guys, I’m in my 30’s

I am recently returned to civilization after a long weekend spent camping up in the mountains of southwest Colorado. At more than 9000 feet, it was cold, especially at night or when it rained, which was pretty much all of the time. I think I am reaching the point of my life where I am definitely too old for this shit, because we cut our trip short by a day and I am still trying to recover from the whole ordeal, especially in terms of catching up on sleep.

Molas

I returned to work Wednesday, expecting to settle back into my routine and to do so without a fuss. But about 15 minutes after settling in at my desk, my supervisor asked me to meet with her in the conference room. My first thought was that I was in trouble and then my second thought was that she was probably just going to catch me up on whatever announcements I had missed by having the previous day off and so was unable to attend the team meeting.

But it was neither of those things.

She started with a comment about how we had talked in my last one-on-one meeting with her that I wasn’t destined to remain on her team for long. The follow up was that I had been moved to another team and another process. Effective almost immediately, because a person on that process was moving to another position within the university.

My first reaction was to be flattered, because come on. I’ve been there two months. I am not even off my three month probation and they want to freaking promote me and hand me a raise. Not a small raise as I found out a day later. A $2/hour raise, bringing me back up to what I had been making at my previous job, only including benefits and really freaking good benefits at that. It’s a financial win all around.

But. But. HOWEVER.

I’ve been working the new process for a few days now and not only do I think I will quickly grow bored with only dealing with one thing, but I think I will hate, hate, HATE dealing with that one thing for any length of time.

They’ve put me on readmissions, so it’s basically my job to look at anyone looking to come back to one of the four colleges we have, and decide whether to approve, conditionally approve, or flat out deny them re-entry. A previous version of myself might have relished the chance to have that kind of power, but the current me, who has felt so called to love even the least worthy because that is what my God does, is sick over it. I cannot be making these decisions. I have no idea where the lines between mercy and judgment lie these days.

In fact, for the last month, this song has been stuck in my head non-stop. Which is weird for me, because it has nothing to do with me and my struggles with anxiety, so there you go. It’s been a place outside of myself and my selfish ways.

At the same time, I am recalled to how I felt when I first was offered this job, like I was being specifically granted favor for a purpose. And now I am being given even more favor. For the first time in my life, I have been promoted based off my merits and performance. And I am in my 30’s y’all. And I have never been a slacker.

So perhaps this is where I am meant to be. Perhaps this is what I am meant to be doing. Perhaps I have been granted this favor for a reason.

I have no idea.

I only know that it’s the weekend and I am so afraid to go into work on Monday, because I know they are going to demand I do some part of this new job at some point that day. I know I don’t feel ready, no matter how well I’ve already mastered the process so far as the technical “click this thing and then this thing and also this box” process is concerned.

So here I am, crying about a promotion and a raise when I feel I ought to be happy, but instead feeling sick. Perhaps this is the very first of all first world problems, but I don’t think I want this, not if it’s going to be so much anxiety and stress for so little reward. On the other hand, there’s a chance I can take my new heart for mercy and apply it to people who wouldn’t otherwise get the chance. I have no idea.

Here’s where I am though. Please send help. Or prayers. Or the force. Whatever you want, really.

of excess and roommates

Have you ever read a book that sort of ruined your life?

I did recently, and I blame book club. A few months ago, we read a book called “For the Love,” and it was okay. Not life changing or life ruining, but funny enough that when I was at the library and saw another book by the same author (7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess , by Jen Hatmaker), I thought sure, why not? and checked it out.

Since At and I have been going to work together and since I can’t stand to watch him navigate the rush hour traffic, I decided that reading to him aloud made good sense, and so decided to tackle 7 first.

The premise of 7 is simple enough. It’s about – well, mutinying against excess – in a time and a country when consuming is the order of the day. Not all of it made perfect sense to me, I’ll admit, and neither did all of the seven things that the author chose to reduce resonate, but overall? Yeah. It made me really stop and think about the ways in which I contribute to the problem and not the solutions.

