A question. What are you…afraid of?
Fear has this way of flaying us open, I think. Of laying bare what we see as bigger than us.
Worry manifests itself in vastly different ways. Some of us, for example, seek to staunch this bleeding of our hearts with intense control or safety. That is to alternatively say, some of us who struggle most with control actually are waging an inner battle with fear. As counselor and neuropsychologist Ed Welch writes, “One message is obvious: ‘If I imagine the worst, I will be prepared for it.’ Worry is looking for control….Worry has become your talisman to ward off future catastrophe.”
I woke up the other day feeling—well. Feeling needlessly angry. (It wasn’t the first time, lately.)
I drilled down a bit in my surly little soul. Anger, I recall, is secondary; it stems from something: disappointment, fear, hurt, sadness. For me, there were slices of sadness—but also a big hunk of fear. More specifically, I felt powerless.
As I was scrawling thoughts for this post, I felt rather sheepish for even labeling that. The reasons I feel powerless are nothing like some of you reading this, huddling (or scramming) when an abusive spouse comes home. Or perhaps you’ve got a boss who makes you feel about an inch high, or even threatened—but you’ve gotta pay the rent. Or maybe you’re a person of color, feeling terrified and estranged after the last election. Or you have a dark diagnosis and a couple of small kids.
I remember that summer vividly; pivotally. I was on my way into high school, and had finally wrapped my hormone-charged little brain around Jesus’ servanthood, His death to self. I remember leaning over my cafeteria tray, discussing with my camp counselor what that looked like. She looked alarmed, I think, over my fervor (I’m sure my husband can relate): But Jesus doesn’t want us to be doormats, she countered.
At the time, I just couldn’t see it. What did Jesus hold back? The concept of “boundaries” seemed a post-modern reflex against living radical and poured-out. I didn’t see a whole lot about boundaries in the Gospels.
Okay, moms: Who’s the best mom you know? And what makes her, y’know, stellar?
I wonder what the highest standard for motherhood is in your group of friends. Is it clear where you should be sending your kids to school, or what educational concepts they should have mastered? Whether you should vaccinate? Whether you use essential oils or antibiotics? Which programs your kids are enrolled in, how your daughter’s room is decorated, or what cute ideas you found on Pinterest for her birthday party?
I’ve only been back in the States for a month, so maybe I’m picking up on the wrong vibes. But—I am picking up on some significant pressure that we both give and receive from each other as mommas. Maybe you’re insecure like I was as a young mom, and sometimes still am. So much is imploding in front of you, despite your utter exhaustion. I admit to a wee bit of wicked consolation when another friend has a pile of dirty dishes that’s kind of erupted all over the rest of the kitchen, or when her kid also has a head-turning meltdown in the housewares aisle.
One of the sadder effects of my time back in the United States is my subtle and instantaneous body-consciousness. (This is not a cultural diatribe; I’ve got body issues.) Unpacking my jeans in the cheap hotel we checked into after flying in, I remarked to my husband, “Why is it that I just feel like I’ve gained 25 pounds?”
He shrugged. “Maybe because it’s so easy to gain 25 pounds while we’re here?”
Later I realized—nope. It’s because instantly—I must sheepishly admit image rises in priority in my mind. Yes, I am inundated with marketing, much containing women both airbrushed and well-paid to look both stunning and underweight. But, as I was recently reminded by my sister’s post, even the time to focus on image, or to work out, is a sign of all the excess I enjoy. Which means that in Africa, I have been fasting a bit from this fixation on modern instruction in beauty. It also means that the geometric shapes of my body are a little more appreciated.
(Okay, those of you who know me personally: thou shalt not laugh.)
I used to think I was a perfectionist.
I could sense it in a conversation the other day, creeping over me like a bony hand on my shoulder. Later, I guessed it was similar to what some women feel when a confident, charming vixen sweeps into the room, swiveling all the male heads, and you’re in your sweatpants and greasy ponytail: immediate intimidation. And was that…jealousy? Ick.
Around the world, so many of us are grieving this senseless tragedy in Orlando, trying to make evil fit into a narrative that would make sense. Beginning on Monday morning, I’ve felt myself pushing against that gray, shapeless mass that is anxiety–for a number of personal reasons, not the least of which are these heart-rending events in my home country. Though I don’t feel my voice would add something unique to the reaction, after talking with our kids on Monday evening and praying together as a family, I found my friend Kristen’s post, Dear Kids: It’s a Sad Day in America, to be a good word.
My anxiety doesn’t compare to what many are mourning right now, and I continue to pray for Orlando families and churches. But perhaps you can identify with some of these thoughts as we confront fears of all dimensions. -Janel
Parenting is…overwhelming sometimes pretty much all the time. Last night I recognized a sensation creeping over me with shadowy fingers, as my thoughts slammed into my kids’ schooling and implementing solutions for my son’s ADHD and appalling, heart-rending current events: anxiety. If I were to have drawn my heart, it may have looked like this: