Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fear versus Now

Fear.  Abject terror.  Anxiety.

Living in the Now.  What is this moment offering?  What does it require?

Who are my teachers in life right now?  Where is my personal responsibility?

Does everyone experience emotional shitstorms like this?  Is it just me?

Sometimes my brain doesn't make sense.  My body quits wanting to cooperate.  There are too many things to process and it's just safer for everyone if I retreat to my room and take a nap.  Where's the ice cream?  No, I don't need a bowl, the carton will be fine.

All of the above topics are swirling in my over-active brain.  I'm having trouble forming a coherent thought, this will be likely a conglomeration of a bunch of them.

I have known fear, I have known terror.  Abject terror.  I don't throw that phrase out flippantly.  I have seen the intent to do me great bodily harm in the eyes of someone close enough to me to cause it.  Believe me, I was terrified.  The memory of those moments can still cause me to shudder.

Years ago terror made its home way down deep in my soul.  It set up house and although this is a disturbing thought, terror kept me alive.  We were bedfellows, sure he kept me jumping, predicting the next move of my abuser, but prediction was my oxygen and I didn't dare live without it.  Facing terror is not something I think is common in our society but perhaps it's my own ego talking, elevating my experiences in life as more dramatic or difficult than yours.

I have a bumper sticker on my car now.  I put it there to remind me of something.  It is the first time in my 16 years of car ownership that a sticker has ever graced the presence of one of my vehicles.  It reads: "I overcome all fears."  It's a reference to the Tough Mudders I have completed.   But those accomplishments were irrelevant when I chose to permanently mark my vehicle in that way.  It was a reminder, that I had in fact overcome all of my fears.   We were no longer housemates, bedfellows.  I had kicked him out and I was still here living and breathing oxygen.  It was a miraculous eviction.  

I have, to a great extent, overcome the fear of death.  It's not an idea I relish given my small children at home and my concern for their future, however I have released the idea that I will have any control over when or how that happens.  Other victims of domestic violence carry that fear with them into their future.  Even after freedom from their abuser, they continue to walk around worried at any moment someone will intend to cause them harm and they will die.  I did not want that path, that was not for me.  If I survived hell, I intended to live out the rest of my days in peace and with joy, not looking over my shoulder wondering what would happen if?  

I recently finished a book by Eckhart Tolle entitled The Power of Now in it he says, "ultimately all fear is the ego's fear of death, of annihilation."  I live with an identified faith that says death is a fallacy and annihilation is impossible for me, so to live in fear of it is to deny the very faith I profess. 

That doesn't mean that there are not some very real things that can cause us harm.  One of the fears that still makes its home way down deep in my psyche from time to time is the fear of financial ruin.  I'm a single mother on the path toward a graduate degree, without a clear job offer at the end of this.  Fear relishes throwing all of that in my face.  Reminding me of my inadequacies.  Questioning my motives.  Weighing me and finding me wanting.   But when I quiet the noise and sit still before God, I know that those are all lies.  I know that the truth of this life I have chosen is that I'm following God through it.  And if I want to do that I must abandon security and give my fears away.

I chose to decide that I am capable of facing what is coming in this life and where I am lacking God will fill in the void.  Otherwise I would not be living, I would simply survive moment by ever dreadful moment.  We all know people like that.  Gloom and doomers.  Naysayers, who are consumed by their anxieties.  It is exhausting to be around but it is also terribly sad.  What a waste of each moment, which becomes a waste of an entire life.

Which is why I have another sticker on my car reminding me: don't feed the fears. 

Because sometimes we choose to feed these fears within us.  It's normal to worry and have concerns about life, but they can take on a life of their own. Those thoughts can become all-consuming and steal the very life force within us. I try to remember that this is a self-fulling prophecy. If I allow these thoughts to take over then they will drive all other thoughts away. They will become the erratic heartbeat keeping me up at night. Which will likely lead to whatever I'm dreading coming to fruition. 

Or maybe there's another path? Another way?  One that doesn't lead to my destruction. Maybe that path is even the simpler one? 

I have noticed a change in myself and my way of processing as I have aged/mellowed/done a shit ton of therapy and personal growth work.  I am more able to let things go.  It's not that I don't experience those moments when the sky is literally falling and everything is going to blow the hell up and life is horrible, I absolutely still do.  Ask my friends.  I have been there recently, like this week.  But I am now more able to walk through those moments and then choose to stop living there in the middle of that shit storm.  Because I have realized that I have a choice.  And living there is madness.  I in no way have the ability to predict the future.  I in no way can control another person's actions or emotions, not even my own children's.  I cannot possibly venture a guess at the course tomorrow will take.  So choosing to believe that the sky is actually literally going to fall, leaves me looking rather foolish. 

I have learned that no matter how dark I think the night is, it usually gets 4 to 5 shades darker before relief comes through.  I have learned that expecting to completely fix all of life's problems in a day is complete madness.   While we'd all love to wake up in the morning having everything that was haunting us gone; that's not how things actually work.  Therefore, it is equally mad to do nothing and expect things to change in the manner you would prefer them to.  I can not do everything today but neither does that excuse me from doing nothing today.

That is how people get fit, one thing at a time, every day.  That is how people become experts in their field, learning one thing at a time, everyday.  That is how every person you know who has something colossally difficult has done it, one thing at a time, everyday. 

I have friends who see me as fearless. They look at my life and tell me I must be to overcome what I have. They're wrong. I love them but they don't know. I'm not fearless. I do not...

