Sometimes, growing up seems like a massive game of Stress Management where you move on regardless of whether you've passed the last level.
Stress management, by the way, is a delicate euphemism for balancing between the panic-attack and heck-care ends of the spectrum. We've all been there; actually, if we're being honest, we're all there (present tense.)
If we define stress as our emotional response when we can't control our lives--either because things happen, or because of our limitations--we should realize that stress actually doesn't directly equate to things beyond our control/limitations.
Rather, it's our emotional response to these things.
And so instead of thinking that the answer lies in trying to be better prepared, improving ourselves, pushing our limits, working harder--perhaps we ought to take a look at our emotions.
Why should our inability to control our lives make us so messed up inside, in the first place? Sometimes it's good to take a step back from things we take for granted, to take an E.T perspective towards our human pysche.
If you think about it--that is, to me the explanation seems quite obvious--the magnitude of our response (= our stress) is at least somewhat influenced by our very human pride and desire to have our lives as pleasant as possible, and in our definition of pleasant, at that (regardless that that definition can change any time from twenty years later to tomorrow.)
Which, from a Christian perspective, is reassuring, because we know those two motivations are not infallible truths, and we don't have to be enslaved to them as such. Trust in a God greater than our limitations, wiser than our minds can comprehend, more loving than we deserve--trust that as His children, a 'happy ending' is still possible, always possible, for us, regardless of how tragic or hopeless things may seem now.
As result, times of stress for me have been times when I--without having much of a choice about it--was pushed to redefine what trust means. What humility means. What peace means. To accept and admit that I can't always do what I want, everything I want, as well as I want to, and that's okay--my worth and my life's purpose aren't affected, even if it may not work out just as I would have wanted it to. This is amazingly liberating--but it is also really, really hard. For someone who likes to think she's efficient and productive and a perfectionist, (you may roll your eyes)--it's like rewriting DNA.
But then, isn't it? The emergence of the new man?
This is something that is not much use as a tip that you throw at people, the way you can throw smart study tips. (actually, even study tips require you to be personally convinced and dedicated, to be really effective. In that case replace study tips with pre-exam rituals--brainwashing mantras the night before or a lucky eraser or the most fortuitous method to pick MCQ answers.)
It's something that is only someone else's rambling until it becomes a personal conviction you directly relate to. Trust is such a vague concept. So is peace. And even, in many small ways, humility. I could never understand why the Psalmist longed so fervently for God to give him peace, until I realized how much I lacked it myself in times of stress or uncertainty.
I am thankful for every little bit I've learnt, so far; more able, now, to keep everything together, so to speak--to be hopeful and work hard without flying to pieces in a flurry of wild depression or panic; to see a bigger picture and value the process rather than just the result.
I want, though, to be more cheerful. I want trust to empower me externally as well as internally. Not just calm the stormy morass of emotions, though they're still quite a handful; but enable me to be more cheerful and patient in my behaviour to others.
When I first read Martin Chuzzlewit I remember being much stricken with the character of Mark Tapley and his inexhaustible good cheer. 'Jolly, sir!' was his signature remark and life motto; the more depressing, the more hopeless the situation, he would be more cheerful and hopeful to the people around him who needed it. I remember realizing I wasn't much of a Mark Tapley.
So often when we're struggling to cope with stress, we put ourselves by default on centimeter-long fuses, live in perpetual bubbles of highly-flammable self-pity that we expect other people to make way for wherever we go. We don't have a right to make other people stressed because we are, and even if we did, it's not going to lessen any of ours. And our trust is not very strong if we're still acting like we're martyrs in a zombie apocalypse every time we get stressed.
These last few weeks before my first year finals, I hope I'll have the strength to live this out. As much as I'm convinced this is something worth striving for, I know it's not going to be the most enthusiastic or successful experience.
Pray for me.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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