I didn’t discover my gift of painting until my early 40’s. As a child, I didn’t enjoy drawing. Reading was my choice of pass time. Art classes at school always stressed me out because I was pretty bad at it compared to my classmates. I didn’t have an aesthetic sense about color either. Let’s just say that my high school friends often commented on my interesting choice of wardrobe. Yet, in spite of these negative experiences, I’ve developed into a painter in the last few years. This past Christmas season, I finally felt confident enough to give away a few paintings as Christmas gifts. My families were pleasantly surprised when they received these presents. However, no one was more surprised than me about my hidden artistic gift.
I don’t have a green thumb. When I first met my husband, he gave me a cute potted miniature rose. One morning, I put it on the patio for some sun, and promptly forgot about it… until a week later. Alas, the tiny rose was no match for the fierce California sun. Needless to say, my husband never gave me plants again. My dad, however, grew up on a farm, and plants thrive under his care. Recently, I wanted to plant a rose in the backyard of our new home. With my dad’s help, we planted a healthy and robust rose bush. The first bloom was glorious! The beautiful blossoms were as big as a grapefruit, and bloomed for days. After the flowers wilted, I continued to water and care for the plant. However, when some of the leaves started to shrivel and yellow. I knew something was wrong.
It’s one of those evenings again. I have some free time, and was excited about catching up with chores around the house. As I glanced around at my surroundings, that familiar sinking feeling came back. Just looking at the piles of dirty dishes in the sink had sucked all of the energy out of me. “What’s the use? The clutter is never going away.” I felt defeated even before I began.
I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned on managing anxiety. In the process, it became clear how deeply personal my journey has been. I wish there’s an “easy button” to banish anxiety for good, but that’s just not the case. However, changing my mindset and learning life skills in the right areas have helped me cope with stress much better. I know everyone has their unique set of challenges. All I can do is share my experiences in hope that it may be encouraging and helpful to those who may have similar struggles like me. Here, I will give a quick overview, highlighting the key elements that made major differences in my life. Eventually, I hope to discuss and explain these areas in more detail.
I had a pretty hectic schedule these last few weeks. We patched up an unexpected leaky roof, filed taxes, and celebrated Chinese New Year (which is kind of like Christmas for Chinese families except kids get “lucky money” from relatives instead of gifts from Santa.) Only now can I get back to my normal routine. Feeling drained, I made sure to take things easy the week after the festivities to rest up. Usually, a few free afternoons are all I need to recover and feel rested. However, last night, when our internet had a slight hiccup, I went into full-on panic mode again. The sudden wave of anxiety shocked me. The week of rest I had before didn’t seem to matter much. Emotionally, I felt like I had not rested at all.
I wrestle with anxiety often. I’m not sure if it’s an Asian thing, but many of my girlfriends also have similar struggles. When I was young, when my mom came home late from work, I would jump to the worst scenario possible and couldn’t shake it off. It’s weird. I remember having a rather carefree childhood. Somewhere along the way, this fearful mindset snuck in.
The clock just struck midnight, and it is now officially the last day of 2017. In the past, I took the last days of the year to meditate and think about the future directions. This year, however, I’m doing something different. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned and how I’ve changed in the last twelve months.
Last week was the fall equinox, which marked the beginning of the fall season. The afternoon sun already started to take on an orange glow. I lived in the Pacific Northwest for a few years, and the seasonal changes there are especially prominent. As soon as October hits, all of the leaves turned into shades of red and started to fall. There and then I understood why the fall season was aptly named “fall.” The aroma of apple cider and cinnamon filled the air. Pumpkins appeared on every porch. I loved how the seasons were so clearly defined. It gave me a clear message that summer was over. It’s time to enjoy the apple harvest and get ready for winter.
Similarly, we also have seasons in our spiritual lives. There are “spring” seasons where new relationships and opportunities blossom. There are “winter” seasons where all outward growths seem to stop. However, even though we are very familiar with seasonal changes in the natural, most of us are not aware of how to adapt to the seasonal changes in the spiritual.