It has touched off a lot of discussion between At and myself, mostly about our house. You see, not that long ago, I was hardly batting an eyelash over the fact that the two of us – plus two cats – have a 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom, 2600 sq. ft. monstrosity to call our own.1

It’s ridiculous.

I started batting my eyelashes over the size of my house a little more than a year ago, when I went to the UK, and got an idea of what living space can be like when one doesn’t have all the elbow room that we’re blessed with in America. Meeting a newly married couple who were so happy about their 400 year old house with the refrigerator tucked in a closet under the stairs gave me a bit of a pause regarding my attitude towards my 10 year old house with the refrigerator in my kitchen that I’m confidant wouldn’t fit through any of their doorways.

Sitting outside a cottage in Wales and feeling all the sheer perfection of that place, I told my husband that we needed to sell the house when we got back home. Sell the house, have a smaller mortgage payment and travel more. All the stuff I possessed back home was nothing to the experience I was having.

Obviously, we didn’t sell the house, since I’m still sitting around feeling appalled that we own it. In fact, we’ve spent the last year pouring a lot of time and effort into making it nicer and making it our own.

But reading 7, as I said, rather rekindled all my feelings about owning it in the first place. During one of the many conversations we’ve had since reading the book, my husband proposed that we might consider a roommate since we have the space and it could be a chance to minister to someone.

“Well,” I objected immediately, “God would have to make it pretty damn obvious that we were supposed to have a roommate in the first place. It couldn’t be just anyone and I am not going to put out an ad looking for some random stranger to come live in my basement. I will basically need this to be dropped in my lap.”

And that night? God dropped a roommate in my life.

We had a friend over for dinner and during the course of conversation, he mentioned that he was needing to find a new place to live. His landlady was jacking up his rent and he didn’t have the space where he was to really work on retrofitting his bus to make it into an RV anyway.

Glances were exchanged. I was heard to mutter, “It didn’t need to be that obvious!” to no one in particular. An agreement was made.

This was all about a month ago, and you guys, I am not going to lie. I’ve been having a tough time with the whole thing.

The new roommate is super chatty. I want to be left alone. The new roommate is of a certain generation where the general feeling is that if there’s a woman in the house, she is in charge of all the cooking and cleaning. I say, “Oh, hell no,” to that notion. The new roommate talks over the television shows when I’m watching something. I am biting my tongue more than I would like.

And I am convicted all over again, because I am not loving a friend any better than I am loving shitty drivers.

But I don’t question that this is the right thing to do. It absolutely is, and not least of all because it is challenging to me and is making me deal with my failings.

The really scary thing to me is that this morning, out of nowhere, I was thinking about another friend and it occurred to me basically out of nowhere that once the current roommate is gone, it might be good timing for offering my home up to this other person.

I have no idea if that is something this friend even needs or why I thought of this as it relates to them or why I’m looking ahead to new roommates when I’m having such a hard time with the current one.

All I know is that I blame 7. And God.

  1. I feel like my European friends may have just died a little at that admission.

memoir

Without getting too much into the details of it, I’ve started to write something like a memoir. It began as a defense against a really bad day last week, where my anxiety spiked for reasons I still don’t comprehend. I have no idea what triggered it. I just know it was bad.

Writing helped, and it’s been interesting to me to start to put everything down on paper, to try to pin things down and dissect them and to look back to see how and when and where things went so wrong and then so right.

Because that’s been taking what little writing time I have, I thought I would start to share it here. I think all three of my readers have an idea of the journey I’ve been on, but I am still curious. For those willing to give feedback, do you find this compelling in the slightest or is it narcissistic in the extreme?

Be honest!

xoxo

-Alas


As I begin this draft, I’m not certain it’s a good idea. I think I’ve been building for some time towards writing about the past 19 months and what little I’ve learned along the way. I suppose I do so partly out of a need to make more sense of it all myself, but also with some thought towards the possibility that somehow, someday, my own journey might be of some use to some other benighted soul who is engaged in the same struggle that I have been: anxiety.

