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How To Keep Showing Up For Your Life: FOUR

Sometimes life takes our breath away.  Some days we stumble through the fog wondering if we will ever feel happy again. Most all of us experience this in one form or another. But not all of us are honest enough to call it what it is, depression, anxiety, fear…and not all of us are brave enough to share the experience with others so that it might be a comfort and help.

My final guest is both honest and brave.  I’ve known Linda most of my entire life. Among being an extremely talented woman, interior designer, business owner, actress, model, writer, music producer, yoga instructor…the girl isn’t afraid to try anything…she is the most vulnerable and transparent person I’ve ever known. Sharing freely her heart and life experiences with others just to shine a light, bring comfort or give hope to a weary soul.

Today’s final post in this series is a bit heavier than the previous.  But I believe that this topic is real and necessary for us to talk about.  Depression and anxiety affects every single home.  Although it can be very troubling and dark it does not have to be forever.  We can find our way through, but it takes all of us to be willing to discuss it openly, to pursue help, to de-stigmatize it so that we can all find our way through the fog.

Everyone, meet Linda.

It’s Going to Be OK

The hollow, heavy ball of fear landed in the pit of my stomach New Years Day.

Like an intruder.

Uninvited it came.

Stealing any sense of peace or fragment of hope that I was clinging to. I felt its’ constant grip tightening around my mind. My limbs felt as if electrical currents were running through them and caused me to feel uncomfortable even in my own skin. Sleep was elusive and unwelcome- it only meant that I would face more time in hell when I awoke.

My bedroom had become my prison cell, my bed a place of exposure-exacerbating the struggle to escape. My body curled in the protective posture of a child that would not settle, trembling as my mind drifted toward a hopeless place of despair.

Randi, a friend of mine since childhood, called me during one of these endless days of sheer fear and as she talked over the phone in her soothing voice like a mother to her babe. She painted a picture for me in my troubled mind.

Linda, you know when you’re driving in the fog and it’s so dark and thick that you can’t even see an inch in front of you? Then all of the sudden you reach the edge and it suddenly clears. Well , you could be very near that edge.

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It was a simple picture that had a profound impact on me. It was a divinely inspired word in season and ripe with the hope I needed at that very moment.

I didn’t expect it.

I didn’t do anything to make it happen.

It was a gift.

It’s going to be OK. I needed to hear those words repeatedly during this dark bout of anxiety. I would ask those close to me; my husband, my sisters, my family to say those simple words to me because I really didn’t know if I was going to be OK again.
I felt as though I was wearing a mask when I would interact with people. I had the sensation of peering out from my body like a costume.  My inward reality was much like that of a frightened child who was hiding. I was so filled with fear that I couldn’t eat. I lost over 30 pounds which only added to my anxiety. I felt like I was slowly losing my ability to function.

It scared me.

It scared my family.

I was seeing a counselor and she suggested that I go on a low dose of Prozac to help me get my emotional feet under me. She said, Linda, I believe you can get to the other side of this with or without medication, but the longer you stay in this severe state of anxiety, the more of a toll it will take on your self-esteem. I did go on Prozac for six months and it made a big difference with my ability to heal, but the aftermath and damaged self worth took a couple of years to heal.

I pleaded with God to lift the darkness and take away the fear but it was a slow process and it was hard to understand. I needed others to stand in the gap for me during  that time and they did. I clung to words of hope and truth from God’s word that became like doses of spiritual medicine as I would read them over and over.

So much of my fear was about my future. I felt that I would never do the things I loved again. I couldn’t picture how anything was going to be made right. I felt so lost. And I was. But through the help of family, friends, wise counsel, unending prayer, medication and a God who would never fail me – I made it through and became stronger because of it.

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Journal entry
3/5/2001
I think the longer I walk with God, the more questions I have…
I find this comforting. As His mystery and majesty have grown, so have His
trustworthiness and faithfulness in my life. I find His largeness combined with His goodness very settling. My faith has become more childlike in its’ maturity. There are many things I don’t even strive to understand anymore—I know that God is good, and that is enough. His goodness is like an undercurrent that runs beneath the surface of my being–it carries me through troubling times and reminds me that, if I allow it to, it will take me to deeper places of trust and faith.

linda lee puffer
11.21.17

Do you think you could be experiencing depression or anxiety and it’s bigger than you can handle?  The holidays can trigger emotional turmoil. Please, reach out to someone for help. If you don’t know a doctor or counselor, ask a trusted friend or family member to help you find the next step toward healing and help. A courageous person is not someone who feels strong.  It is someone who knows they need help beyond themselves. Blessings to you my friends.

