Anxiety/Worry, Faith/Spirituality, Trust

Everybody just calm down…

I’ve been trying something new lately. In the morning, before I get out of bed, I put on a 6-10 minute mediation and spend some time getting mentally and spiritually prepared for the day (it doesn’t hurt that I also get to lay there for an extra few minutes…I’m a mixed bag of motives). This morning, about a minute into this practice, my time was hijacked by a persistent cat trying to claw its way into my daughter’s bedroom. It was the equivalent to a person knocking and knocking without pause. My cat, Sunny Day, is adorable and cuddly and extremely old and this morning, very annoying. I tried to continue to focus on the words of the meditation and the music and allowing God’s spirit to enlighten me, but all I kept thinking was that I wanted to strangle my cat and scream at my daughter to just let her in already! Eventually I had to quit and go open the door. It felt useless to lay there and fight it. I gave up.

Instead, I went to my spot on the couch, in an upright position (curse you, Sunny Day!) to do some reading. Per usual, as I was reading Brene’ Brown, she just happened to be addressing the importance of cultivating calm and stillness of mind and heart; meditation. I think most of us can agree that there are great benefits of doing so. Having just written a bit about just such a topic a few days ago, I was especially intrigued by something the she pointed out about one of our biggest obstacles to actually following through with this practice: fear. She points at that “if we stop long enough to create a quiet emotional clearing, the truth of our lives will invariably catch up with us. We convince ourselves that if we stay busy enough and keep moving, reality won’t be able to keep up”.

The truth is, that even though I know the importance of quieting myself and being still before my God, the very idea of “creating an emotional clearing” for Him to speak or soothe gives me much anxiety. In trying to incorporate a practice to help me less anxious, I end up feeling restless and jumpy because I so do not like to be still. Why? Because I am afraid. Afraid of what He might say if we get alone together. Afraid he might tell me to “go” do something or “stop” doing something or worse, do “nothing”. Just let Him take care of it and just chill out for a half-second.

I have a friend (and it’s probably not you, but it might sound like you) who says that when she is home alone, she turns all the TVs on because she hates it when it’s quiet. She can’t handle it. She’s terrified of silence. So as she cleans or works from room to room, her mind is consistently distracted and occupied with other people’s problems, drama, or scandal. She can focus on someone else’s junk and intentionally leave no “clearing” or space for silent reflection on her own life. I can be guilty of that in my own ways. Endlessly searching for a decent song on the radio while driving to my next appointment, 3 minutes away. Laying in bed, scrolling through Netflix to find my next new series to occupy my mind until sleep comes. Scouring websites to find an essential oil that will help me lose post-cancer weight (there isn’t one, btw…). You might be able to throw in a couple examples I haven’t even thought of!

My point is this: do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to slow down. To get un-busy. To be alone. To be quiet in your own home, in your own head. In order to do this, it is imperative that you choose to believe that God loves you, knows you and longs to just “be” there with you. God isn’t waiting to get you alone so He can shame you or lecture you. Most of us do that to ourselves pretty effectively when we slow down enough to reflect on our behavior or attitudes. But God is not like that. He is kind and gentle of heart. And though he may bring to mind a stronghold (some character defect that “holds you strong”) he wants to relieve you of, He is always gracious, generous, and forgiving. We don’t have to be nervous about being alone with Him. You may very well hear a tender whisper telling you you are OK just as you are. That who you are today is enough. That where you are today is exactly where He intends for you to be. Take it one moment at a time and He will be with you.

It occurs to me that most of my attempts at quiet reflection are similar to my time in bed this morning, with Sunny Day relentlessly pawing at my daughter’s door. Life is distracting. As they say, “the struggle is real.” We can’t control whether random thoughts, unwelcomed emotions, or self-accusations come pounding on the door of our mind when we try to shut them out. All we can do is keep getting back to the business of ignoring them and putting our energy into focusing on what we love, what we are grateful for, and that God hears and sees us. He cherishes us. In doing that, we let go of fear and embrace the “peace that passes understanding”.