I suppose I’ve always had the tendency to worry about things that have been wholly out of my control. I’ve always had a touch of the hypochondriac about me. In retrospect, it seems obvious that some thirty odd years of cultivating those seeds was destined to lead to a bumper crop of issues. I only ever needed the exact wrong conditions to push it from the manageable but annoying tendency to forecast worst case scenarios at the slightest provocation – forecast, but not truly believe – to have it become something that is not only out of my control but which also tends to control me. Now do I not only absolutely believe that the worst case scenario is going to happen, I believe it against all logic, reason and previous experience.

It’s exhausting.

So I’m tired and angry as I write this. Tired because I feel defeated after more than a year and a half of anxiety defining my days as either good, bad or Really Bad. Angry because I’ve always tried to let logic rule over my thought processes and how I view the world, but all the logical thinking in the world does piss all when I’m in the grip of irrational fear. I know that it’s right there in the adjective I’ve chosen that this fear is not rational, but I still feel I should be able to talk sanely to myself and just stop freaking out that I’ve suddenly developed an allergy to eggs where none has ever existed before and so the breakfast my husband lovingly made me isn’t going to actually be the thing that kills me.

Things that also probably won’t be the thing to kill me but which I totally lose my shit over anyway include going to the airport, sitting in a crowded theater, yogurt and that one time a red ant bit my foot. Which was nine months ago, but I remain vigilant! Against my will and against all reason, I remain vigilant.

The day on which I decided to start writing all of this down was a Really Bad Day. One of the (thankfully) increasingly rare ones, where I’m not even sure what triggered the massive amounts of panic and so I have even fewer ways to try to deal with it. At least when I know what the underlying issue is, I can talk to my husband and together we can talk about how unlikely it really is that I have throat cancer. When I just feel panic and my body goes in flight mode but I have nothing to flee from exactly, it gets a bit more tricky. Generally speaking, on days like today, I flee in various ways until I’m too exhausted physically, mentally or emotionally to do anything other than shut down in some gruesome sort of surrender, where it becomes all about endurance.

If I can get through this minute, and then the next, and maybe through the day and then the night…. I just might make it.

Anxiety is the thunderstorm that rolls suddenly and violently over the landscape of my days. Those torrential downpours and even weeks of persistent drizzle have changed the contours of my life, to the point where I don’t recognize any of my personal landmarks most days. I have been flooded and battered by these waters, unfamiliar, cold and dark.

I am not an optimist. Anyone who knows me would attest to it. Probably loudly and at length.

But here’s the secret about my anxiety: It has had one profoundly positive impact on my life, even among all the destruction and devastation that it has wrought. It has been, to paraphrase Charles Spurgeon, “the wave that has dashed me against the Rock of Ages.” I have learned to kiss it, after my own fashion, even as I yearn for a life free from that pounding surf.

Having rediscovered the safety of that Rock, unyielding to the fury of the ocean storm, and steady under my feet as the firmest of foundations, I keep asking that this trial might reach its end. I have learned my lesson, God. I am lost without You. If I promise to follow You faithfully for all my days, will You make me sane again?

God doesn’t bargain like that.

But He leads me on, and I follow.

busy

Oh jeeze. I did not mean to let that long lapse between posts happen.

I blame real life in general and my new job in particular. Well, I suppose I’ve been making choices in my personal life that have also contributed to the not writing, but it’s mostly work y’all. For real.

It started out like all new jobs do: Information Overload. And the more complex a job, I’ve noticed, the more overload there is. So in a way, I am very grateful indeed that I’m a week and a half in and still come home feeling like my head is about to burst. I should be challenged for some time to come, especially since so far I’ve only been taught a very tiny portion of what there is to learn.

