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Battling Through Bad Times

10 June, 2008

“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven”

The now famous song has it’s lyrics taken directly from the book of Ecclesiasties, but either way, they are wise words.

Just as the Earth has its seasons of Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring, life happens in seasons also. The famous riddle of the Sphinx talks about the three ages of man.

“What creature walks on four legs in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening?”

We all know that our lives have stages of infancy, childhood, teenhood, young adulthood, midddle age and old age. There are stages of singledom, dating, engagement, marriage, and parenthood. There is evidence of stages, ages or seasons throughout all of life.

Some times, however, we go through a particularly trying season of life. Sometimes it can be the period of grief following the death of a spouse. Sometimes it is financial hardship caused by unemployment due to injury, dealing a triple blow to those affected by it.

I am going through a pretty difficult stage of life right now. All the veteran parents I know agree that having a baby and two pre-school aged children is hard work. That reassures me. If it were just parenting challenges on my horizon I think I would fine it easier to deal with. In recent months, however, we have had financial pressure through rising interest rates, petrol prices and grocery costs. We have had family health problems involving costly private surgery. Our church, with which we are closely involved, has been through a tremendously difficult period. We have had close relationships break down.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have had family and a few friends who have been able to support us. There will be an end to this difficult period of life. Sure, there will be other hard times in our lives, but I know that this will not last forever.

For me, acknowledging that this is a difficult season of life, but it will pass, is an important part of me coping with life and getting through to the other side. Part of my journey has lead me to reassess my expectations of myself and realise that I can’t do it all, and nor should I try to. It has also lead to the realisation that it is ok to “call for backup” sometimes and have family and friends support you. I am learning to say a grateful “yes!” to help rather than just pretending everything is fine. Sometimes that offer of help needs slight redirection, but I accept it gratefully.

Another important part of surviving a difficult period of life is to talk. Express what you are feeling, don’t let it fester. Some people need to natter to a friend, some people may find it better to write a letter (which may or may not be sent) or write in a journal, some may make it a matter of prayer, others may write songs and poems or even perhaps create works of art. Expressing what you are feeling in a healthy manner can help you to not take out your negative feelings on those that are closest to you.

Sometimes you may need to make some compromises to make life simpler. I use cloth nappies on my baby (six months old today!) however, it is ok to say “I’m struggling to keep up with all my washing, I’m going to use some disposables”. I like to be on time (or early) to things, but it is ok if I am running ten or fifteen minutes late to something once in a while (I still call if possible to let people know I’m running late!). It’s ok to have a “pyjama day” and slouch around the house in your pjs all day, if that helps you to relax. It’s also fine to wear “going out” clothes around the house if that makes you feel better about yourself.

The most important aspect of battling through a bad patch is to take care of yourself. This is often quite difficult as a mum. I like to be close to my babies, but I find the high demands a baby can make of their mum quite draining at times. I need to make a point of doing things for myself once in a while. I can put on music I like to listen to once in a while, (even if I have to wait until the kids are asleep because it’s not appropriate for them to listen to). I can cook yummy healthy food for me to eat. I can spend my “sanity allowance” on myself for once instead of buying junk on the run when we are rushed or spending it on the kids. I can take the time to read a magazine or a chapter of a book and leave unpacking the dishwasher until the morning. The circumstances of my life at the moment don’t allow for hours on end leisurely spent on pampering myself, but sometimes it’s these little things that help boost your energy levels that bit more, so you can make it to the end of the day with your sanity intact.

A rough season is never easy – it’s rough. It’s important, however, to remember that it’s just that – a season. This too shall pass.

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