One thing I have learned about myself is that I am not as strong as I always thought I was. Many millions of people have had lives filled with suffering and pain, experiences that are objectively horrible. My life, in comparison, has been a breeze. But in these tricky times I have struggled to keep it together.
When I was a kid I felt invincible. Even after my family fell apart and my mother put me on the street and proceeded to drink herself to death, I seemed to take it light. I always had hope for the future and, if not a clear vision of what I wanted to do and be, at least I had an understanding that it was all going to be OK. So I could relax and shrug off whatever circumstance I happened to find myself in. Life was a lot of fun then, even though some not great things happened.
Now, my circumstances are not too bad. I have a good life. I am loved and I have everything I need. But I am feeling a crushing anxiety over what might come, an anxiety that comes out of nowhere and grips me tightly, refusing to let go. Prayer, breathing, relaxation, stretches, positive thinking, nutritional supplements, getting more sleep, nothing seems to help. So I tell myself, this must be happening for a purpose, and that seems to help me a bit. “God has not given us a spirit of fear,” I say to myself, over and over again. “For such a time as this,” I think. And in the moment, it can help.
There’s a particular place under my ribs, over my stomach, something to do with my diaphragm, that seizes up painfully when I am anxious. It tangles itself into a hardened mass and stops digestion. It burns and cramps. I clench up the muscles there and I don’t even realize I am doing it. Still, when I have a stomach ache the origins are clear: like a dandelion bent over by the winds, my fragile heart is concerned again. But over exactly what?
Ah, and there’s the rub. I have no idea what I am worried about. It’s vague, future-oriented, waiting for the other shoe to drop kind of stuff. My head is war-gaming and my heart doesn’t like that. I have no control over what the movers and shakers of this planet decide to do with their power and I know that they do not have my best interests in mind.
On top of all that, I’m getting to an age where people can start dying just because and that can feel like skipping through land mines. No thank you, Lord, I’m not interested in checking out yet. I want to stay for the entire ride. I want to watch my grandchildren grow up and I want to make a difference in the lives of the people I love.
And as I sit here and write this out, I have an aha moment. I’m really at cross-purposes with myself, if I continue to worry about what’s going on while still wanting to walk through it all no matter what. If I stress myself to death, I won’t be here until the very end – I’ll be checking out early. And I’m not a checking-out early kind of person.
Somehow I have to get back to the youthful me, the one who didn’t feel responsible for anything, who could breeze through life fearlessly, trusting in hope, optimistic for the future. Where is that girl? Lord help me to find her again.