I’m working in the Records Department for a university, and it’s not your run of the mill university. They’re all online, all at your own pace and accredited to the hilt. Also, they don’t run on artificial schedules, so when a student comes on for a term, it’s for 6 months and it starts whenever the first of the next month is. Also, there are somewhere between 60,000-70,000 students. I mean damn.

This makes life interesting in Records, to put it mildly!

So far, they have me posting grades for students in the Business and IT Colleges, which are two of the four colleges there are (nursing and teaching are the other two), and the ones with the easiest to comprehend rules for posting scores. The way it works is that the student will email the department email with their official score report and that will open a “ticket” basically, which will be dumped into a queue, where someone on the team will grab it, check to make sure everything is good from the quality of the document(s) submitted to there not being extra tickets floating around for the same thing (these students get antsy, yo) to making sure the  course the assessment is for is actually showing up in that student’s courses for the terms. If everything is a go, we post the score, pass or fail. So, you know, kind of deeply important work to all these people working on their education.

Eventually, I’ll move beyond posting grades and into other things that have to do with Records, like name/gender changes, getting transcripts out to other entities and I have no idea what else, but probably a little bit of everything from initial enrollment to graduation.

Anyhow, that’s the essence of it. I’m on a team of introverts, so haven’t gotten to really know anyone yet, but I have a feeling if we find common ground outside of work tasks, we’ll click along nicely.

All in all I’m optimistic. And tired. And my brain is super tired. Here’s hoping I’ll have the hang of my job in 6 months when I’ll qualify for a discount on tuition!

barn door diy

Ever since we moved into our house a bit more than a year ago and realized that we wouldn’t be able to knock the wall between the front room and the rest of the main floor down, I’ve wanted to get a barn door put in. This desire reached something of a fever pitch once we got the cats and it became my life’s work to keep an eye on them so that I could get them trained on which surface were and were not appropriate for them to be on1.

The husband was not on board until just recently, when I was finally able to explain to him my desire that it be something of a work of art in its own right, and not just an elaborate means to herd the cats out of rooms where I don’t want them.

Once I finally had him caught up to my vision of the thing, he became very enthusiastic. Squabbles ensued as we debated what, exactly, we were going to do to make it beautiful. That we would burn something into the door was not up for question. Which images we would use totally was. I was initially in favor of using either some elaborate Celtic knotwork or the Aperture Science logo, as either of those things would fit with the existing decor2. The husband said no, we needed something to do with welcoming people to the house on the one side, since it’s the first thing they’ll see when the enter the house.

“Speak friend and enter?” I suggested.

In Elvish script, we agreed. And thus the project began with my trying to figure out how to get the Elvish script loaded as a font and then there was some more trial and error to actually get the correct sequence of things entered on the keyboard.

Elvish Translations

After that, we put together the imaged we wanted using GIMP and then saved the files to a flash drive before taking ourselves off to a local copy shop to get everything printed on a wide format printer.

print out

Once that was done (and the boards and hardware for hanging the door were purchased), I set about cutting out a giant stencil using the paper print outs and an exacto knife. Thank God for audio books, because that part was a wee bit tedious.

ready to stencil

While I was doing that, the husband was assembling the door, which also seemed tedious to me, but I don’t have any patience for that sort of thing at all, so I’m very glad he does.

Then, of course, it was time for tracing, which was probably the easiest part of the whole process, and the final thing to complete before we were ready to BURN.

ready to burn

Burning was extremely pleasant. Since the boards are a lovely blue pine, the smoke the wafted up was fragrant and even soothing. The burning itself was something of an aid in the constant struggle against anxiety. It was almost like having a really big, slightly dangerous adult coloring book (I may have burned my fingers once or twice, being careless with the tools).

burning

We set up in our living room and would listen to either audio books or something on television that didn’t require any concentration3. While our friends from Chicago were in town, we would all hang out and talk and take turns burning. Talk about your wild and crazy parties.

Once both sides were done – oh, have I not mentioned the other side? – the husband hauled it out back and sanded the whole thing, paying special attention to any areas where we accidentally got outside the lines. Then we gave it one more once-over to darken any spots that needed it.