Laugh without fear at the future. 

I have simply learned that the future is not where the battle of defeating fear is waged. It is waged in the only moment we ever have, Now.  I am here, living and breathing and rejoicing at the many gifts my life has offered me now.  To live in fear, anxiety or terror now would be to squander all of those gifts.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

When Following God Feels Like You're Going Exactly the Wrong Way

There are many who live and breathe and move among us that give no thought to a Higher Power.  They do not consider a destiny beyond the one they are creating for themselves.  Or the one they feel is manufactured by life's unfortunate or fortunate circumstances.  They blithely accept what is as what is.  However, if you don't embrace that viewpoint you are one of those who believe there is something beyond us, God, a Higher Power, what have you.  Whether you realize it or not you have already developed a way of interacting with that Being.  A relationship, if I may.  You may have decided that He or She is uninvolved in your individual life, but has some wisdom to impart to you.  You may scream at the heavens demanding answers for every single last one of life's plaguing questions.  You may pray 3 times a day, 50 or none in a year.  You worship at church, in nature or in a mosque.  Regardless, you have a way of interacting with God, even if you have never examined the fruit those interactions produce, or perhaps don't.  

When we find ourselves in this human-God relationship we often discover that there is something we want from this situation.  If we're going to have a relationship with a being that is beyond our capabilities in strength, knowledge, power, who isn't even limited by time; we want to get something out of that relationship.  That's only fair right?  I mean, we're measly humans who are limited by nearly every damn thing possible.  It'd be nice to be thrown a bone every once and a while by this Being in the Sky.  Would it really kill Him/Her/Our Higher Power to make the path just a smidge easier?  Couldn't She spare some cash when we need it?  Or that acceptance letter to the right school, He could have made that happen, right?  Otherwise, where's this supposed power He has?  And after all if I'm going take my time interacting and having a relationship with this Powerful Being, who supposedly loves and cares about me, wouldn't my Higher Power want to make my life a little easier?

Except that's not exactly how things work. 

There are many times when faithful people have followed hard paths of trying to live out a life they wholeheartedly believe God called them to, and everything has blown the hell up, right in their faces.  More often than not the path of seeking God does not actually make life any easier, we don't get less trouble and difficulty, we get more.  Why?!  This doesn't make any sense to me!  Why would the God-following path be harder?  Why would there be more pain, or trials or illness?  Why do we hurt more?  There are cavalier phrases I could give you about iron sharpening iron, and refining fires.  I won't, they do little for those actually thinking through these things intentionally.  

What I do know is this: often following God feels like you are going exactly the wrong way.  The path contains no earthly, logical sense.  It will not fit in the places in your brain it needs to go.  It will not answer the questions you demand to have answered.  It will not stand up to the battery of the questions at Family Dinners from your grandmother, because she will want to know why you don't have a better plan.  Following God rarely is logical.  Following God is never easy.  It will leave you confused and questioning.  I could tell you there's a reward at the end of all of it, but I'm still waiting on mine.  I hesitate to give other people promises on which I can't deliver.  

We can not hope to go through this life without mishaps.  Sometime around mid-childhood we discover that there is no getting through this adventure unscathed.  We will be marked by misfortune or pain or loss.  We will fail.  We will experience injustice.  To our pre-pubescent selves this all seems terribly unfair.  Hopefully, we grow out of wallowing in that murky self-pity and come to accept life as it is with some measure of peace.  Save the ones among us determined to remain solidly in the victim role until their last breath is drawn.  

The path in my own life that I have walked thus far makes no sense to me.  Absolutely none.  Because if I had it in my power to do anything in the universe I wouldn't have set me here.  I would have smoothed the road a bit.  I would have had more stuff go in my favor and spared my children some hurt and pain, a lot of hurt and pain.  I would have sheltered more and held the enemy back with a firmer hand.  I am not in charge and if I was I would have done it differently.  

Lately quiet moments have been haunting me, an accusing voice has been plaguing me, telling me that somehow I messed up.  Somehow I was stupid or an idiot.  The single word idiot has been on repeat in my head.  Telling me if I could have just foreseen and been smarter I would have made better choices and now life wouldn't look like this.  But I wasn't and it's my fault.  And everything my family's facing now is my fault because I was dumb.  

Today a different voice spoke up (yes, I sound schizophrenic now) and said, "Hold on a freaking minute here.  You are not an idiot.  You have done nothing wrong.  You have tried hard to protect your family.   You have worked hard to make sure they are safe and secure.  You are creating a future for yourself and your children.  You are not at fault.  How could you have known this?  What transcendent power do you possess that would have gifted you with this knowledge?  Have you mistaken yourself for God?"  

And that voice was right.  I could not have seen this in my path, not a year ago, 5 years ago or 12 years ago.  I'm not omniscient.  I desperately wish I was and that God, who is would have given me more of a head's up.  But following God often feels like I'm going exactly the wrong way.  The right way in my head is toward safety and security.  Toward the white picket fence and the 401-k.  Picket fences disguise themselves as prisons.  And I have never been one to be fenced in.  Following hard after God has always meant letting go of my personal need for security and being placed in an adventure where I am not the captain.  I dislike it some days.  It's uncomfortable and terrifying.  I want control.  I abhor having to trust another, even the Almighty.  But that is what is best for me and so this is the path I will stay on.  

One blind faithful step after another.