High Anxiety

6 02 2016

For some inexplicable reason, the presence of fall has also always triggered my wanderlust more than any other season. It must be the beauty of an ever brightening landscape, the nip in the air that calls for one of the fifty scarves I’ve purchased for such occasions, and the presence of smoky air mixed under a cold, clear blue sky. I start reading a lot of Tolkien and wishing I had a Gandalf to whisk me away on a grand adventure.In Tolkien’s stories, he paints the picture of journeys full of vivid life, new discoveries, and awe-inspiring sights. But he also adds plenty of conflict and hardships into such adventures. It’s a world of vicious enemies, dangerous terrain, and undesirable revelations. The mix of these two make for a compelling story.

Sometimes, those sojourns don’t take you to dangerous mountains and dark caves. Sometimes they start inside the intimate and treacherous topography of one’s mind. Though I can’t speak for others with the same affliction, my experiences with an anxiety disorder have taken me on a compelling journey of hardship and self-discovery.

As I walk this journey, the catacombs of my mind consistently echo with thoughts, fears, and dread. Sometimes, those thoughts whisper to me, allowing me to hear the other voices of reason, hope, and joy. At other times, this voice rises above all others, drowning me in their fear mongering. They fill in the blanks of my future with the darkest of possibilities, the scariest of scenarios.
The unknown becomes haunted with the possibilities of failure, heartache, rejection, and a total loss of identity.

Amidst the palpable dread that weighs down my chest, I have often wondered if God was disappointed with me. How could I live in such fear when He was the God that walked me through the valley of death? When I am called to rejoice in the hope of Christ and his love? I surely must be failing Him. OR he surely must be failing me. How am I expected to face this already scary world with a brave face when I am struggling against a tide of fear in my own head. I have fallen apart, raged, felt useless and powerless to create any other journey God would ever call me on.

Yes, it has been a treacherous journey indeed. But, like those compelling expeditions that Tolkien so fondly spun, there have been spectacular sights along the way. I have been broken, and put back together. I have despaired in the darkness of night just to find sunshine in a still morning. I have been reminded that the hardship of this life comes with the promise that we will never be forsaken. I have felt God’s compassionate and approving heart through the most loathsome of disappointments.

As you’re reading this, remember compelling stories are compiled of dangers untold and moments of incredible beauty. I don’t know what odyssey you have been on or what treacheries have marked your course. But remember it is your story to tell the world. This is my journey with anxiety. And it is mine to live, mine to claim, and mine to make great.


Story Notes

10 09 2013

As a film geekstress (meaning I actually listen to and ENJOY commentaries) I love AMC’s program ‘Story Notes’. AMC shows a film and adds delectable tidbits of info while you watch. I love when a colorful note pops up on screen, detailing the ins and outs of production, little factoids about the actors, and the twists of fate that go into making some of the most famous movies on earth.

(Factoid: Ripley, from the Alien franchise was initially a male character. But the surprise of a kick butt woman compelled the filmmakers to cast a woman in the lead.)
See, isn’t that fun!

This makes me think of my own story and the notes that go with it. The little known facts, thought processes, decisions, and experiences that form my days, weeks, and eventually years. The notes weave together to make some interesting tidbits and twists of fate that tell an expansive, rich, and complex life commentary.

Following the example of a friend from church, I’ve been taking at least ten minutes a night to review my day. To ruminate on its events and to think about what it’s taught me. I write during this time, making my own ‘Story Notes’. Sometimes, my heart leaps out of my chest as I document the excitement and blessing of my friendships, the ideas that inspire me, and the experiences and opportunities that drive me. Sometimes, my heart is full of hurt, doubt, disappointments, and plain ol’ heartbreak. Other times, all I can muster is one thought. One sentence. One word.

The notes take the shapes and form the words of my mother, whose advice of “Take the reins of your life, or everyone else will want to do it for you.”, has become a personal motto. They retrospectively teach me the value and sweetness of an old man seeking me out at work to discuss his memories of the best movie he ever saw (Madame X starring Lana Turner. He cried).Other times, when even writing fails to quell the burden of another day, they work their magic of grace by whispering, “You’ll do better tomorrow.”