About a month after beginning, we got the barn door hardware up (purchased as a kit from a hardware store, rather than making our own, though we considered that) and mounted the door.

BEHOLD the final product in all its glory!

Speak Friend and Enter

Tolkien's "Speak Friend and Enter" in Elvish & White Tree of Gondor & Celtic Knotwork Barn Door Far View

Life before death - Strength before weakness - Journey before destination

Life before death - Strength before weakness - Journey before destination

Why yes, I am a big Brandon Sanderson fan, thank you for noticing.4

And that’s it! By far, it was one of the most enjoyable projects we’ve done since moving in (see the floors, paint [ALL OF THE PAINT EVEN THE CEILINGS], trim, ceiling fan and window treatments for examples of other projects that have occurred), and I’m planning on using some of the leftover pine scraps to create some smaller art pieces both for myself and possibly for other people.

But that’ll be a post for another day.

  1. Dining room table and kitchen counters, no. Couches, fine. Floors, I suppose. If you must.
  2. I guess we’re a little eclectic, but it works for us!
  3. Did a Friends marathon for many of the hours spent burning, but also some comedians
  4. Since the door is so light, the husband and I joked about cosplaying as Bridge 4 members, using the door as the bridge. Probably we won’t do this, but I feel like we would be forever known as the door people.

short-timer syndrome

Oh boy, you guys. I have not wanted to be at work like at all this past week.

A large part of that has certainly been good old short-timer syndrome, wherein an employee on their way out of  a job loses all motivation to do anything productive or possibly even show up at all because what are they going to do? Fire you?

I think the other part reflects even more poorly on me. When I informed my boss on Monday that I would be moving on, he just smiled in a contented sort of fashion, as though I were a problem that had just resolved itself without his needing to take any action.

Possibly he has wanted to get rid of me ever since my sister started working on a more consistent basis. I don’t entirely blame him since she kicks ass at this whole job. Given a choice between the two of us, I’d pick her, no questions asked.

At the same time, it was me who got him through all the early days of the transition and who has been here keeping things going for the past year. That’s not nothing.

I guess I’m a bit disgruntled that he seems so happy to be getting rid of me even though it was my own choice to go and I am fairly certain I’ll be happy in the new job. I feel as though he places no value on the service I have provided in the past, so it’s been kind of difficult to work up to wanting to provide more than the bare minimum just at present.

Despite that, I will say that I haven’t shirked anything, no matter how tempting it has been to do so. That’s rewarding in a way, I suppose, being able to have pride in myself for knowing of my own integrity. It also made it possible for me to give my utmost to a recent project that will be a big time saver for the office long after I’m gone1, and I have to say, I think the spreadsheet I was able to put together is pretty slick. I had a lot of fun with it, too, which was extra nice since I’ve basically just had to force myself to make it to the office at all, but most especially on the days when my sister is there2.

Anyhow, not much to say here except that I’ve got that low level blah sort of feeling and my lunch hour just went by way too quickly, rather unlike the rest of this day.

Guess it’s back to the salt mines with me for now! How are you guys doing towards the ends of your work weeks?

  1. That I had to do this project at all is actually Very Silly. It was just to get some raw data presented in a sexier fashion than just the plain and stark original report that worked just fine for the last dentist for years, but whatever.
  2. Because she doesn’t need me at all, so I sort of want to just let her handle it and be able to stay in bed myself.

love, love, love

Love has been on my mind a whole lot this year.

I’m not talking about romantic love, really, although some of that does come into the mix since I am married to that one guy and after almost 13 years of marriage, finding the spice and romance can be something of a challenge.

Fortunately for everyone, I’ve been more concerned with something hopefully a bit closer to the heart and soul of what – and Who – love is. I’m talking about a love that is Grace and Mercy and Peace and totally undeserved. I’m not good at this kind of love, not in any way. I am slightly better at receiving it than I am at giving it, but that’s not saying much. I am rubbish at extending it and, like most humans I know, can’t quite wrap my head totally around the whole concept of being given something so perfect and unconditional and absolute.

