One of my favorite parts of the Art & Book Fair are the art photographs by artists Linnebur & Miller. The theme was floral friends this year in recognition of the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition at the museum.
Raise your hand if you’ve had a crappy week. That’s what I thought.
I don’t know what’s in the air, but this past week seems to have been hard on lots of people. Me included. Maybe it's the full moon on Saturday night that's fueling this rough cycle, or perhaps it's the end of the school year and everything that entails that is stressing everyone out. Reading my friends’ Facebook posts, I wondered if the feed was being manipulated again to see how people would react to so much unpleasant news. Friends with loved ones moving on to become one with the universe, precious furry friends are going over the rainbow bridge and a gamut of other soul-crushing news. On Friday night when I read that Millie the Weather Dog, that’s been charming us on KWCH News for 12 years, had passed. I cried.
I know exactly what’s bummed me out this week. I’ve had a lot to process. Co-chairing the 60th Annual Friends of the Wichita Art Museum’s Art & Book Fair was much more stressful than I realized. I was already a bit frazzled taking care of all the last-minute details when the weekend of the big event hit. It was compounded by the dark cloud of horrific news of the wreck that put our beloved local musician Jenny Wood in ICU and took her mother and niece. Recently Jenny recorded some theme music for the Finishing School online classes and webinars that I haven’t even released until now.
This is the intro for online classes and webinars.
This is the outro for online classes and webinars.
Working at recovering from trauma can leave me feeling a bit raw and exposed sometimes. Unknowingly people tripped those triggers by telling me how disappointed they were that this is the last year for the Art & Book Fair, some even angry they were at having their 60-year tradition stripped from them. There are a lot of emotions like guilt, sadness, shame, and mourning loss this brings up in me. At first, I couldn’t admit to myself that those were the emotions I was feeling. I started to get caught up in a downward spiraling depression. Thankfully and with help, I was able to recognize what was going on right away. Now I’m taking a deep dive into working through my feelings and what I can learn from them, rather than sinking into a long, dark depression.
At a very well-timed prescheduled appointment to my therapist this week, she gave me incredible insights. She asked me what I was doing to cope with the stress in my life. I gave a few answers on how well I’d done honoring the limitations of hurty joints, by listening and taking care of my body over the long days on my feet at the Art & Book Fair. That wasn't what she was looking for. In our conversation, I realized that I had utterly abandon my go-to coping skills. She told me, “That’s how you know it is trauma you’re dealing with, rather than stress.” BOOM! Mind blown.
Sometimes to get to the goal line of a big project, we make ourselves rush from one task to another to hit the deadline, while ignoring everything else that comes up along the way. If we think about any of it too much or peek at the audacity of what we’re trying to pull off, it becomes completely overwhelming and stupefying. My dear friend, who has the enormous job of pulling off all the marketing for the biggest public events in Wichita in a one-woman department, calls this, “Carry water. Chop wood.” We keep moving, no matter what the personal costs – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Another woman I love and respect for the selfless work she does in the community spent the week grounded in bed after pushing her body near the breaking point.
While the work we’re doing is important, we have to ask ourselves, is it truly worth the sacrifice? Especially since no good deed goes unpunished. That really is the big uncomfortable question. On the other hand, sometimes the next big question has to be, “If I don’t make this happen who will?” For change to happen, it takes a fearless visionary to help channel the energy of other people who want to accomplish the same goals. It’s not an easy job, and not everyone can do it. But when you do have that capability, is it really your responsibility to stick your neck out? Because you can do it, having refined the skills and reputation to lead, should you do it? In some ways, I do think it is our responsibility because I have always believed we're each here, on this planet, to make it a better place to live for everyone. Not just ourselves. I’m trying to find a reasonable balance to this, and if you figure it out first, please clue me in.
So, I decided I need a list of my coping skills so I can revisit them when I'm feeling at the end of my rope. I’m sharing them with you now, but really want to hear what you do too. Send me an email or comment on this post and tell me what helps you keep going when you feel you can’t go on and I’ll share them in an upcoming post. To make it more interesting, I’ll give you an incentive. I’ll pick some answers to reward with class passes, so help a sister out and tell me what you do. Here’s mine:
Take some time for yourself. I ended up playing hookey on Monday, giving myself permission to take the day off and spend time at home with the poodle. I spent most of the day being depressed and taking naps but taking one day off for a mental health pity party and rest is perfectly reasonable.
Get outside. Jack and I went to the dog park. It was a beautiful day for it. Getting outside and feeling the sun on my skin felt good. I’d forgotten how stress relieving it is to be at the park, laughing at the crazy dog antics and letting everything else go. Jack has no apprehension about being at the park since his attack, so I’m okay with it too.
Get some sleep. By Tuesday night, I figured out that I needed more sleep and went to bed early. I guess I should have known it since I wanted to throw a tantrum like a petulant toddler. I felt a world better on Wednesday.
Use your tools. I always forget about, or maybe just don’t take time for, tools that I know help me – like aromatherapy. I worked with Aveda for eight years and became a certified Aromaologist, which combines aromatherapy with wellness practices. Coupling the aromas of essential oils with activities like breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation takes these practices to the next level. It also conditions the brain overtime to get back into a relaxed state just by smelling that same aroma again, thanks to how our brain processes memory. Practice saying no. Now that I’ve passed the gavel from my two-year position as Chair of the Friends of WAM and the fair that I’ve co-chaired for four years is done, it would be easy to start looking around right away for something new. Instead, I’ve decided to take a bit of time for myself. I need to spend my focus and brainpower on getting online classes to the point I feel I can really start promoting them before taking on anything new.
Make a plan. Every time I start to feel like the world is crashing in, it’s usually because I don’t have a plan. It takes a minute to regroup after wrapping up a big project, and there needs to be a mourning period to debrief after the end of something big. This is the perfect time to ask yourself questions like, “Is being an overachiever a way to avoid having to work on what I don’t want to, but need to do?” I’m going to set some new boundaries in my plan too, so at the end of the day, I have something left for me.
While this week started out crappy, it’s ended on a high note. We're making significant progress on the Know Your Worth conference, scheduled for September 27th. We’ll be making an announcement soon, and I am super excited to share who the keynote speaker will be as soon as all the details are confirmed.
Enjoy your life!