No matter what I muster, I tell my story. A story that hides itself even from ME when I’m busy building my dreams and hopeful legacy. One that disappears within the mundane, even flow of a day. Or within the hectic bustle of a busy week. I forget the moment of impact when inspiration strikes. I disregard the importance of that kernel of encouragement that made a difference. That seemingly innocuous decision that got me one step closer to my dreams.

So I’ve begun to take stock of this journey, and to try to see it in the entries of a journal.

If your story notes popped up on screen, what would they say? What twists of fate would they reveal? What failures, fears, joys, and experiences? If you think these things aren’t important, if you think the production of your life gives little insight, I think you’re missing out on their true value.
See, everyone wants a sweeping epic. A riveting biopic. But the biggest successes in film history come from adlibs, flubbed lines, character changes, and cut scenes. Sweeping epics are only as good as the details they come out of. So take some time for them. And realize the rich, promising story you have to tell the world is shaped day in, and day out.


6 08 2013

One night, on a quest for a Milky Way Midnight (also known as manna) after work I stopped at a local CVS. As I browsed the counter for my chocolaty prize, the friendly young man behind the counter noticed my uniform and asked where I worked. I replied I had worked at Chili’s as a server for four years now. Then, struck with the fear that this stranger KNEW this meant I was incapable of something more, I added: “I have a degree, though.” He smiled and nodded. “So do I.”

I realized, I certainly wasn’t judging HIS competency level as a human being by where he worked or what education he had received, why must I do this to myself? Why do I feel the need to wear a shirt under my clothing emblazoned with ‘Phony Adult Alert!” that I reveal Superman style everytime someone asks me a simple life question? Why do I often get the nagging feeling I’m doing human wrong? Life wrong? ME wrong? Really, the t-shirt I should be wearing under all my clothing should read, “Please look past the fact that I lack a sense of legitimacy.”

A quick google search leads me to believe that I’m not alone in in my hidden t-shirt. It seems, there is a long standing pandemic of inadequacy, incompetence, and spuriousness. Typing in ‘why do I feel like a phony’ brought a smattering of articles and forums on this very subject. In fact, The ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is an actual diagnosable disorder that makes individuals unable to internalize success. What has gone so wrong within us that we can’t recognize the truth and worth of our capabilities?!

It seems there is always a reason for us to draw a line in the sand, to separate ourselves out from another individual. It’s easy to tell ourselves how much more together others are, or how they are more talented or capable. But underneath the super-imposed exterior we’ve placed on them, people have their own set of t-shirts they keep hidden. They read with things like, “I really blew it”, “I don’t think I can start over”, or, “What potential are people seeing that I’m not”?

I submit the idea that all of this goes back to forgetting where we started from. The potential God placed in his ‘very good’ creation is brimming and diverse! And it comes in packages we would never dream of being worthy. God’s line-up of all stars wear shirts that read “I have a stu…, stu…, stutter”, “Prostitute”, “Murderer”, and “I was in a whale and all I got was this stupid t-shirt”. God is a believer in the ragtag, tax collector, prostitute, and theif(even as he dies beside him on a cross). It seems God works the opposite way of us. Instead of hiding the t-shirt, waiting to reveal it when we fail or are found wanting, he starts with the t-shirt and strips it away to reveal the splendor and beauty we’re wearing underneath. The clothing he crafted specifically for us, to make an impact where we are.

Maybe I’ll stop for some chocolate tonight. And maybe, when the friendly cashier makes small-talk, I will think about everything that was crafted inside of me, just for me to make my own impact on this world. And just maybe I won’t talk about degrees, and instead I’ll ask how some stranger’s night is going and offer some encouragement. And maybe I’ll look down, and the t-shirt will read “Ask me how I make an impact”.