This is a love that is worth chasing, that is worth trying to delve into deeply enough that it does become a more natural part of how I see and interact with the world.

As I pursue a better understanding of love, I am reminded constantly of Mark 12:30-31

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

-KJV

That’s one doozy of a bold call, and one that seems dang near impossible. Move beyond myself and deeper into Love?

To that end, I’ve been trying really hard over the past several months to love even shitty drivers.

This is not an easy thing. I ‘m not exactly a road-rage filled maniac, but I do get impatient with a lot of things. That deep part of me that cherishes the concept of rules and standards is tried on a daily basis whenever I see someone speeding or changing lanes without signaling or crossing over the solid white line to cut me off for the love of my brake pads.

It starts off with a gentle fume and builds up to my actually yelling out loud in my car, “That is not legal, you moron!” like it’ll actually change anything. It doesn’t make feel better, that’s for sure.

Even when I feel I am doing well and not yelling, I apparently bitch about bad drivers enough to where my friend recently informed me that I made her a more easygoing driver.

“How’s that?” I asked.

“You say things about all these stupid people driving poorly so that I don’t have to. I feel very zen when you’re affirming all my feelings.”

Glad I can help, I guess!

So the challenge over the past several months has been for me to try to remember that yes, even that guy who just ran a red light with his horn blaring as though everyone else were somehow to blame for the near-collisions he would have been at fault for, even that guy is loved by someone.

Not me, but someone. And if I knew him at all, wouldn’t I extend at least a little bit of the benefit of the doubt? Would I ask him why he were being a giant dick or would I ask if everything was okay at home? Maybe he has a kid who fell and and broke an arm. Maybe he really is just a dick on the road but has some lovable qualities elsewhere. The thing is, I’ll never get to know what the story is behind any of it.

And it doesn’t really matter what the story is, in the end. What matters to me is my attitude and my behavior. It’s the only part of this whole equation I can really do anything about1, so I’m working to change it.

Maybe it’s strange to call it love, to try not to get angry and to think of these other drivers as real people with real qualities. But to extend grace, I think you need at least a bit of love at the center of it. And I don’t think you need to know someone to be able to do that. Not when we’re all members of the same family we call humanity.

So yeah, it’s a simple enough concept but one that is terribly difficult for me to master. I mess up all the time. But I’m trying. Hopefully I’ll eventually see a difference in myself and not get too discouraged on my path there.

After all, the things that really matter don’t usually come easy.

 

  1. Unless I pursue my dream of becoming a traffic cop so I can at least write some of these people tickets!

on work

I was gonna write a thing about my recent job search and my conflict in not knowing which option to go for should I get any offers. In fact, I wrote a lot of words about the whole thing. And then before I reached a conclusion of any sort, well…

I got a job offer.

And yeah, I accepted it.

I am mostly sure that it was the right thing to do, but I’d be lying if I said I were positive.

The thing is, I am fairly certain that it’s not the job that I want. In the job I’m about to leave, I discovered a deep passion for Accounts Receivable, of all things, and the job I just accepted has basically nothing to do with that.  I mean, I need to have accuracy in data entry, but whatever. I can’t think of any jobs that don’t require that in some way, shape or form.

So I took this job for the benefits, including the ones that the company doesn’t actually offer (those being that the husband works for this place as well so shared commute and use of carpool lane on the way there and shared lunches and blah, blah, blah). One of those benefits will be a massive discount on tuition1, which will at least put me on the path towards my Bachelor’s in Accounting.

I’m giving my current boss my two weeks’ notice on Monday, and I’d by lying if I said I weren’t looking forward to that, at least a little. Of course, that’s mostly because I’m so tired of him and his shenanigans2 and it’s kind of just driven me to the point where I want to embrace a workplace that has an employee handbook, no matter how out of date said handbook seems.

