Maybe Next Winter

Winter is almost over.

photo credit: Dustin Iskandar via creative commons

photo credit: Dustin Iskandar via creative commons

I have the feeling you get after a long run when you can see your stopping point but it’s far enough away you have to keep churning your legs.

The past few winter’s I have told myself I will not let the weather get me down. I start off well but somewhere in January or February while scraping the ice off my windshield I have had enough. I hate the cold and what it does to me. It sucks the optimism from me like a vacuum getting loose change between the seats of a car.

One bright spot is there are certain foods I like more when it is cold outside. Some days we let soup cook in the crock pot all day while we are at work. When I walk in at the end of the day the smell is permeating through the entire house. For a moment I forget the cold and taste the food in my nostrils. I love the warmth chicken tortilla soup provides. I put shredded cheese and Crystal hot sauce on it and the concoction is something Jimmy Buffett should write a song about. The soup warms me up to my core. I don’t crave chicken tortilla soup when it is warm outside.

I feel we all have Seasonal Affective Disorder to some degree. I don’t want to diminish those who have it severely because I know it is a very real thing but all of us struggle with it right?

Seeing a dead tree come to life reminds me things do change. I’m so tired of looking at dead things. I’m ready to see green. There is something wonderful about a tree coming back to life. I don’t sit on my deck and watch the leaves turn or find beauty in it by reflecting. I pass by and don’t notice it for days or weeks. Then suddenly there are green leaves everywhere. It jumps up and catches me by surprise. I’m so thankful warmer weather is here but I know in a few months I will take it for granted. One of my biggest strengths is taking things for granted. I usually hold this back during a job interview.

I’m happy winter is almost finished but I’m not thrilled with the way I handled it. Once again I allowed myself to be manipulated by the season.

This post from Addie Zierman about a recent car accident she experienced this winter reminded me others struggle with this same thing.

The whole accident is essentially a microcosm of the book I’ve just written: You are knocked out of control by some winter; you find yourself crashing into the artificial lights that you’ve erected to keep yourself out the dark.”

That’s what winter is isn’t it? Maybe next winter I will remember it’s only weather. And it’s the cold weather which allows me to enjoy the taste of chicken tortilla soup.

Instant Peace

How stopping my pursuit of peace helped me find it

We can get almost everything we want in an instant.

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If you want to listen to your favorite band it takes a few minutes to find everything they have ever recorded. If you want to learn how to play guitar you can watch countless tutorials on YouTube.

I wish we could all experience instantaneous peace from stress and anxiety. I wished for that for so long. I spent many nights staring at the ceiling hoping I would wake up in the morning and stare at the same ceiling and everything would be different. That did far more to prevent me from being at peace than it did to help me.

I desired to be in a place like the final scene in The Shawshank Redemption. I imagined a perfect beach with a blue sea and most of all freedom. It didn’t happen. I’m glad it didn’t happen now. I remember praying for it to happen but it never did. What did happen was a slow realization of God’s peace. It wasn’t a quick fix. It takes time to think different. It takes time to not freak out when something bad happens. Once I stopped looking for instant peace I found it.

I have struggled with anxiety for a long time. It is always something which I constantly felt but rarely talked about. I always thought it was me. I realized one day God was bigger than my anxiety. It wasn’t the fact I had not heard this before. It wasn’t the fact people had not told me this before. People would always tell me I needed to stop worry about the things I was worrying about. I knew this but couldn’t help it. Once I stopped seeing my problems as things I could have avoided things slowly became better and my problems became smaller.

I realized God loved me through these trials. He wanted me in these trials. He also cared about me and that is why my life isn’t perfect. When someone loves you they don’t coddle you and tell you everything you do is right when you are wrong. When someone loves you they speak truth to you. They tell you when you are doing something wrong. The only way to grow is to learn through mistakes and learn through trials. I had been searching for perfection in my own life thinking it would result in peace. Once I stopped trying to be perfect peace found me.

The humidity has almost faded for the year in Nashville. I want the warm weather. I want everyday to be on a Caribbean beach but I know sometimes there are storms and sometimes it is dry and cold. Seasons come and go and there is nothing we can do to slow it down or speed it up. When it’s cold and when I’m struggling with anxiety I remember God’s grace and the life God has called me to live. When it’s warm and when I feel good I remember the same things. I have as much of a chance of being perfect as I do of controlling the weather.

