Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tough Times: How to deal?

What better way to start a beautiful Sunday morning than with a piping hot cup of coffee, toast with homemade apricot preserves, a cool breeze coming in through the windows, and Meet the Press?  ...  Wait ... What?  Yes, I chose to turn on Sunday morning political TV today.  Yes, that was a mistake.  I'm not going to go all partisan on you here or anything (and that's really not the main point of this post anyway), but I would venture to guess that no matter what party line you toe, you feel pretty damn frustrated/hopeless/angry/disgusted right about now?  Join the club.  No, starting off one's Sunday morning listening to Politician X talk about what their party is going to do to make our country better (when neither of those parties seems to actually ever vote with any of us in mind), is not ideal and was definitely not a good decision this morning.  But, I digress.

The point of this morning's blog is to include all of you (maybe talking politics right off the bat wasn't the best way to do that?).  I want to hear YOUR opinions, thoughts, etc. on this conundrum I've been dealing with, or not dealing with...  whatever.

So, last week, I was on a particularly grueling run, up and down the hills of Columbia, pretty much hating every step.  As I ran on, I started thinking about my mental state.  Was the way in which I was thinking about my run ("This is really freaking hard!", etc.) affecting how I felt?  And would it make my run easier to instead tell myself it was easy and I was having fun?  Then, as those thoughts usually do for me, my quandaries about running quickly turned to quandaries about life...

It would be fair to say that this transition hasn't been an easy one for me, at least not all of the time.  I went from a program where I was familiar with the people, had several close friends, was well-respected by the professors (although, if Dr. Osborne ever read one of my blog posts, I think he'd be utterly disgusted by my excessive use of parentheses...), I had written a thesis on a topic that people found interesting, etc., etc.  In short, I felt pretty darn good about myself when I walked through the halls of my old department.  And now...  I'm the newbie again.  I'm back at square one.  I don't know many people, I'm having to build new friendships (which is always a good, but slightly scary, thing), I'm having to prove myself to new professors and a new advisor (or at least that's how I feel), and I don't have a freaking clue what I want to research.

Also, I've been back and forth between Lincoln and Columbia twice in the last few weeks, trying to squeeze as much of my homework into the weeknights as I can, leaving little time for things like unpacking my boxes of books or doing something to arrange my "office," which right now looks like a junk room with piles of crap everywhere.  And, don't get me wrong, I have loved being able to go home to see everyone - especially the new baby! - but now that I know I won't be going back for a month or so, I've been getting twinges of homesickness every now and then.  (Come on, people, I'm almost 29 years old, for goodness sake.  Homesick???  I blame the baby.)  And I've been feeling sort of down about the fact that I'll be spending my birthday alone this year, for the first time ever (although, Aaron's coming down to celebrate with me next weekend). 

So, yes, I can easily say that this last month and a half or so haven't exactly been easy.  I tried soothing myself with some hot tea and a chocolate chip cookie one night this week.  It worked for a while anyway.

Which brings me back to my question.  How should one look at a situation like this?  Should I tell myself it's not so bad?  (Because, really, in the whole scheme of things, it's not awful - it just isn't great... yet.)  That it's a piece of cake to build new relationships with new people?  That I've been through difficult transitions before and I can do it again?  OR...  Do I just ACCEPT the fact that it's not easy right now?  Do I allow myself to really feel it and all of the emotions that come along with it?  Because if I trick my mind into thinking this is simple, am I robbing myself of living in the reality of the situation and, therefore, robbing future Katie of having an experience to draw from when she needs it?  Also, I don't necessarily think it is a positive thing to constantly try to trick yourself into feeling better or ignoring the not so happy feelings.  But, if I keep thinking about how un-easy this all is, will I get swamped by negative feelings and emotions, unable to see the good?  

So, back to the run...  A few blocks away from my house, as I'm seriously suffering, I come out of my cloud of thought, look up, and suddenly realize that I'm actually running downhill.  I couldn't see it before.  So, I turned on the gas, stretched out my legs, and sailed home.  And when I walked in the front door, I felt really proud of myself for making it through such a tough run, and having the guts and the energy to sprint through the finish.

What do you think?  What do YOU do when you're faced with difficult times in your life?  Do you tell yourself it's not so bad?  Or do you accept that it isn't easy and just keep pushing through until you get to the other side?  Is there a happy medium in there somewhere?

p.s.  On a VERY  positive note, it looks like Mother Nature has finally brought fall to Columbia!  Maybe it's my birthday present from her?


  1. Ugh. Watching that would ruin my morning too!

    I think you should feel it out, but stay optimistic! That is what I try to do, and I really think it's the best... write it out, run it out, let yourself feel frustrated and lonely... but then find something fun to cheer you up! Because it will get better!

    Way to make it through that tough run!

  2. Acceptance! Denying your feelings is pointless. Thinking about this led me to stumble upon this extended version of the serenity prayer:

    God, grant us the...
    Serenity to accept things we cannot change,
    Courage to change the things we can, and the
    Wisdom to know the difference
    Patience for the things that take time
    Appreciation for all that we have, and
    Tolerance for those with different struggles
    Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the
    Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the
    Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless.

    I "appreciate" the addition of appreciation in this version. It gives me a renewed perspective to list what I have to be thankful for, instead of thinking about what I don't. As for those tough runs, I've had a few lately. Somehow they get unbelievably easier when I stop thinking about how hard they are! (and use the time to appreciate life :)

  3. Embrace your feelings. Let yourself have a good cry if that's what you feel like you need...sometimes it helps and you feel so much better in the end cause you got out it all out of your system. Always remember that it WILL get better. You'll meet a lot of new and interesting people and if you haven't yet set up a Skype account...or if you have a gmail account set up the web chat on it. It helps a lot. Even though it's been years since I've lived in the same state as my sister and mom we still get to see each other at least once a week which is really nice. Having that face time {even if it's only on the computer} helps with the homesickness.

  4. I think its always good to embrace the challenges. I think its possible to feel like a situation downright stinks and is HARD, but to still see the beauty in it and know that great change and growth can come. It doesn't mean you have to put on a happy face and pretend to sail through. You can vent, moan, cry, and hate parts of the experience. Just always remember that it serves a greater purpose too and let that carry you through with a bit more peace and a lot more strength. :)

  5. Thanks everyone. What great advice! : ) You know, all in all, I'm doing ok. I just haven't gotten to the point yet where it's easy to be here. But, I have a feeling that the more time I spend in this awesome town, making it my home, the easier it will start to feel. Thanks again

  6. My dad always used to say "thoughts expand" if you think negatively, the negative will end up taking over! Think positive...and the same thing will'll be more positive and probably feel better about things! :)

    That said, I know it can be hard to adjust to new places. We should chat about my semester abroad in France! :)

  7. Thanks, Anne! : ) I like your dad's saying a lot and it is great advice for the way I've been feeling lately. I'd love to hear about your experience in France - Aaron has told me a little about it before.