Anyhow, all of that is to make some explanation to my one whole reader as to why I’m saying I’m all on fire to write but then haven’t actually pulled anything together enough to get anything posted.

Sometimes, I am not organized.

Also, I’ve been busy.

I had to jump through all the “on-boarding” hoops3, which was really not that bad, but was still worse than it needed to be. There was just so much repetitiveness in having to type all my personal information out time and time again. If you have my address, birthday and SSN in one document, why do you need all of them in all the other documents? Annoying.

But I quibble, and that’s mostly because that little part of me was wondering if I made the right choice in accepting this job. I’ve been reflecting on that over the past few days and here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. I was applying for jobs a while ago but that had been mostly out of a sense of anger and/or dissatisfaction with my boss. Nothing ever came of that, despite my being a whole lot more assiduous about applying to places back then.
  2. My decision to start looking for a new job most recently was due to some really good reasons that have a lot to do with my sister.
  3. I actually realized this latest go-round with applying to places that, I don’t know, maybe I should pray about it first and see if I felt like God was guiding me in this direction or if I was doing it for wrong reasons again.
  4. Yep. That is a feeling I did and do have.
  5. I had three interviews in a three week period which seemed like confirmation that I was on the right track.
  6. I asked God specifically to not let me have favor in a place/environment that I wasn’t meant to be and to make it really obvious where I was supposed to go.
  7. I had so much favor in this latest interview at my new job that I was interviewed on Wednesday, given a job offer on Thursday and on-boarded on Friday. It’s been very fast, especially when I was told at the end of my interview that they wouldn’t be making any decisions until this end of the next week and then got an email the next afternoon saying they didn’t want to wait to make the offer. Favor.

At the end of that list or the day, it doesn’t really make any sense that I should still feel a sense of hesitation about this new position, so perhaps it’s just one more way in which I allow fear to dictate to me.

If so, I am not going to allow fear to stop me from stepping out. I’m taking this job and I have every intention of absolutely rocking it.

All I have to do now is make it through a few more weeks of work without letting everything I genuinely do love about my current job make me feel regret over my decision to move on.

  1. I guess I just gave away that this place is a university
  2. Wherein ‘shenanigans’ is code for fucking idiocy
  3. Remember when it was “orientation” and I’d call it “disorientation”? Yeah, me too. I think all of American corporate culture changed the word they call it so that people like me couldn’t mock it quite as easily. Okay, this is probably not true.

so it begins

I had a really bad panic attack a few days ago.

I’m not entirely certain as to why it happened, although I had kicked off the morning with a mimosa and then several hours later had been the one to drive my two friends to the airport so they could return to their lives in Chicago.

Drinking champagne – excuse me, sparkling wine – makes me nervous. I do it anyhow, mostly because I want to challenge these irrational fears that so often spring up as a result of my generalized anxiety disorder. After Saturday’s excursion, I’m not certain that I ever want to do so again, because the panic attack was that awful.

But I also have to recognize that it wasn’t just the champagne sparkling wine. It was also the trip to the airport in extremely bad traffic with my husband unable to shut up from the back seat about what he thought I ought to do and which route I ought to take.

It was also on top of a week of having two extra people under my roof and in my kitchen and wanting to get out and do things, all of which was perfectly reasonable but which also couldn’t help but be a strain on my introverted sensibilities.

By the time we arrived at the airport, I was shaking and sweaty. My hands and left leg had a pins and needles feeling. I proclaimed myself unequal to driving home and made my husband take over. We hadn’t gone a quarter of a mile before everything intensified. I felt dizzy and was gasping for air but not feeling like I could possibly get enough oxygen. In the irrational grip of panic, I figured I was probably hemorrhaging blood from somewhere, possibly internally, and was about to die there in the passenger seat of my car, out on the industrial northwest side of town.

“Jesus,” I said over and over, not a curse but an inchoate prayer.

