life, My Faith

Paying attention

That’s kind of a funny title for a blog post about anxiety. I realize that. I’m aware. But it seems like a good one today. Oh, ya…sorry did I not mention…I guess I’m writing about that again today. I mean by now you shouldn’t be surprised. If you are, you should know I fully believe not talking about it is a serious problem and that not talking about it gives it more power than it deserves. And keeping it secret does more harm than good, and well, is it really a secret anyway?

For context, I just got back from a two day, amazing leadership conference called IF:Lead. Y’all. They bring the conviction, the fire, the sass and all the good things. I think the general consensus in those two days is God grabs you, breaks you a little, and puts you back together. It’s a lot for 2 days. So you come back feeling spiritually amazing and physically raw a little bit…because it takes a lot out of you, ya know? (Or maybe that’s my age speaking).

I had a great conversation late morning and I was generally feeling good about my life. I was laying on my couch because my body has a spiritual hangover. I had been having an email conversation with someone (which had it been in person and I could read facial expressions and tone and she could read mine, would have made it a lot better probably now in hindsight.) I started thinking about all the ways it could be interpreted to say something I didn’t really mean. I tried explaining again, but I could see all the holes in my response. (Granted there is nothing in her response really that indicates she doesn’t get what I’m saying…but anxiety yo.)

Because I’m trying to fix myself, I’m trying to pay better attention. So here’s my spiral in a nutshell. The giant butterflies start up their migration. My brain starts churning a mile a minute. My digestive system decides it wants to have fun. My heart pounds a little. My muscles are tense and my diaphragm actually hurts (which is a new thing I only noticed last night…weird). I say all that to say, noticing the cycle starting, I decide to do something…besides let the hypothetical sky fall.

I breathe because breathing is always good and for some reason seems to be the first thing to go. I start trying to talk myself out of it (because reasoning wih crazy always works…stop laughing). I’m trying to engage the rational side of my brain. Listen, crazy brain, she likes you…I think. She knows what you mean. In fact you already had a conversation about it and it was fine. Why bother freaking out now? Also, nothing has even been decided. Also…here’s the question my therapist asks…So, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Crazy brain of course counters with his rendition of the sky is falling and doomsday proclaimations and tries to make rational brain realize that she is wrong and in fact the worst thing that can happen is catastrophic.

(Sidebar…if you didn’t notice…rational brain is female and crazy brain is male…don’t judge me. I tend to give male pronouns to body parts who do me wrong. No offense to the male gender. I quite like you. Moving on.)

Then rational brain realizes that crazy brain has gone off the rails and is quickly gaining control of the situation, so she realizes she should act. What do we have in our arsenal that might work right now?

And this is what she came up with:

First, turn off the dang TV because nothing good is happening there (and let’s just say sometimes in anxiety it’s not distracting but amplifying…at least for me).

Second…music. There’s something about it. It helps me focus on something else. It’s edifying. And I rather like it.

On the way past, I saw my valor oil sitting on the counter. Ya’ll, I don’t care what you think about oils. I get it. I used to say no to the voodoo too, but sometimes it seems to help. And if a little voodoo oil is even placebo affecting crazy brain, sign me up! (If you’re thinking, ok awesome, what do I do with it? Well…no official idea, but someone said put it on the back of your neck and your hands and breathe it in and that seems to work for me. Maybe ask someone who is smart about oils because I’m not that guy).

Still a little wound tight and trying to beat down the butterflies, I decided that there was a couple of problems. First, I was probably exhausted because late nights, early mornings and extra brain matter workouts. Second, I skipped a shower last night because we got home late. So, I got in the shower because it’s relaxing a lot of times and I need to do it anyway.

After a few minutes in the shower, I could already feel crazy brain relaxing. The alarms started slowing. The sky stopped falling. It was definitely a good thing.

Then what happens? The third guy shows up…analytical/critical brain. Oh he’s a dirty devil. Seriously? Did we really just freak out over that? I thought we were past that? You are ridiculous. Oh, he was going to wind up good.

But I noticed. I stopped. Because, guys, I wouldn’t talk to my friend like that, so why do I talk to me like that?! Because my task is to notice my feelings but not judge them (says my therapist with a chuckle because she already knows me enough to know). And I said, No. We’re not judging. Yes. We got wound up. But guess what, we got wound down in 30 minutes or less. And that’s where the power is. That’s progress, judgy mcjudgerson. (insert shrugging emoji because meh….)

Why do I tell you these things? Well, first if you don’t understand, then maybe you can. If you don’t understand and haven’t experienced, I need you to know I don’t actually have 3 brains or even 3 voices in my head. (Come on ya’ll…that’s a different disorder). Why I wrote it like that is because the thoughts come from different areas, triggered by different things, and don’t all need to be listened to. Really now that I think about it, it’s a little like that movie Inside Out, only they aren’t really in there. They all have their place, but if one takes over, chaos insues.

I also write because because I want to stop the process. I want to conquer this devil. I want to have control over it as much as I can, so it can stop controlling me. I also don’t want verbally abusive, critical brain to ever have the upper hand again. He’s had it for years.

Because that’s the root of a lot of problems. I judge myself too harshly. I don’t love me, so why would anyone else? And that’s the cycle I’m trying to stop. I’m trying to claim power over that nonsense. Because rational brain knows that I am loved. But oh crazy and critical brain get together and outnumber and tie up rational brain, they render her powerless, and they’ve done it for years. And I AM SICK OF IT!

And as part of breaking the cycle, I did something uncharacteristic, shocking, and definitely not rule-following last week. I got a tattoo. (It’s okay….breathe…you’re gonna be okay with this knowledge.)

When I was thinking about what word (because I always knew it was a word) I wanted permanently inked into my body, (I know I know….I’m realizing a little more that it’s permanent), I threw around several, I sketched out several, but none fit. Then, suddenly one came to me….or really two in one. Out of nowhere. Into my mind. And it fit.


But when I looked at it, I realized I wanted to put a space in it because I wanted it to be beloved, but also BE LOVED. And thus my tattoo was born.

I didn’t really realize fully the significance, but this last few days, getting convicted and challenged and realizing things about myself that I didn’t want to admit, I realized that accepting love might be the root of the problem. Believing and living fully convinced that I am a beloved daughter of the King (and of my mommy….that’s what my email said when I broke the news of the inking). Believing and living fully convinced that I am worthy to be loved…by me, by others, by God.

Believing and LIVING FULLY CONVINCED that He wants me at the table, that He has given me gifts to use, that I am loved just as I am and worth enough to continue to work. Believing and LIVING FULLY CONVINCED that He hasn’t given up on me and I should not give up on myself either.

I have to continue to the work because I think (and fear a little) that He has big plans. I know I’m worth the work. I know I’m capable of so much more, but I know I am beloved just as I am.

And that’s why this straight-laced, rule-following person has a tattoo. And that’s also why she loves it. I love it. (And my mommy still loves me inspite of it.)

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