One of the blessings prayed over the couple at a Catholic wedding says, “May the cares of life never cause you undue anxiety.” I had to chuckle at a presider who recently flubbed it up, saying, “May the cares of life never cease to cause you undue anxiety.”
I have had at least three bouts of anxiety in the past nine months. I’m still too busy to be paralyzed by it, but I am beginning to realize that this is a cross I will bear my entire life. It surges from the deep in times of stress, of course, and in particular when I’m stepping out in new and unfamiliar directions.
I am a type-A German, more than overly fond of being in control. And I hate the idea that anyone might ever think badly of me–or worse, have reason to think badly of me. If I stayed in my tiny, safe circle, where everything and everyone is a known quantity, I would spare myself the risk of screwing up or getting on people’s bad side. But then a lot of the gifts I’ve been given to share would atrophy. You know that parable about burying the talents.
So when I contemplate a new experience, I do a ton of research, and then I take a deep breath, remind myself that I am a strong, competent woman, and I step out in faith. And still, because I’m human, I screw up. Say something stupid. Forget something I should have remembered.
So I undertake a tug of war. On one side is the desire to chase down unreasonable amounts of reassurance. On the other is living with crippling fear because I don’t want to be a pest to others by asking for that reassurance.
Even writing about it makes the anxiety stir.
And therein lies the lesson for the day. Anxiety, at least the crippling kind I’m talking about, is characterized by lack of reason. It is irrational, and thus sometimes the cure is to talk yourself through it in rational terms.
But–and this is a big but–everyone’s tried to reason with an irrational person, and you know how well that works: not at all. Most of the time, trying to reason with anxiety just teaches it that it’s getting to you. It gives it power. Like I said when anxiety cropped up nine months ago, it’s like a dandelion: it roots hard and fast and sprouts babies by the legion. In other words, it morphs into a monster.
That’s what happened to me last week. The initial trigger birthed a dozen additional ones completely unrelated to it. And there was fallout: in my marriage, in my productivity, in my ability to be a good human being. At last, I had to give up attempts to reason and instead meet every onslaught of WHAT IF’s with a refusal to engage in battle. JUST SHUT UP. THIS IS NOT A REASONABLE FEAR. After about two days of that, the anxiety began to recede.
It’s been a week since then. Anxiety is still hanging around, a low rumble at the edge of my consciousness. But I can ignore it now, at least when I’m not writing a blog post about it.
I’m learning to deal with this nemesis, this cross. Like Paul, I want God to remove the thorn in my flesh, but I keep hearing, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” And so I will struggle on.