Monday, September 29, 2014

Dear Anxiety (A Conversation with Anxiety)



      
In mid-August, the sudden onset of severe panic attacks landed me in the hospital for several days.  Since then I've continued to struggle with generalized anxiety, although medication is helping.  Walking through this experience I continue to reflect and wonder about the roll of anxiety in my life.  This post is a result of some of that work. 
 
        After the hours of careful listening, my therapist offered 
        an image that helped me, eventually to reclaim my life. 
        "You seem to look upon depression as the hand of an 
        enemy trying to crush you,” he said.  “Do you think you 
        could see it instead as the hand of a friend, pressing you 
        down to ground on which it is safe to stand?”

        Amid the assaults I was suffering, the suggestion that 
        depression was my friend seemed impossibly romantic, 
        even insulting. But something in me knew that down, to 
        the ground, was the direction of wholeness for me, and 
        something in me allowed that image to begin its slow 
        work of healing. - Parker Palmer in "Let Your Life Speak: 
        Listening for the Voice of Vocation"


Dear Anxiety:

I don’t want to talk to you, deal with you, or look you directly in the eye.  The fact is, at this point, I’m scared of you.

But I also realize that you are nothing.  You are absence, the open, empty space between.  Or maybe that’s just where you dwell, like a dark shadow creeping through cracks, the chill winter wind finding its way in, always.  

That’s where we’ve met most often – as I step from one thing to the next, you rise up in the pause between inhale and exhale, in the moment between departure and arrival.  I learned a long time ago to watch for you, warily, in times of transition.  On occasion I’ve fended you off, outwitted you and though you stalked, I felt no fear. 

Maybe that’s because, in those times, I know the game’s afoot and I accept you as part of the process, the way shadows and deepening night are not their own phenomena, but are only an indication of the earth's movement in relation to the sun.   

Enough, though, you’re here and you know how you work, I don’t need to explain it to you.  Have your piece, will you?  What is it you’re trying to say?

//

Anxiety's Reply
 
I saw you, dear one, hanging like a spider on its silken thread, blown by the slightest wind as you journeyed.  Hang on!  I wanted to shout.  Be careful!  Take ease! Your soul is in transition.  Though your outward life is settled, your soul is undergoing a transformation.  

It was as though the ground shook and you did not notice, as though the sun was blinded and you continued walking, unaware. 
 
I became afraid for you.  I saw the chasm between what was and the destination – what will be – seemed but a blurr.  I tried to wake you up to the danger, but you shut me out, pushed me down, so I cried out louder, Be careful!  Take care!  Your soul is in transition!

Forgive me, please, I only wanted your attention.  

I only wanted you to slow down, to rest.  

I was afraid for you. 

I did not mean to frighten you.

//

My reply:

I see.

You're here because I'm again passing through the valley of the shadow of death on my way to new life, but I was unaware.     

I hear you.  I will listen.

Let us both lay down now, here in the grass, here where the earth beneath us is solid or there on the living room floor where the old oak holds steady.  

Let us sit awhile in silence . . . 

Yes, my friend, my soul is in transition and you are here with me as I cross the great divide.  Let us hold hands, shall we?  And lying here, let us remember that we are held, for though you creep in through cracks and empty spaces, so also does the light.  

I was afraid because I thought you were the voice of darkness and behind you I sensed the deepening night of fear itself.  Maybe you also thought the same.  I can see now that you are but a mist, a fog, and behind you also dwells the light.   

Darkness is nothing but the absence of light, fear is nothing but the absence of love. But love endures forever, there is no absence, only waxing and waning in our awareness as we travel.  

Love endures forever.

Don’t worry, I will remind you of that.  

I hear you.  I will rest, let us lay here together for awhile as we rest in love.  

I will not miss you when you depart, anxiety, but while you are here, let us be friends.  Let us converse about our fears, about the shadows and spaces between, but let us rest also in the love that is always, always breaking through.  
This post is linked with Playdates with God hosted by Laura Boggess who's lovely book Playdates With God: Having Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World is now available for pre-order on Amazon.  Also linking with Unforced Rhythms.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Harvest (I want to be home when the combine comes)

Photo Source: HERE.


The neighbor’s dog killed
our kitten.  He’s an old
speckled hunting hound
who hobbles painfully
through a large fenced yard.
Our kids feed him handfuls
of bone shaped biscuits
through the fence
and run back and forth
calling his name. 

The kitten, slender and spry,
climbed the fence, curious,
and the old dog found
youth coursing through his
veins.  It was quick, they said, 
she didn’t comprehend the threat, 
he acted on training and instinct. 

The daycare children who played
nearby watched it all go down.
Crying, they were hurried
inside, to where the classroom bunny
sat safe in its cage. 
We weren’t home at the time. 

Later, when I sat in the grass snacking
with my boys, the neighbor called me
over to break the news.  We stood there
on opposite sides talking for a long time, 
our conversation divided by the fence.
He was apologetic, I was trying to figure
out what to tell the kids. 
“I didn’t think he still had it
in him,” my elderly neighbor observed.

We talked, as usual, about the woman
who owned this house before us - 
born here and died here at the age of ninety-seven -
and about the neighbor's own twin brother, a monk
in his seventies still making plans to teach overseas. 

The cat was handed back
over the fence, stiff and oddly heavy
in a plastic bag.  I put her in a box,
then went to wait for the school bus
to crest the hill, delivering
my happy children back home to me. 

//

The farmer has started cutting down
the dried brown corn that shines golden
when the sun hits just right.  Any day now
the field across the street will be empty
again.  The harvest feels like an inevitable 
end, the cutting down of it all and already 
I feel a sense of anticipatory loss.

I want to be home when the combine comes,
to witness the transformation.  Then 
there will be the long wait of winter
before seeds are sown in the quiet earth
and green shoots break through again. 

This is our sweet Tiger who loved to curl up and nap in my Asparagus fern.

Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory.

Monday, September 22, 2014

For My Tall, Slender and Serious Daughter (Trust Yourself)




This week I'm honored to be guest posting over at Kelli Woodford's place, Chronicles of Grace.  Every week I help her and a handful of other writers host the Unforced Rhythms linkup.  Click over there at the end of this post to continue reading and visit other posts in the linkup.  

He’s a heavyset, gray-haired man, short and jovial who honed in on my daughter, tall, slender and serious.

“Smile!” he commanded and she obeyed.

Standing nearby I was overcome with a strong desire to whack that man, not really, but just mostly in that mama-bear, leave-my-kid-alone-kind-of-way. 

I too was a tall, slender and serious girl.  I cannot tell you the number of times men, mostly in passing, reminded me to smile. 

“Smile!” they’d say, passing me in the mall, in the college lunch line where I worked, on the street.

Sometimes it felt like a harmless flirtation, but underneath all of those commands to change the way my face looked, I got the message that it wasn’t ok to be me.  To be a woman, young or old, who rests serene in her own quiet seriousness is to shirk cultural expectations of the bubbly, giggly girl who lights up the world around her with her pearly whites. 

//

I took my daughter to the Dr. this week after she’d suffered through a baffling array of symptoms.  Was it allergies, a cold, a stomach bug, Strep?  We had no idea. 

She sat alone on the high examining table wrapped in a paper gown while the Dr. tried to puzzle things out.  Every time we visit the Dr. she worries about needing a strep test.  She hates the test, gags every time and occasionally vomits on whoever happens to be administering it. 

Finally the dreaded moment came and her eyes grew wide, as if to say, “Really, Mom? This again?”

To continue reading, follow me over to Kelli Woodford's place where you can read more posts in the Unforced Rhythms link-up and leave a comment. See you over there!