Stop trying to find a quick fix. Stop trying to be perfect. When you do peace will find you.

Anxiety and Airport Food

Sitting in Sam Snead’s Tavern at the Jacksonville Airport my stomach was in a knot.

photo credit: David McKelvey via creative commons

photo credit: David McKelvey via creative commons

I planned on stopping to eat lunch before turning my rental car in at the airport. I pulled in somewhere but my anxiety which had been bothering me all day started bothering me again and I didn’t want to stop anywhere I just wanted to get to the airport. When you struggle with anxiety normal fears are heightened. When driving a rental car I constantly look and worry about hitting someone or someone hitting me. This is a feeling I deal with when I’m driving my own car but it’s increased when I drive a rental car. I felt temporary relief once I turned in the car, but my mind quickly shifted to worrying about something else. Anxiety can rob you of your happiness. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. We all struggle with things and for me this is number one.

As I sat at my table at the airport restaurant about to eat overpriced mediocre food I thought about how great things are for me right now. I don’t have a reason to be stressed or to be anxious about anything yet I allow myself to be. As I was thinking about this I noticed a man who appeared to be in his early 50s waiting a table near me. Something in that moment gripped me and broke my heart. Nobody wants to be a waiter at his age. What could anyone possibly say to make him feel better about his job? I just hated it. It pains me to see people who I know are unhappy. Maybe he isn’t unhappy but I doubt it. How could you be happy when your career is a waiter at an airport restaurant?

I’m not sure why this bothered me so much but I think it probably had something to do with the fact that I was swimming in my own pool of anxiety and not wanting to get out. There is so much darkness in the world it can sometimes be impossible to see the light. Sometimes my heart is so full I feel as though it might explode. Wedding receptions or hanging out with a group of friends you haven’t seen in a while bring an overflowing amount of joy. Laughter is as abundant as the drinks and you can’t stop smiling. Then there are other times where the ugliness and brokenness of this world can cause me to dislike everything.

Everyone can’t work their dream job. Nobody likes to say this because it is depressing, but it has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s what hit me when I saw him waiting tables. I wished for his sake he would have made other choices in life. Couldn’t there have been something which happened to him which woke him up before he ended up here? I don’t mean to bash people who work in jobs which aren’t glamorous. I have immense respect for them. Anyone who swallows their pride in order to make a living deserves credit. At the same time it’s fair to say they could have done better. I know the world isn’t a charity and I don’t want it to be that way, but it hurts to see someone not living out their potential.

After I left the restaurant I walked to a bookstore which I often do at airports. I think about what it will be like to stand there and look at one of those books with my name on it one day. Some days it seems a long way off and other times it feels close.

I’m not sure why but seeing him waiting tables made me so motivated to achieve my dreams. As another birthday came and went last week I was reminded how fast life goes by. I just turned 18 and now I’m 28. I know 38 and 48 will be here in the blink of an eye and if I’m not intentional with my goals they won’t happen.

Right here I should put some corny saying about chasing your dreams but that isn’t really me. All I want to say is whatever bothers you and whatever is most difficult for you to do is something you need to attack head on and not avoid. Your goals don’t come about like birthday’s. Be intentional about what you want to do. Find motivation from everyday life.

Filtered Life

I am tired of being cold. Tired is an understatement. I’m angry with the cold weather and how it makes me feel.

created using Snapseed and Pic Stitch

created using Snapseed and Pic Stitch

Spring isn’t one of my favorite seasons but I always love to see it come because it means the cold days are all but gone. I don’t like to do a lot of outdoorsy things but this time of the year I want to stay outside. It feels like an out of body experience to walk outside with only a short sleeve shirt on and for it to feel good.

Something doesn’t feel right about spring. It’s the stage of the year which seems odd. Things start getting greener, the days are longer, there is more sunshine, but something doesn’t quite feel right.

It is hard to put my finger on what is missing. I spent so much time complaining about the weather in January and February I am not sure what to do when the weather is nice and there is no bad weather to complain about.

The nice thing about winter is I have an excuse not to do anything productive. It’s dark most of the day and it’s cold. Only the crazy people are running outside or truly staying active. However, when the weather changes I’m not ready for it. I’m still wanting to find excuses to be lazy. It’s like when your alarm goes off on Monday morning. I long so badly for it to be Saturday morning. There are so many things I wanted to do over the weekend but in reality if I had another day I probably wouldn’t get anything done.

