How long does it take to heal? I’m not sure, but I think we have made a tiny start on Hays Hill.

Part of the family came to visit after a five-month in-person absence. My heart and my spirits lifted immediately. The reasons for the time away were as complicated as the times these days but mostly centered around the fear of transmitting Covid to me. Somehow, in our upside-down-world, staying away protected Grandma. Instead, that absence had added to my feeling off-balance.

It didn’t matter that we were masked and distancing. They were here in front of me. That’s what mattered most. We caught up with our news, shared our pizza and the gang completed the chore list I had prepared. I loved every minute and definitely felt better.

My namesake is a senior this year, full of plans and hopes. The three younger ones are all sophomores, caught up in the business of growing up. A family move and a new school has complicated schedules, but they are coping, and that is a lesson for me. Changes can be discombobulating for a while, but we can always get our balance back.

Those of you who know me well are aware that “balance” is an important part of my life. I am at the stage of believing and following the motto: “Go slowly and hang on.” I don’t want to fall. Recent national events have affected my emotional balance in much the same way, and I utilize safeguards for that, too. I just haven’t come up with an appropriate slogan yet.

We who have studied human behavior are aware that depression and anxiety are the most common causes of behavioral problems in our society. They account for much of the anger and acting-out we see today in refusals to wear masks or in causing mindless mayhem. The remedy lies in those persons becoming aware of what they really want, how to obtain it and how to credit themselves for accomplishment.

It is easier to cope with stressful events that are expected. It’s those that surprise us and appear to catch us without our usual supports that cause the problems. They are inherently stressful.

This is a time of such events. There is the pandemic, the financial uncertainty, role overloads in families, violence in our society and uncertainty in our governance. They are traumatic, and we can find it difficult to cope. Ordinary life transitions tax us; the extraordinary can overwhelm us. To prevent that, we need a solid sense of who and what we are. That can seem impossible when chaos is all around us.

We can learn to cope, though. We can believe in our own power to do, to act and even to effect. We start by expanding our choices and recognizing that our anger saps our energy. We stop stuffing that anger by blaming, manipulating and complaining. We practice stating what we think and feel clearly, simply and directly and we observe boundaries with others.

We learn to nurture ourselves and find meaningfulness in small ways, maybe even in nurturing others or volunteering for causes that do good. Returning to a central issue, we try to balance independence with interdependence, increasing our sense of competence and identity and healing.

Margaret Hays is a longtime Osawatomie resident who writes a weekly column for The Miami County Republic.

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