Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Friendship Heals

A new UCLA study suggests women cope with stress differently than men. Apparently the previous research, which cited a "fight or flight" response to stress, used men for nearly 90% of their study participants. New information on brain function indicates a woman's hormones actually block the fight or flight response, and instead encourage her to tend children and gather with other women when stressed. This nurturing and bonding causes the release of calming hormones. Some suspect this is why women consistently outlive men.

These results sure ring true. When I'm stressed, talking out all the issues and feelings with a close friend does make me feel better. And when I say "all the issues," I mean every last detail. Better allow at least two hours for that lunch date. I have several friends who are good listeners, and keep confidences. I don't know how I would have gotten through some of my tough times without them. I in turn check in to see how they're doing, and make time for them, too.

But when I'm really hurting, sometimes I just want to curl-up and hole-in. My mind fogs and I feel too weak to reach out and connect. In these times I pour out my soul to my best friend, Jesus. He not only hears my moans, but can affect my circumstances and change the hearts of those involved, including mine. We can give God our burdens, knowing He will lovingly guide us through.

Sometimes scientific research only affirms what we instinctively know. Still, it's helpful to see how God made our bodies to cope. I want to do all I can to stimulate those calming hormones. The next time I feel stressed, I'll drink the whole glass of God's loving provision by seeking out the friends He's given me, and entering into His presence where I find peace and rest. How about you?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Editing Life

"Kris, my mother loved me after all." My friend's face beamed. She went on to explain that her mother had criticized her all her life. At the writer's conference we were attending, she realized her mother was an editor, not pointing out faults out of disdain, but trying to make corrections for her benefit. Good news for my friend, but it made me think about my own perfectionism, and its influence on my daughters.

Later, a publishing editor commented on his wife's misfortune in being married to an editor, because he always focuses on problems. Now this really hit home. How did my perfectionism affect my marriage?

When my husband tells me about his work projects, I frequently give suggestions on alternate ways to do things. I think I'm helping, and ocassionally I am. But sometimes he responds in anger. At first I thought he just wanted to do things his way, but now I see he takes my comments as criticism. He feels I'm questioning his personal competence.

I love editing. My skill in catching typos and missed punctuation marks is greatly appreciated in my writer's critique group. But when I try to micromanage my husband's work, sparks fly. We both get upset, and both get our feelings hurt. Few things in life get my emotions down like a fight with my beloved. This pain goes deep to my core.

But I can prevent this emotional turmoil. I can change my ways and stop trying to perfect every detail my husband shares with me. I'm making an effort to let go and let him do his thing. He sees the big picture, and the little changes I would make don't make a significant difference, anyway. I'm letting him handle his problems, and practicing being content with things his way.

More than that, I'm choosing to adjust my tongue. Instead of suggestions, I'm doling out compliments. Instead of telling him what I think he should do, I'm telling him how much I appreciate what he does. This is easy. He's a very hard worker. I could never accomplish all he does. I'm extremely thankful to have such a talented, diligent husband, and I need to tell him so more often.

Editing is essential to good writing, but not so much in life. I'm learning that perfectionism, when focused on others, is sometimes received as criticism or rejection. The resulting angst hurts everyone. I want to prevent this emotional drama in my life by lightening up on details and focusing on the good, like God does with me.