In Isaiah 30:15 God says to His people, “When you come to me, you will find rest and safety. When you are quiet and trust Me, you will find strength.” Remember that we are His people too.

Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, Relationships

Myself! Myself! Myself!

I was talking with a friend a couple of days ago who has a story that rivals any memoir I have ever read about dysfunctional families. I told her she should write her own book. She basically told me, “No way! I don’t want to sit down and think about any of that on purpose!”. I get it. I know the feeling. There are some things that we would rather not reflect on intentionally. I bring this up, because although it’s minor compared to much of what I avoid thinking about, I have been avoiding writing about my follow-up story from last weeks blog entry on Hypocrisy. I am not 100% sure why, but I have been finding a lot of other, more pressing things to fill my time. I have an inkling that it is because it was exhausting and profound and difficult.

So, let’s get on with it (read the previous entry if you haven’t already, otherwise I might sound crazier than usual). Last weekend I wasn’t not planning to write. It was early morning and I was heading out of town to do some Homecoming dress shopping with my daughter and mom. I had a couple hours to get ready. I was doing my typical reading routine when the topic fell in my lap. Hypocrisy. Do I really live like I believe what I say I believe? I say God can take away my fears and worries but do I let those feelings consume me? Refer to that blog for more lovely examples of my duplicity. I mentioned, as a solution, that I can pray “God, I am feeling worried about __________, I am turning my __________ over to you.” That’s practical. I can try that. That would help me at the very least, turn my attention to Someone more powerful than me who can actually help. I made a promise to put this in to practice in the future.

The curious thing about the future, is that it starts immediately. And so it did. Almost as soon as I posted my entry, I checked my emails. I saw one that scared me to death. My mind went in to full “figure it out” mode and my brain started spinning information around and around. It was fear mixed with worry mixed with a terrible sense of being powerless and having no control. And the (potential) consequences were huge. Of course, my head went to the worst case scenario and I literally felt sick and distracted and panicked. I have never had such an intense physical reaction to “information.”

But then….I remembered what I say I believe. And what I had just written. I had no choice. I had to practice what I preached if I could look any of you in face ever again. I knew I had an entire day to spend with two of my favorite people doing something fun and significant. I didn’t want to let my fear and worry of what might happen in the future hijack my serenity for the whole day. I have most definitely done that before, with deep regret. So I reviewed the first 3 steps of Recovery in my head. I have heard them summed up like this:

Step One: I CAN’T
Step Two: GOD CAN
Step Three: I THINK I’LL LET HIM

This became my mantra for the day. I said it out-loud and in my head at least 1,000 times. It would be lovely if once would cut it, but my tendency is to turn it over and take it back, turn it over and take it back. I find it amusing, and telling, that about half of those 1,000 recitations came out backwards the first time around. I would attempt to say it and I would say, “I can.  Wait, no, I mean, I can’t.” I just so badly want to think I can. I Can fix it. I can control it. I can change it. I can solve it.

When my oldest son was about 2 we took a swim class together. It was torture, for both of us. He couldn’t swim-at all-but he developed his own little mantra that echoed in the kiddie pool area for the entire lesson: “My-self My-self My-self!” He wanted me to let him down even though he couldn’t swim or touch. I knew this but he was not believing any of it. He was convinced he would be safe. I was just holding him back from success in his two-year-old mind.

This is my typical reaction to God when things get stressful. “My-self! My-self! My-self!” It’s a dangerous and naive reaction. But I have to tell you, that last Saturday, when stress and anxiety threatened my serenity and ability to be fully present with people I loved, I tried doing the opposite. And it worked. I still felt fear sneaking up on me throughout the day, beckoning me to jump in with both feet, but I chose differently. I chose to trust Him. I repeated “I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let Him” until I climbed into bed that night and throughout the weekend. The situation was not and is not “fixed”, but my fears are diminished and I am not frozen with dread (does this happen to anyone else?).

I am determined to continue this practice of living as an Anti-Hypocrite. It’s much more palatable and will look much better on a T-shirt.