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How To Keep Showing Up For Your Life: Three

Life can be a roller coaster.  So can our emotions.  We are living in a reactionary time where people react with untempered emotions. Sometimes it makes things worse. Some times life requires a great deal of emotion to influence change.  Emotions are a part of the human story. We do need them. But what about our own emotions when hardship happens or when we aren’t doing so well in life? Each one of us has a different emotional barometer. When they rise and fall along with the up’s and downs of life, what do we lean on for hope, certainty or truth?  Our emotions don’t provide a secure foundation to hang on to during a trial.  This next post is a snippet from a friend who grappled with this very thing and has some helpful wisdom to share with all of us.

Today my guest writer is Ed Schief. Any one who knows him is always the better. He is both uncomplicated and deep. Without fail he starts a meeting with a funny story.  He is the perfect combination of artist and pragmatist.  They really do exist. Ed works as a musician. He has a duo music act with wife, Molly. You can find their FaceBook page by clicking here.  He’s also a music director for a very cool and eclectic church called, Manna.

Everyone, meet Ed.

Today I saw a red and yellow sunset and thought, how insignificant I am!  Of course, I thought that yesterday too, and it rained.” ~ Woody Allen

At a time in my life when things were very, very dark, I stood looking out my front window at the cemetery across the street.  The city kept this cemetery in utterly beautiful condition.  It was like a park with its’ mature trees, manicured grass, and paved pathways.  The sun was filtering through the leaves. It was gorgeous.

And I hated it.

I hated the beauty of it that afternoon, because it seemed like a cheat.

I thought, Yeah, it’s beautiful, but someday it will look horrible. It will look horrible because everything in this life ends up dying.  Why bother enjoying it when you KNOW it’s going to fade and rot and disappoint you. Oh sure, the next life will be great, I believe that. But this life? A complete and utter veil of tears.  Better to just hang on and try to make it through without hoping for too much.

I was pretty down that day.

Less than a week later my situation brightened considerably and I felt a wonderful welling up of hope.  I was again looking out at the same cemetery on another beautiful day.  This time I felt differently.

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I thought, Okay, there IS a reason to enjoy the beauty of this world, God HAS made beauty for us to enjoy, and I should take what I can get and be thankful. Things really do sometimes turn out good.

And then this came to mind.

Three days ago the cemetery made me feel despondent and I came to a conclusion about the nature of the world.  Today it makes me feel hopeful, and I’ve changed my conclusion to something else.

If I’m going to come to a solid conclusion about the world, about life, about the nature of the universe, I’ll clearly have to base it on something OTHER  than my feelings, because my feelings are completely unreliable.  I have to look outside myself, find the truth someplace else and bring that truth in where I can steady myself on it.

What’s the truth about God, the nature of the universe, life, all that?

The answer is:     go out and find it for yourself.

Read the Bible, talk to people you trust, read what great thinkers and theologians have written.  Ask God for wisdom.  Work for it.  And when you’ve worked for it like that, you won’t be adrift, vulnerable to every big and little wind that blows.

When Nothing Changes and Nothing Stays the Same

There are some people in my family who have been wearing certain clothing items for a long, L-O-N-G, time.  These clothes are allegedly, ahem, “broken in” and so comfy that they just a can’t seem to get rid of them or not wear them.

Are you like this?

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I’m not.

I can’t fill the Goodwill bag fast enough.  My motto is if you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re not ever going to wear it again.  Get rid of it.  But that’s me. I like to make room for change.  I like to see what else I can find.  -Continue Reading

One Word

2017 has made a splash!  It is well under way.  I’ve long forgotten Christmas and New Years.  This always happens.  Celebrations short-lived and routine returns to a cold and gray January.

A few weeks ago I read some thoughts by a writer.  She does not do resolutions because they don’t seem to stick. I can relate, can’t you?  Instead chooses a new word that she wants to live into for the year.  A word that resonates with her and gives focus and imagination for life.  I like that idea.