There are so many things I want to do that at times it is paralyzing and I don’t get anything done. I want to write, I want to go for a hike, I want to go look at that piece of furniture we have been talking about buying. Instead, I end up watching a TV show I could care less about and end up sitting confused Monday morning in my cubicle wondering what happened.

In a way I feel the season is necessary to push me along. It’s another reminder that things are changing. Seasons change and we are required to change the way we dress. You don’t walk out of the house in shorts and a t-shirt in January, the same way you don’t walk out of the house with a coat and gloves on in July.

I’m in a rut. I don’t feel like writing. I don’t feel like working out. I feel like watching TV. It can be sports, Netflix, a cooking show, whatever it is, I am interested. I don’t even feel like reading.

I can’t flip a switch. I want to stay in this dark place I’m in but I know I need to come out of it. Isolation has benefits but it is a lonely, barren place. I want my life to be green. I want bright colors to fill my eyesight. I am tired of the dark grayness. It isn’t what I see though. Take a real assessment of where you are at. Chances are the winter has had more of an impact on you than you are willing to admit. Do something about it. Go outside and enjoy it. It feels awkward and uncomfortable and that is even more of a reason to walk outside and experience it.

I walked outside the other day and saw what I put above. It didn’t ignite the passion I hoped it would but it made me want to keep trying. Sometimes things can get tough. You want to automatically be out of the rut you are in but it doesn’t work that way. I’m going to keep going on walks. I’m going to keep pushing myself to try new things. I want to curl up on my couch in the late afternoon and pretend it’s cold outside but that won’t help anything. I’m going to live a filtered life. The reality might not be as beautiful as I would like, similar to the image on the left, but if you look at the filtered image on the right it is almost flawless. Colors are more crisp and the water has a shimmer. Allow yourself to live a filtered life. It won’t immediately cause you to come out of your rut but it will allow you a moment of beauty. Sometimes it is all we need.

You Do Not Have to be a Worrier

Some days I feel as though I’m falling down rapidly. It’s like I’m skydiving and everything is moving so fast I can’t process it. Months go by as quick as days should and while I have all the right intentions I can’t seem to stay ahead.

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One of my biggest fears is waking up in 10 years and wondering what happened during the last decade. I’m scared I will be stuck in neutral. Although this is one of my greatest fears I tend to long for this feeling when I’m stressed out. I’m not talking about frustrating day at work stressed out. I’m talking about anxiety taking you over so much you can’t eat stressed out. When I feel it I long for the mundane days of dreaming and hoping for a better future.

I seemingly feel like I have dealt with this my whole life. There were two phases my brain functioned in and the first was waiting. I would wait for the next issue or problem to come up because I knew each day that passed without a problem just brought me closer to a day with a problem. The second phase was when I was stressed out. Those days where crawling out of bed in the morning takes a herculean effort.

I still struggle with living in these phases but I have gotten so much better. After a particularly stressful day at work a few weeks back I walked out of the office feeling rather defeated. I don’t normally notice even the most beautiful sunsets but I noticed it that day. I took the picture above and it may not be the most picturesque sunset you have ever seen but it was to me. It made me strop right where I was at and it hit me right then and there that no matter where I fall short at, no matter how badly I screw up, God loves me.

When I get stressed out I remind myself of the peace only God can bring us. It’s interesting, peace doesn’t come over you like stress does. Stress can be nonexistent one minute then all consuming the next. Peace is like a slow walk towards the ocean from the beach. We feel better the closer we get to the water but once we take the first step in we realize this is where we are supposed to be. As we take a few more steps in we realize the cold water does something to us. It makes us feel more alive than we ever thought possible. Each wave hits us like God’s grace and we are submerged only to see a whole new world under water. Pictures and videos cannot do justice to the beauty of the ocean floor.

If you’re stressed out you probably are thinking all of this sounds nice but you don’t understand what I’m dealing with or what I’m attempting to go through. I don’t. However, God does and he loves you and cares about you more than you could ever know. He understands exactly what you are dealing with and he can give you peace. You don’t have to be a worrier. You need to submit your thoughts to God. Giving it up to God isn’t easy but as Philippians 4:7 says, the peace of God surpasses our understanding. You don’t have to be a worrier. You simply need to let God give you peace.

