Needle In A Haystack, Part 2

“Never apologize for being sensitive or emotional. Let this be a sign that you’ve got a big heart and aren’t afraid to let others see it. Showing your emotions is a sign of strength.” (Brigitte Nicole)

I was hesitant about going ahead with “part two” of my post, as I felt vulnerable after last time and the responses I received left me overwhelmed. When I was told my blog played a role in helping a reader recognize a destructive pattern in their own life, prompting them to make a positive change, it encouraged me to not be afraid and keep talking about these things. I am a work in progress when it comes to learning to express myself and although writing has given me an outlet, I have to regularly fight the urge to return to my safe place of being quiet and invisible.

A few weeks ago I felt like I had lost my joy and nothing would satisfy the ache inside. No amount of positive thinking, pep talks or peanut butter could make it better. (I eat peanut butter on a daily basis because I absolutely love it and recently upgraded my humble jar to a 900g bucket instead.) It does require self-control and when I am having a tough day it is tempting to let the regular couple of teaspoons turn into one too many! Thankfully I recognize I have a choice about how I am going to feed my pain and a short-term fix, like giving in to my craving for example, will not solve the deeper problem.

Healthy appetites or hobbies, like food, work, shopping or relationships can become destructive if we let them get out of control. If we look around there is plenty evidence that this kind of behaviour if rife in our world today. Often we don’t need to look further than ourselves to realize many of us have activities and habits that we use as buffers, instead of expressing our emotions appropriately. I used my peanut butter as a light-hearted example because ‘cravings’ often mask some negative emotion, be it depression, anger or loneliness that we’d rather not experience. Always ask yourself what you are feeling before indulging in a craving and don’t shy away from facing that emotion.

We are never going to be perfect and our lives are always under construction (and that’s okay!) Spending time with God is essential to helping you stand firm against temptation as only He can provide the lasting fulfilment you seek. Remember what was said in the beginning too…don’t be afraid to show your emotions and let us be a community that supports each other and opens our hearts to those that are struggling.

Needle In A Haystack

It has been one of those weeks where I feel like a fraud and although I do my best to ‘choose joy’ and win the battle in my mind on a daily basis, sometimes I let circumstances get the better of me and I want to quit and simply sulk. Often when I write and tackle topics, I am the one in need of the greatest help and meeting others like me through this journey has filled me with humility and gratitude. I have learnt that we all have a deep desire to know God and find fulfilment, but we let our appetite for feelings, experiences, material possessions and so on, get out of balance and take priority.

Finding peace and happiness this week, has been like searching for a needle in a haystack and instead of being still and asking God for help and strength, I end up seeking comfort by indulging in behaviours that are not good for me. Perhaps you can relate. Whether you switch off in front of the television for hours, max out the credit card or eat the whole tub of ice cream, these are merely short-term fixes that don’t satisfy for long.

When we end up giving in to excessive indulgence, it is usually followed by guilt and so the cycle begins again, only this time the void is deeper and it takes more to fill it. We use these quick fixes as buffers instead of asking ourselves what is the driving force behind these compulsive behaviours. What is the pain we are trying so hard to mask? I know for me a big trigger is my infertility struggle and with four pregnancies announced on social media this week, it set my already vulnerable soul into panic mode and all I wanted to do was numb the heartache, quickly.

I have always found it helpful to pursue challenging sporting goals as a way to cope with this pain. Recently I have been struggling to stick to a plan and am conflicted as to what I want to do going forward. Having this negative mind-set makes me feel more fatigued physically and it sets me on a downward spiral. I don’t want to force my training or have negative thoughts, so I need to nip them in the bud and not lose hope, despite the uncertainty I am facing.

I think there will have to be a ‘part two’ to this post, as it is going to take some time to let things settle and find my joy again. I challenge you to do the same if this is an area you are struggling with. Get to know yourself better and ask yourself what you are feeling before you indulge in a craving that will do you more harm than good. Rather feed your spirit and strengthen yourself from the inside out. This journey won’t be quick or easy but we need to persevere if we want to see change.

Comrades Ate My Cheeks

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I didn’t plan on writing a blog today. This is a spontaneous entry to clear my scrambled thoughts, which means you are in for a bumpy read with no clear direction or destination! Exit anytime.