Fresh Regrets

21 06 2013

When I started 2013, I didn’t go in for the traditional New Year’s Resolutions of days past and quickly forgotten. I decided to go with a theme for my 2013 days. Promises. I resolved to keep the promises I made to myself this year, because I find that failing to keep said promises creates an almost unbearable amount of tension in my life. So, how have I done? Well…one of my promises was to write everyday for fifteen minutes and to post a blog once or twice every week. Let me see, how long has it been since I wrote my ‘Welcome’ message blog? Yeah….
The other promises I wanted to keep, about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, cooking more, taking time to read and reflect…they’ve come and gone in waves of glory. I go at things with vivacity and a flourish, get tired, distracted, or discouraged, give up and watch a lot of t.v. instead, only to create in myself fresh regrets for underused potential.
I ask myself why these seemingly small, monotonous, or innocuous tasks seem so important to my well being. Why does keeping that promise to slow down, or tidy my room, or to make a book list and go through it, seem to thrill my very soul?
Aren’t these self expectations binding? Don’t they take away from the spontaneity and uncertainty of life that can be so amazing? Doesn’t routine make you boring and boxed-in? Well, sometimes. But what I find more often than not, is that if I don’t keep these seemingly unimportant promises, spontaneity just turns into a sense of being blown about by every small draft in my life, and I never move toward the goal of who I want to become. I never unleash the potential of the gifts inside of me.
Every little promise I let slip away, becomes a fresh regret, a tiny tear in the fabric of a well-lived life. After so many let-downs, all of those regrets, those tiny tears leave a moth-sized hole where all of your dreams and ambitions are.
So, I know I need to leave my regrets behind and start keeping the promises I make to myself, no matter how minute I believe them to be. Yeah, this means some routine. Sure, it takes some discipline and dedication. Yep, it means taking on challenges and sometimes failing. But I’m tired of fresh regrets and tiny rips that become gaping, looming holes in my future’s potential. I need my promises. How about you?

Makeshift Wonder

27 11 2012

As a small child, I distinctly remember the feeling of wonder I would get looking out on ‘distant’ horizons. I would stand in my seemingly endless backyard (yards shrink as you get older, as well as childhood houses and neighborhoods, a weird, sad phenomenon), and think about all the possibilities beyond the power lines and cornfields. I’d look at a grove of trees and my heart would race and swell as I thought about all the possibilities IN and BEYOND those woods. I’d look at a water-colored sunset, and imagine what eternity held. Sometimes this contemplation and desire of otherness became so strong it frightened me. To this day, there remains a residual thrill when I look past a cornfield into even a small grove of trees.

As I grew (and yards and candy bars shrank), I believe I struck a deal with God that my life would reflect the adventures I had grown so fond of contemplating as a child, and that all of my golden prospects would spring dirvishly into life when I became an adult. Even though I hate algebra (I really do hate you algebra. I hope you never do find your X, and die alone. A slow, math-ey death), I saw my life as an equation. If I lived a good life, made good decisions, and pretended to eat my brussel sprouts, life would come easy and all the planning, dreaming and scheming for the good life would fall right…into…place QUICKLY AND PAINLESSLY. Valley to peak in 0-60! I made certain promises to myself during my wonder years. Now, I’m scared to death to not see the person I envisioned in all of that golden glow, staring back at me from the mirror. Wasn’t it all suppose to fall into place?

Welcome to the middle of this story……..where golden glows and my weird love of forestry meets…dun, dun, dun…real life. Because even though wonder has a place in real life (if it doesn’t, you need to check yourself), it’s not always so easy to hold onto it. In the middle, the midst, the point where life feels like the train has derailed from point A to point B, you start to wonder about wonder. You start to think, all of that dreaming, and THIS is what I get? Failure, inertia, heartbreak, disappointment? And what about the fear? The fear of failure or even success, sitting still, and of change. The constant struggles with keeping the promises you make to yourself, of being the person that didn’t compromise on who they were, and then realizing that maybe some compromises need to be made to actually GROW?! Burning bridges, and second chances. Happiness and sorrow. Letting go and giving in. How did I ever think, that I could escape this balancing act, when it is so engrained in every one of us?

As depressing as some find it, I am absolutely drawn to, and even encouraged by Ecclesiastes. Yeah, sometimes while reading, I think that Solomon really could have benefitted from modern medical ‘uppers’, but really, so much of what he writes speaks to the real vein running through life: life is confusing, hard, and unfair. It is also beautiful, delectable, and inspiring. Life is very much about a sort of makeshift wonder, in which we piece all of the good, bad, and ugly, and start to tell a REAL, amazing, heck-of-a story. A story about life, loss, God, doubt, peace, love, growth, discovery, fear, and pressing on. Mourning and rejoicing. Passion and ennui. Life and death and beyond. And maybe, just maybe our makeshift wonder, is what REAL wonder has been all along. So WELCOME!  Let’s tell our tales, and maybe do this makeshift life- this makeshift WONDER thing, together.

