connections Team know.

Wishing you peace and ease this month,

Rev. Carol

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