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When Running Is Futile and Giving Brings the Joy Back

I have been feeling it all week -- like a balloon expanding far past its limit. It pushes on my chest and squeezes my lungs. Stress. Anxiety. Tension. It is eating away at me from the inside out.

I was able to hide it at first, putting my game face on to face the world. But today: it all came bursting out in a torrent of words and feelings. Emotions -- much bigger than I could contain. And I felt the wind being knocked out of me, the air leave in a rush. I felt that feeling of deflation. Busting wide open.

And I just couldn't get it all back together again -- couldn't contain it in time for the real world to happen at exactly 8:35 a.m. Sometimes we're not ready to move forward but we take that first step anyway. That first step forward in the right direction.

I am leaving the house in a flurry. Ponytail flying from behind while I carry coffee mugs and bags, over-filled with hats and gloves and jewellery and snacks, lunch and papers. Reams and reams of papers. And goodness knows what all else.

Is there ever any end to the insanity?

And now I'm just running. In my black buckled high-heel boots. The ones with the black shoe polish, a quick fix. Silver necklace swinging like a pendulum. And while I run, I am just steaming. STEAMING. Anger pouring out from every fiber. The end result of so many missed opportunities, missed connections. The final straw that broke the camel's back, a combination of so many abrupted attempts to get things done. I can hardly even think. So I don't. I just let the steam flow profusely out my ears. And I don't look back again as I run, other than to throw my hand behind me to check that the door knob is safely secured. And then, I run as if my life depended on it.

This is me: I hit the ground running at break of day. And I don't stop running until I hit the pillow at day's end. I run to the shower. I run up the stairs. I run down. I run from room to room. I run out the door. I run to the school. It is all I can do to NOT run down the halls. And while I may not be running at school, my mind is racing. What does this one need? And that one? And what was I suppose to do again on my prep, my recess, my lunch?

I run back into the house at end of day. Race around the kitchen getting supper underway. Run out the door. Off to soccer, piano, Kid's Club. Who knows...I am running, and that is all I know some nights.

And sometimes the cycle just starts to spin and spin and spin- until I feel like I am being sucked into the center of a vortex, an endless, smothering vacuum.

I felt that stress today bearing down on me. I could feel its pressure on my chest, my back and head.

I was standing at the door when I saw him. The Boy in my classroom. I had already intervened about five times to remind little ones where they should be sitting. I was tiring of the reminders and just about to wonder if there was any point when he did it: when he high-fived the palm of my busy, little sprinter.

He high-fived his little friend the Sprinter, the one who couldn't sit still in his chair even for the five minutes allotted for his snack. For truly, his little friend certainly hadn't heeded any of my nagging pleas. The Boy high-fived him. Blew my socks off- blew me right out of the water: "Good sitting," he said to his friend. "High five!"

And I felt it then: a well breaking deep within. Some kind of release from down inside my soul. Because The Boy had achieved what I had not with just a simple gesture. He had achieved what I had not with a generous dose of kindness.

The greatest antidote to stress is a perspective shift. When we can see outside of the world we live in and realize that there is more to the narrow box within which we have locked ourselves. Within which we are confined. When we can see that there is something beyond our troubles. That there is more than the messy 'here and now'. When we can see that life is a composite of 'what we've been given' and 'what we make with that precious, wonderful gift'. When we can see with eyes wide open.

When we can truly SEE.

We realize: life is exquisitely beautiful. It is raw beauty and heady wonder mixed with a generous dose of heartache, pain and trouble. It is a perfectly imperfect combination of hope and wonder and awe. Truth: life might be hard, but it is doable. It is possible. It's not hopeless. It's just not.

You know, after the Boy reached out his sweet little five-year old hand to touch the palm of his busy little friend- the one having trouble sitting still, as per my teacher-ly expectation: suddenly I started to see things clearer. And I realized: I can do this. I can smile. I can laugh- even when I feel like crying. I can encourage, even though I feel myself getting discouraged. I can offer grace. I can love. I can give.

I can always give something.

And that's just it: in giving, I have felt that aching, troublesome burden lifting. In giving hugs. In wiping tears. In offering gratitude. In exuding praise. In holding close. In love, I can offer much.

In giving, my burdens are lifted.

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