The Closet Light

8 11 2012

I know it’s after Halloween, but I just need to get something off my chest. I’m admitting, for the first time on public record, that I Holly Crawford, may have been one of the wimpiest children EVER when it came to anything remotely frightening. The flying monkeys from Wizard of Oz? Terrifying! Those mean old dinosaurs from Jurassic Park? Shudder inducing. Thanks to Stephen King’s It, and frankly just the nature of clowns, sleeping in the room with my grandmother’s clown collection made for some very…long…nights.

Thanks to my semi-self torturing love for Michael Jackson’s Thriller video,  I definitely had plenty of long nights, wrestling with the things that go bump in said nights. Lying in the dark, staring up at the ceiling, hyper-alert for every noise, creak, or shadow. The ‘what ifs’ in those noises panicked me, breaking me out in cold sweats and forcing me to turn on the blessed closet light to banish all zombified, creepy crawlies back into the dark from wence they came.

You know, the ‘what ifs’ still have the ability to terrify me, but the closet light just doesn’t work the same on these bumps of the night. They’re a different breed, and a little harder to banish. They look like failure, change, not changing, heartbreak, disappointment, loss, rejection, reprisal, social unrest, global unrest, the inability to make a difference, lonliness, selfishness, under-achievement. All of these things, have the ability to paralyze with fear. Not to mention, as one gets older, you come to see real evil in the world, maybe even experience it first hand, and you realize something….the world CAN, indeed, most definitely, be a scary place. And moreover, you, me, they, we, can be just as monsterous.

King David strikes me as a guy who would get what I am talking about. In his own reign, he seemed to deal with quite a few of his own monsters. Let’s see, there was that one tall guy…and a crazy, murderous king with a penchant for music. Oh, and his own family looked more like the Manson family than the royal rulers of a great nation, killing and raping one another, and then trying to off dear old dad to usurp the thrown. David wasn’t even safe from himself, committing adultery with Bathsheba, and then disposing of her husband in a dispicable way. He seemed to live with not only constant ‘what ifs’, but also the ‘yeah, that thing that was the worst possible ‘what if’ I could think of, that just happened’. He had every reason to fear, and fear HARD.

Seems like David did a lot of his best writing during times of fear and turmoil. Here, a few tidbits:

“The LORD is my light and salvation. Who is there to fear? The LORD is my life’s fortress. Who is there to be afraid of?” Pslam 27:1

“Even when I am afraid, I will trust you. I praise the word of God. I trust God. I am not afraid. What can mere flesh do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4

Oh, and of course this little known diddy:

“Even though I walk through the dark valley of death, I will fear no evil, because you are with me. Your rod and your staff comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

I should take inspiration from these words, and I do. But if I’m going to bare an already vulnerable part of myself on the interwebs, I might as well confess: I don’t always believe these words. “Even when I am afraid, I will trust you” sounds great, but my biggest fears, those of failure, rejection, reprisal, and being an overall disappointing human being, still seem to keep me up and nights. And even praying to an all powerful Father, doesn’t make me feel like any less of a failure at times.

Sometimes, my ‘what ifs’ about the future surround me on all sides like David’s enemies, and all I can muster to do is cry, or curse, or take a nap. Sometimes, the divisions in society, the losses suffered, the general feeling of unrest and unease take their toll…something is so wrong, and so frightening.

But, I’d like to offer a closet light if I may….

God gets it. We’re all fractured from him at the moment. We let go of our Dad’s hand in a crowded funhouse and now our reflections have become monstrous and distorted without him. But he has never stopped looking for his frightened children. He has never stopped reminding them what they mean to him, the worth he places in them, the things they can accomplish when they come out from under fear.

So, maybe David was on to something. Maybe, Christ overcame his own fears to endure the cross for something beautiful and profound in us. Maybe fear is a part of the journey that cannot be outrun. But Maybe, just maybe, it reminds us of a search that has never been given up, and has never been abandoned. Now that, is better than a closet light.