My poor husband tried in vain to talk me down. “You’re okay,” he soothed. “This is all in your head.”

“Shut up,” I snapped. “Shut up, shut up, shutupshutupshutup. Shut. Up.”

I felt bad for it even as I said it, but couldn’t stop myself. We finally got to a likely exit and stopped at a shopping mall. Neither one of us needed a thing, but I bolted from the car as though it were on fire and the relief was nearly palpable. I wasn’t trapped. I could walk off some of the massive amounts of adrenaline that was coursing through me. I could maybe take one more breath. And then another. And then more until I ceased to be so conscious of the effort.

Eventually, I was able to find the wherewithal to get back into the car and drive home. The rest of the day wasn’t easy. My throat was so tight I couldn’t eat or drink without the fear of choking being perched on my shoulder, although I know from a year and a half of dealing with it that my dysphagia is an artifact of my anxiety, just like the pins and needles feeling in my limbs, or the tightness in my chest, or the headaches that last for days, or the nights where I wake to the sound of my own heart beating madly away and can’t drown it out enough to sleep.

Lindisfarne The reason I mention all of this as the maiden post of this blog is because of the next day. Sunday.

I woke up and felt more myself after a good night’s sleep, although my throat was still noticeably tight. After coffee in bed and laughing at the cats and their antics, I pulled myself together and we went to church. Somewhere in the middle of worship, which is always my favorite part of any church service, I realized that I’ve been spending the past several months asking God for a healing of my mind. I haven’t always been this person who gets panic attacks and struggles just to make it through a day, and a wholeness of mind is still something I hope to someday have again.

Somehow though, I never spent any time praying for release from the physical manifestations of my anxiety. So I did pray then and there and my throat gave a twinge and then… nothing. It’s been remarkably normal ever since.

Hallelujah.

After the service had ended, I didn’t bolt immediately for the doors as is my usual practice. The pastor came over and asked my husband and me if we would be interested in helping to run the media booth and we said we would be and then I fell into conversation with another woman and we fixed a date to have dinner together, which is sort of freaking me out a little, because I’ve never even met her husband. The last thing we did before going was to stop by and sign up to help out with a carnival that our church is putting on for the residents of the local neighborhood.

And to the point now – that whole weekend was a perfect microcosm of my life as a whole, and the best way I could think of to illustrate the syncopated rhythm of my days. In the background is that I spent many years being angry at the church and some of that emotion sort of splashed over onto God. If I had never needed Someone bigger than myself and capable of all things, I might have stubbornly remained in that state, because after all, it wasn’t as though I were rejecting the idea of God Himself or renouncing my belief in the path to salvation provided by Christ’s death and resurrection.

I just didn’t want to bother myself with the collection of broken humanity who would say in one breath that they were following Christ and then do anything but live by that example. My distaste for that hypocrisy was perhaps my greatest blind spot, for there was no meaningful way in which I was any different. Perhaps I was worse for all the moral superiority I felt but did not possess.

But now I’ve arrived through circuitous means back where I started, realizing that not only do I absolutely require God and a real relationship with Him, I also have a great need for community.

John Donne once wrote that:

No man is an island,
entire of itself ,
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main…

How right he was. How much more stable my life is becoming with the additions of people who are both immediate and accessible, who have loved me and allowed me to love them in return.

So, in part, this blog is about that. One can never just start writing and expect to have community happen overnight, but with patience and work,  it can be built over time. I was fortunate enough to do so before and I have hopes that I’ll be able to do so again. After all, I am an introvert and I find online friendships are the best supplement I can possibly have to the few people I manage to connect with on a personal level and face-to-face.

Isle of Wight

To me, my anxiety has been and is both a blessing and curse. It has been – to paraphrase Charles Spurgeon – the wave that has thrown me against the Rock of Ages. And in fetching up in that place, I have also rediscovered and am beginning to rekindle those needful human interactions as well.

Welcome to my deepest life.