I was fine, until I tried to move. Then pain shot across my shoulders like a lightening bolt in a July thunderstorm. It feels like there is a bungie cord stretched just beyond it’s limit, holding my head and arms captive at risk of a sudden “POP!” followed by  a breaking of the cord,  that will send my arms in opposite directions and my head shooting up like a rock-em-sock em robot.

“Maybe, I slept wrong.”  (Sheesh, I’m a perfectionist even in sleep, now? Is there even a right way to sleep?”

“Maybe, I did too much yesterday.” ( I have no idea how what I do everyday could suddenly become too much..”)

As I wrapped my hands around the warm coffee cup and sank into the couch this morning- I realized the truth: I’m experiencing  Empathy Exhaustion. I’ve spent so much time thinking about how the kids, parents and teachers all feel- felt in the mess, agony an aftermath that is Sandy Hook, that my body is screaming a pain-filled response.  How do I know?

I recognize the signs…

  • I’ve caught myself clenching my jaw, almost non-stop. (TMJ- it’s my first line of defense stress symptom. It’s like my body tries to clench out the stress… FYI? It doesn’t work. Just hurts.)
  • There has been a stiff- tightness across my shoulders up my neck and into my head since last week. I thought it was the weather and my stupid spinal arthritis… (I am approximately 1.2 billion years old in dog years. At least- my body is…:P)
  • My stomach has alternated between… well.. let’s just say fits and starts…. for days.
  • I’ve had a low grade headache for days.

It’s not all from Sandy Hook. I’m not that compassionate. I’m selfish… and well- distracted and conflicted.  It’s also- the Christmas Crunch. The battle between stress and joy and time pressure and financial pressure and the struggle to keep my mind focused on the real meaning of Christmas… all rolled into a giant stress wad the size of Texas. Not to mention the almost constant “Breaking News” induced- mini panic attacks.

All of which creates tension. Tension that today- demands attention.

If I don’t manage this tension better- I’ll be good for nothing. Not my family. Not my friends. Not my todo list or those in Sandy Hook. (As if I actually can do anything to make their pain less…)

This morning- I waved goodbye to my youngest with less fear but more pain, than yesterday. The feeling of vulnerability and helplessness is toned down a few notches- reason and trust are speaking louder to my fear. However, my body is screaming for something…..(The cookies I gave it at 2:00 A.M. while tasty- didn’t do the trick.)

I think it needs a break. So, I called an audible. Instead of the wrapping and housework that my todo list demands- I’m going on what I call- a camera walk. (Confession- I’m a photography nut.It’s close to creating art as my fine-motor challenged self gets)  It’s a way that I can re-focus my eyes on world around me and find the beauty in the simple creation. It’s a way for me to connect with God.  A camera walk- just involves me- and my camera- taking a walk and taking a fresh look…. at the world and capturing what I find.

It’s amazing how your perspective can change with a macro or zoom lens attached…I’m also:

  • Turning off the TV. I don’t need to keep feeling that PLOP of my heart dropping every time “News” breaks…. (Funny how often the news is old……) I’m turning on music that fills my soul…
  • Putting away my laptop. Today, I don’t need to constantly check my “feeds” to see how friends are doing or responding… or not doing or not responding….(Being all judgey- judgey- can wear a girl OUT.)
  • Taking a long hot shower. Without rushing.
  • Spending time listening to God- not barking out orders and questions to Him….
  • Checking my lists and crossing things off that just. Don’t. Matter.
  • Making soup for dinner…. something warm and filling and comforting.

It feels kind of self indulgent to do this. It’s almost embarrassing to post such a frivolous list for the world to see. But here’s the thing- if I don’t do these things- my body will continue to rebel. It will get worse. I’ll end up curled up on the couch with an immobilizing migraine. I’ll end up at urgent care because the physical pain is crippling. I’ll end up snippy and snotty with my family because the tension I feel is snapping out where ever it can….

Not good.

There is nothing to be ashamed of. Today- I’m taking care of momma- so momma can take care of everything else.

Tomorrow- I’m joining in prayer with moms all over the world- to pray for the moms of Sandy Hook and every mom who’s struggling with the impact of the unthinkable becoming real.

Why? Because I’ve taken enough flights and [half] listened to flight attendants enough times- to know that before I can help someone else with their oxygen mask….. I need to properly adjust my own.  MOPS is a place that cares for moms. Every mom. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, afraid, in pain…..or just plain want to do something… anything to help the mothers of Sandy Hook….

Please join MOPS International- in a Moms’ call to prayer- tomorrow- Wednesday, December 19 at 9:45 Central time. I’ll be there.

Moms Call to Prayer- MOPS

So… what are you up to today? How are you feeling? Are you seeing any signs of stress in your body? Your mind? Your spirit? What are they?

How are you taking care of momma, so momma can take care of: everyone? I’m starting with prayer….

Dear Lord— my body hurts. My heart hurts. Honestly? I feel guilty for even expressing my need to take care of myself, when so many others are in incomparable pain. But I know, that in order to do the next thing, and the thing after that…… I need to take care of myself. Please help me see you. Help me release the tension and trust you even more. Help me be a light in the dark….by recharging the battery of my heart-with your presence. I love you Lord- amen.