You Don’t Have to Be a Psychologist to Help People

Friday morning a few weeks ago I found out some terrible news. A girl I had graduated high school with had committed suicide. We were not very close but our senior year of high school we hung out often with a big group of friends and it hurt so badly to find out what happened.

There are so many thoughts which run through your head at Usain Bolt like speed when you find out someone you know has done this. I had not spoken to her in years but the sadness I experienced was incredibly intense.

Even though we had not spoken in a while I wish I could have spent 5 minutes with her and encouraged her. Told her she could use the problems she faced for good. How she was not alone and there was not anything wrong with her.

Honestly I was not close enough to the situation to know why she did what she did. However, I did spend a lot of time thinking about why someone would do something like that.

I feel like social media can sometimes have a negative impact on people. When you get on Facebook or Instagram and constantly see pictures of people who look happy with their marriage, their job, or their travels, you feel bad about yourself. You think to yourself you will never be that happy, you will never be able to travel the world. Worse is seeing people who seem to have perfect bodies. You look at yourself in the mirror and know you will never feel comfortable posting a picture of yourself online because you aren’t happy with the way you look.

I love Facebook but I definitely understand the negative consequences that can occur even if they are unintended.

I don’t think we should feel bad for putting certain pictures on social media. I do believe we should tell our close friends and family how much they mean to us. I’m horrible at it but I am striving to get better. You never dislike hearing someone tell you how much they care about you.

You Control Your Anxiety

Perry Noble has written an unbelievable book titled, Overwhelmed. I remember reading the first chapter of the book and feeling as though he had followed me around for the past six months and watched me. I felt like I was reading a biography about my life.

The brutal honesty in the book has seeped through to me. It has been difficult to talk with close friends about my anxiety because I do not want them to think less of me. It has made me realize part of my problem is pride. I want people to think I have it all together. The truth is I don’t. There is so much freedom in that.

I tend to put up a front with people and pretend everything is ok when it really is not. It is something I have struggled with immensely.

One of the first lines I underlined in the book was:

“Your overwhelming circumstances will always be overwhelming if you allow them to be.”

There is so much truth in that statement. I have gone over this sentence and several other notes I have written from the book countless times. One part of anxiety I have experienced is the worthlessness you feel. When you are going through it you feel like you can’t accomplish anything. Simply getting through work and surviving until it’s time to go to bed is an accomplishment.

By doing you can get out of it. Even if it is simply going to dinner with friends…anything helps. You have to push yourself to get your mind off you own struggles and enjoy life.

One aspect which helps me is to remind myself every single day is a gift. Today will never happen again. You don’t get to live this day over again. Push yourself to make it the best it can be.

It’s OK to Not Be OK

It has taken me a while to realize it truly is OK to not be OK. No matter what you are dealing with most of the time the part which hurts the most is not the issue itself but the loneliness of the situation.

I have dealt with anxiety my whole life. Sometimes it has been worse than others but the hardest part was I never felt like I could talk to anyone about it. It is not so much I did not believe I could speak with close friends and family about it, but rather I did not believe they would understand how I felt.

You tend to tell yourself nobody else thinks this way and you will never be able to live normally. Isolation is a horrible byproduct of anxiety. You feel trapped in your thoughts and fears. Even with close friends you feel detached during conversations and emotionally and physically exhausted at the end of the day.

I was recently watching an interview with Shauna Niequiest and she was talking about her struggles with getting pregnant. After having her first child she struggled getting pregnant a second time and even experienced a few miscarriages.

She talked about how tough it was to deal with the issue and also about how alone she felt. Hearing her speak so emotionally about this made me realize we all deal with issues and most of us are afraid to speak about them. It’s not so much we are scared to be judged but we are afraid nobody will be able to relate to us.

I am far from an expert on human behavior. My knowledge of psychology extends as far as making a B in Psychology 110 my freshman year of college. What I do know, is finding out you are not alone will help you with whatever you are dealing with.

Even if your close friend or family member can’t relate to what you are dealing with they will be there for you and there is so much peace which can be found. We all want to portray a certain picture of ourselves to everyone and most of the time the picture is not based in reality. It is what we wished we were.

It is not easy to write about this, but my hope is others who deal with this issue will realize they are not alone and there are so many ways to get better. Life does not have to be this way.

It’s Ok to not be Ok.