Something I am realizing as I get older is that it is quite possible that even though my skin is sagging and my hair is a bit more silver, my insides might always remain about twelve—as in twelve years old. I remember being twenty and anticipating the day I turned 30. How I would finally arrive and have the wisdom of Billy Graham and the grace of Jackie Kennedy. I just knew it. Let’s just say my 30th birthday was a little disappointing.
Now I am, um, much older than 30. And my insides are lagging far behind my outsides. So, my conclusion is that I might never grow out of some of my struggles with worry, control, self-consciousness, pride, or moodiness.
However, the one thing I can say for my decades of battling with my mind and heart and will, is that the tools I have found to remedy those broken areas have indeed improved. Let me tell you about one of them I have found to battle an obsessive, worried brain. It’s actually not something new I learned, it’s just something I finally tried.
It started this summer (I’m a slow learner). I was awake in my bed, having rolling anger fantasies about a person. I certainly couldn’t sleep for all the obsessing going on about what they had done and how it had affected me. My mind was like a tornado–chaotic and powerful and deadly.
And then the “Heather version” of a scripture came peeking around the corner of the crazy: “Whatever is good, whatever is lovely, think about these things.” I knew there was more to it than that, but this is all I could do from memory. So I tried it.
We had been at the fair all day so that was fresh in my mind. I distinctly remember thinking, “baby pigs are good and lovely. Horses are good and lovely. Funnel cakes are good and lovely. Lemon shake-ups are good and lovely. Fried candy bars are good and lovely.” And so on and so forth. When I ran out of gratitude for components at the fair, I switched to things I could see around me. “My bed is good and lovely. My car, my yard, my hot tub, my kids, my cats, are all very good and lovely.” This went on for a long time, until my mind could come in for a landing and let me fall asleep.
This past week I have woken up in the night on a few different days, panicky and overwhelmed with everything I have to do the next day or about ways I have fallen short the day before. My fear and anxiety over all the people I can’t control (specifically, my kids: their friends, their grades, their jobs, their money management, whether they know how much I love them, whether I have damaged them in ways they will blame me for later on, whether I am tough enough or too lenient) and situations I am trying to manage (in real estate, in my writing, it my ambitions).
Whether I have a teensy bit of power to do anything about these areas is questionable, but doing anything about it from my bed at 2:00 am is not. I know my limitations. I’m not a complete idiot.
This morning, after a night of playing the “Good and Lovely” game, I decided to look up the actual verse. It’s from Philippians 4:8. A guy named Paul is encouraging people to keep their minds right. The entire verse goes like this: “Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” I didn’t ever remember until I read the previous part of the passage that these instructions were given as the solution to a problem that they must have been battling: anxiety.
Well, what do you know. I am not the only one? People have struggled with this for thousands of years? Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And God’s unfathomable peace will follow.” I am just about done (though I still try really hard, occasionally) lamenting my tendency to become a hot mess of worry and fear and anxiety. But there are solutions if I choose to implement them. And in my case, I will continue to work on mastering the “Good and Lovely” game as if I were preparing for the Olympics.