Anxiety Diaries 001

Last night we went out for dinner.

It was one of those perfect evenings, the kind every romance novel talks about and you see so rarely in real life – unless you live in Colorado, and then you see them every summer evening. (We live in Colorado, by the way.)

The neighborhood we live in is beautiful. “Resort-style living,” they call it, surrounded by rolling green golf courses, shimmering lakes, and friendly neighbors. Tiny sandpipers run along the beaches, and the sunsets are breathtaking. Nearly everyone owns a golf cart, and the clubhouse is just a half-mile away from our house. We took our cart there last night, on a Wednesday evening, nothing special. There was a soft breeze gently brushing our skin, and an exquisite view of the Colorado mountain range from our upstairs patio seats.

We both ordered the salmon, and our hands touched throughout the meal. We smiled into each other’s eyes like the idiots in love we are, and talked about how far we’ve come, and how truly, truly incredibly blessed we are. My heart was full and I was blissfully happy. I don’t think there was a single thing that could have improved the evening.

We ran into several people we knew and enjoy, and chatted briefly with them all. Then we drove home, and my husband left to check emails on his computer. I sat on the couch.

I was smiling to myself. It had been such a good evening, and I was truly happy.

Then I started running over the evening in my mind. And it slowly starting going faster, and faster, on endless loop. I thought about everything I’d said. I thought about everything I hadn’t said. I thought about everything I should have said, or definitely shouldn’t have said. My heart picked up its pace. My breath quickened. My hands started shaking. I shouldn’t have said that. I should have done that instead. Why did I do that? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be normal? What is happening to me?

By the time my husband came back from the office, I was curled on the couch crying. My mind was so off-track at this point that I couldn’t even tell him what was wrong. I told him I thought he got a broken wife and he held me and said he got a perfect wife. Bless the man and his patience. He stayed up with me, late into the night, and talked to me until the fears were put to rest and I could finally sleep.

That’s how it happens. It comes out of nowhere. Anxiety doesn’t always mean pointless worry about what could happen. It doesn’t mean not trusting God with your future. It is something that comes out of the middle of a happy evening and overwhelms you and tells you not that horrible things might happen, but that you are wrong simply for being. It is your mind turning against you, un-asked for and unwanted. It isn’t because you forgot to be grateful. It isn’t because you haven’t prayed enough (do those with anxiety ever stop praying?) and it isn’t because there’s something wrong with you. It’s just something that happens, sometimes.  

And if this is you, I’m here to tell you that it gets better. There will be dark days, but there will also be days of sunlight and joy. You are in the valley now, but you won’t always be. Give yourself a little grace, and don’t let anxiety tell you that you’re alone. You are not alone. This is something you carry, and you may always carry it, but it doesn’t get to tell you who you are. You’re still here, and you are so worth loving.

NaNoWriMo?

Happy November! I can’t believe this year is nearly over. Only a few weekends left until Christmas! I have significantly less people to shop for this year, so hopefully that will go far towards making it The Most Wonderful Time of the Year instead of The Most Stressful Time of the Year. 😉

Have you ever heard of National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo, as it is affectionately known for short? It is a fun, misery-loves-company exercise in creative writing that happens each November The basic premise is that from November 1st – 30th, participants (and there are hundreds of thousands!) dedicate focused time and effort into writing a 50,000 word novel. NaNoWriMo believes that your story matters, and that the world needs your novel, and it is a wonderful way to jump-start the creative processes through fun competition.

I signed into my account at the beginning of the month and the little italics at the top of the page told me that I had been a member of NaNoWriMo for 13 years. Thirteen years! I’ve only participated for perhaps half of those, and I’ve finished with 50,000 words maybe half of that, but how in heaven’s name has it been thirteen years since I first came across it and wrote my first (terrible!) novel?

My girl Jacinta convinced me to join her in the challenge this year, and in a fit of recklessness and ambition, I actually agreed.

The truth is, I haven’t written fiction in years. Six or seven, perhaps. I’m just no good at it anymore, or perhaps it’s that it no longer holds the same appeal for me that it once did. It was always one of my childhood ambitions – to be a writer. I’m not sure if I wanted it so much because I loved writing, or because I loved books, or because so many of my friends wanted to be writers. I do have some modicum of talent in the area, at least I fondly like to believe so – but I am beginning to wonder if God has a different direction for me.

But I digress. I started off the month like a house on fire. Then I started losing momentum, realized I was stuck, and took a two-day writing break while my husband and I were road tripping together. Then I went back to the beginning and changed over my modern-day novella into a mid-Victorian historical. I was pretty excited about this, and completely caught up and maybe even surpassed my word count goals.

Now I’m stuck again. I utterly hate my heroine – you know, the biggest part of the whole story? I can’t relate to her at all, and that makes me hate writing her. I keep wanting to add secret depths to her, but right now that just isn’t who she is supposed to be, so I have to resist. And that makes me not want to write about her.

Jacinta, on the other hand – now I think she might have found her niche. She is posting her story publicly, and I for one am an absolutely riveted reader. I’m absolutely loving it! Go visit her website at A Walk In The Forest and check it out. 🙂

Transition

Winter is here, can you feel it? I love the transition season of autumn, but its beauty is the flare of a match, blazing up in glorious color and then fading quickly, blowing out in a sudden gust of wind and leaving the cold and dark in its wake.

Windsor had its first snow yesterday; the earliest I can recall since I’ve lived here (going on 9 years this January!) And just like that, it’s as if the aspens never turned yellow, as if the October sun didn’t blaze golden and warm across fields of sunflowers. A family I was once incredibly close with took their annual family vacation in Vail last week – a vacation I was once invited to, a family I was once considered part of. My life has since taken a different path, and I do not regret the change, though the loss still hurts and the emptiness still echoes within me.

I cleaned my office this evening- my beautiful, built-with-love office. Whenever I enter it I am overwhelmed with that elusive feeling of home, of belonging. DJ made it for me. He worked tirelessly to paint the walls the perfect shade of greige; his hands assembled the desk and the bookshelves; he considered my love of light and of the ocean when he chose the mural, and he thought of my smile when he picked out the bookends, and he anticipated my astonishment and delight when he put the photographs I had thought were lost into their frames.

There’s a corner in the office where two large boxes sit, and have sat since the beginning. Inside them are remnants of a life I used to live – relics of the girl I used to be. I’ve lugged these boxes with me through a minimum of three different moves, and each time they’ve sat in the corner or in the closet or on a shelf, unopened and un-thought of, at least until the next move when I come across it and feel that tangible connection to the contents, that overwhelming reluctance and inability to get rid of them. I’m a hoarder, in a very gentle sense of the word. It’s hard for me to throw away things that I feel connected to; things that remind me of special moments and memories.

Today I threw out both boxes. It hurt, a bit, but it felt good, and it also felt somewhat symbolic. Holding on to the past holds us back. We should not ever forget the lessons we’ve learned and the paths we’ve walked, but holding onto baggage (emotional, spiritual, and physical!) only ever weighs us down and makes it harder to move forward.

It’s okay to throw things out. It’s okay to leave parts of yourself in the past. It really is.

There are times when I don’t know who I am anymore. But I know who holds me (as cheesy as that sounds!) and I know the kind of person I want to be, and somehow those things are enough to keep me grounded as I move forward. The love of people may change, lessen, and leave, but God’s love never does – and it is enough.