So I thought about it for a while and finally landed on my word.

Curious

It seems to encompass the thoughts and feelings inside of me as 2017 begins.   I’m curious about this year, what it will hold?

The world is a noisy place right now.  So many opinions, ideas and perspectives and I wonder how we’ll all get along?

My family has grown another year older. The cusp of new frontiers await.   Where will it take us?

I think about possibility all the time.  “What if” kind of thinking.  What if I can go to….., what if I can experience….., what if I can have….., what if I can create….?

This word curious works for me. A framework which to wrap my day to day.  A filter through which I pass the stuff of my life.

  • When my mind is thick with worry or doubt, I will become curious about how God will help me?
  • When unexpected delays slow me down, I will wonder how to build myself for endurance?
  • When faced with others need, I will ask how I may help?
  • When God talks, I will wonder why He speaks at all?
  • When creation overwhelms me with its’ beauty and power, I’ll wonder why have we been given such a gift?
  • When seasons change and time feels rapid, I’ll ask how gratitude can enrich the transition?
  • When fear is present, I’ll ask its’ name and if it has power over me?
  • When examining the contents of my heart and hands, I’ll wonder what would change if I say yes to inspiration?
  • When God seems silent, I will ask how I may quiet my soul and trust?
  • When mankind isn’t kind at all, I will be curious about what prayers, words or deeds are mine to respond?
  • When I’m stained with guilt, I will inquire about the mysteries of forgiveness?
  • When life shines like the sun and I feel full and free, I’ll ponder the sweetness of happiness and ask how I may hold it in?
  • When the brilliance of humanity or the magnificence of a child take my breath away, I’ll be curious how much wonder can a heart hold?

When I become curious possibility opens. Possibility fuels imagination. Imagination brightens. Enlightens.

What about you?

What word would you choose to help shape your 2017?

I’d love to hear about it.

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Listening to My Brothers

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I found this painting I made years ago in a stack of old work today.  It’s a whimsical characterization of my brothers.  They both played football for many seasons of their life.

I grew up in a sports loving home.  Meaning, my dad loves sports and so that’s what was on TV when he was around.  His love for sports was infectious and it all impacted us differently.  We all have an enthusiasm and respect for “organized” games but my brothers had the good fortune of being able to play a sport for a very long time.

I pulled this painting out because I wanted to evaluate the canvas size and possibly paint over it.  I hung it in the intended spot and began assessing.

And then, well, it spoke.

At first I laughed when it pointed out the oddly shaped feet paired with the tiny helmet heads. My art is whimsy and conceptual…mostly because that is all I can create.

Then I stepped back and heard something else. Each figure frozen in a pose.  One entering the field with his teammates bursting with pride, celebrating their shared beliefs and  hopes for their collective endeavor.  The other  focused on one job, using his might to protect his quarterback from the opponent that sought to stop him. It whispered brotherhood.

My brother once told me that the brotherhood he experienced during football was unlike anything else he’s known.  It’s where teammates fought with each other because they were fighting for each other.  Each person responsible for his own unique contribution because the success of someone else depended on it. They won and lost as a team no matter how well an individual may have played. Every moving part demanding full attention and intention for collective redemption.  And collective gains were always the goal, not individual accomplishment because collective gains were for all, not just one.

Individual effort and investment is powerful when it’s intended for community benefit.

I thought to myself, what if?

What if each of us applied this principle in our lives?

What if we viewed our strengths, talents and interests in light of a team that needed us to play in order for all to win? That complacency was not an option? Investing in our unique selves so as to contribute to a collective whole?

What if each of us would be willing to enter the tension with another, because we were fighting for the other?

What would marriage and parenting be like?

What could happen at work?

Would we figure out how to neighbor in a way that perhaps we aren’t right now?

Would community and global problems be impacted differently?

I know, I’m asking a lot of questions.  But I’m writing as quickly as this painting is speaking.

What about you?

What do you think?

What if you applied the principle of brotherhood (sisterhood…fill in the blank-hood) in one area of your life?

Would you be willing to try?

P.S. I probably won’t be painting over this canvas anytime soon.

P.S.S. If you think it’s weird that paintings are talking to me…well let’s face it…it is weird.