Last weekend I ran the Comrades marathon. It was an honour to be a part of it. The training this year has been tough (both physically and emotionally) and a few days before the race, I was still not convinced that lining up on that start line was the right thing to do. However, I was blessed with a strong run, an improved time and incredible memories. I even achieved my goal to ‘finish with a smile’ and was told I looked relaxed and happy throughout the day.

After all the exercising leading up to this point, it felt strange to relax for a week, re-feed the body and brain and reflect on the hills we recently climbed. Repetitive long distance training takes a toll on me physically and naturally as Comrades drew nearer, my face started to look rather hollow. However, I am pleased to report that my peanut butter and couch potato script has had a positive influence on my cheeks, which started to fill out again almost immediately. I am highlighting my cheeks here, and being a bit silly, because my cheeks (or lack thereof) became a hot topic of conversation last month, which I suppose is human nature, but it was hard to swallow and eventually gave me indigestion!

If you are constantly worried about what other people think, you will be distracted from your destiny. I had other medical factors that came into play last month, which had nothing to do with Comrades training, but also negatively impacted my appearance. Those details are nobody’s business, yet we are creatures who love to speculate and I understand why people did. Luckily, my hollow cheeks were a temporary side effect, and we also have short attention spans, meaning #debbieneedsafacebra soon moved further and further down newsfeed. Despite my outward appearance, I was stronger than ever been before and could run 87kms sensibly and comfortably. Case closed.

One’s physical appearance is a personal subject and being called names triggered memories of rejection, which is never fun. Everyone has hurts from their past. Although my heart is healed, there is still a human part of me that feels incredibly sad when I think back on certain events in my life. Sometimes I can brush them off but other times it makes me angry, defensive, even hungry (this is where pity parties are tempting, and they usually come with an abundance of tasty treats too!)

I am taking a risk, being vulnerable as always, no tongue in cheek here, and hope in doing so it encourages you to do some reflecting too. Is there something in your past that causes emotional emptiness, even today? Does this trigger you to numb your longing for healing with a temporary physical pleasure? Often issues are big and complicated (I know mine are) and you overcome one layer, only to realize there are many layers still to go. Like peeling an onion, it leaves you in tears every time. There is no easy solution, but I find it helps to think of something good that has happened despite the pain from the event. (I used everyone’s doubts and rude remarks as fuel on my run and I never ran out of energy!)

With chipmunk cheeks or chiselled cheekbones, I can smile either way, despite what the crowd has to say. I have learnt to pay more attention to what God says about me, than what the grapevine does and I challenge you to do the same.

Don’t Be A Slave To The Crave

Last week I watched two programs on drug addiction. It was quite unusual that on different days, when I happened to sit down in front of the television, I came across people talking about their struggles with drugs. I felt instant compassion for them, as they described being trapped in this prison, trying to desperately fulfill unmet needs with a temporary high. The images shown and the conversations exchanged between the addicts have remained with me since and although I have never personally struggled with drugs, I could relate to a lot of what was being shared by this group of young adults.

I could relate to them because below the surface of these harmful behaviours (in this case drug abuse, but there are many other examples) is often a single trait that all of us share: we are all searching to experience fulfillment. We may look for it in different ways and in different places, be it drugs, alcohol, food, work, relationships, but the fact remains we are all on the same journey.

We are searching for meaning and purpose. We want to love and be loved. We want to be satisfied with who we are. We spend a lot of time trying to meet our longing for fulfillment, often in our own strength, but we need to surrender our problem to God, as He is the one who made us with these appetites and ultimately is the only one who can help us satisfy them in the right way. We often don’t fill our appetites with what we really need and instead try put something else in their place. The one young man on the program mentioned he felt he lacked his father’s approval and affection and drugs became the substitute for this need of love and acceptance he craved from his dad.

We need to be aware and carefully examine the real story behind our choices to fulfill our appetites and do our best not to give in to our fleeting desires quite so easily by making the wrong choice. There is no simple solution and I am skimming the surface of a much deeper issue here, but I wanted to share my thoughts as these stories impacted me this week, and got me thinking. I hope it has given you something to think about too.