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How does social anxiety start? For me, it happened in grade school, when I first realized that being different in any way seemed to give some kids license to pick on others. I have red hair, freckles and glasses. Nuff said? Nowadays, I love my hair, but at the time, I wished I could blend in and be a brunette. I started to speak less often, not wanting to call attention to myself, and developed anxiety in social situations. 

As I got older, I realized that most people are so inside their own heads that they weren’t even thinking of me or anyone else. If someone wanted to make me feel bad about myself, it was usually a reflection of something going on in their own life. I came to the conclusion, “That’s their bad day.” It didn’t have to be my bad day, too.

There are so many types of anxiety that many are known simply by their acronyms: OCD, PTSD, GAD. When I was stuck in an awful job and a failing marriage years ago, I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). As I look back at the person I was, I don’t even recognize her. I haven’t felt that way in over a decade.

I’ve found effective relief-valves, such as meditation, with the HeadSpace app, support groups, round-loom knitting, and at-home cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. I’ve found ways to work around my visual impairment and MS to volunteer my time and talents in whatever small way I can. Having a project and a purpose every day when I wake up has improved my quality of life. 

Re-charging your batteries when your soul needs fuel makes it possible to keep powering down the road of life. And partnering with Providence can keep you on the right path.

What I need in my life right now is a traffic jam, the wrong amount charged on my credit card, and a creaky kneecap, said nobody ever.

What I really need is to call customer service to get my bill straightened out. Except that when I do, I’m intercepted by an automated voice asking, “Tell us why you’re calling. To check your balance, press 1. To check your coat, press 2. To be dropped into an endless loop of lost calls, press any key, because we’ve all gone home anyway.”

The disembodied voice is like a bot-bouncer, deciding who earns the privilege of getting through the door to see the important people.

‘You want the Pistons and Widgets Department. Is that right?” she asks gamely.

“No,” I say angrily, repeatedly pressing “0” to no avail. “Representative!”

“Sorry, I didn’t get that. Let’s try again!” Why is she always so cheerful as she denies me access to my own information?!?

While on the phone with the digital gatekeeper, I walk over to a chair in the kitchen to sit down and realize my knee has just made a tiny, crunching sound. What the heck is that? I wonder. The knees don’t actually hurt, they just make a new, time-is-marching-on noise.

Okay. Let’s take a moment to meditate. Take some deep breaths. 

My visiting nurse Janice explained to me recently how to do a cleansing breath. “Smell the roses, blow out the candles,” she told me. Inhale through your nose as if smelling roses, then exhale out the mouth as if blowing out candles on a birthday cake.

Not to add one more thing to your to-do list, but do your Auntie a favor and try a cleansing breath or two. Being in a hurry just leads you to worry. Moments of repose take you from mindlessly stressed to mindfully blessed.

This past week!  Holy bananas.

I can’t say that it was a bad week, but not one single day went as planned.  Plans added or deleted or simply shifted around day after day.  I’m not sure how or why but it made the whole week feel rushed.

So yesterday when I made it to church just a bit early, instead of stopping in the parlor where everyone gathers to chat, I entered through the fellowship hall.  In front of me stretched the labyrinth.  Step by step, I paced around the first circuit, pausing to breathe and reach outward at the turn.  Back and forth I paced, the whole time mentally calling out to God.

“How can I reduce the stressors in my week?”

“How can I reduce the clamor?”

“What can I do to feel more centered?”

And with each pause, each turn, the same answer came.  Turn to Me.

In the center, I paused while people entered the building around me.  Then I made my way back out, stopping, reaching out, step by measured step.

When we hurry through our days, rushing from task to task, we forget to listen.  We accomplish what we accomplish, checking it off our list and then rush to the next item.  Look at me!   I’m getting things done!

In our hurry, we forget whose path we follow.  We forget who lights the way.

Step slowly.  Pause.  Breathe.  And look to him.

–SueBE

woman with cell phoneI love reading posts like Ruth’s. The little blessing really do mean a lot.

Lately, I have not been feeling blessed. If anything, I feel beleaguered, put upon, picked on and stressed.  Dad has been booted from his assisted living apartment – he is immobile and thus needs more help than they can give. As we work to find someplace for him to live, he’s been in the hospital twice.  We found rehab but not residency and had to keep looking.

Stressful times, yes, but I still didn’t get it. Why was I being such an unholy b-word? I have a hot-tamale temper but this was above and beyond.

I prayed for calm.  I prayed for soothing.  Why wasn’t I hearing that still, small voice that so often contains the answers to my problems?  Instead, my attention kept going to my cell phone. Yeah, yeah. I should check and see if I have another message from my sister.

I prayed but my temper stayed hot. Then came three phone calls and 24 messages in 90 minutes. I was me more than a little frayed. I needed a break and grabbed a magazine.

There I found an article about how to handle the stress caused by our electronic devices. The writer discussed how to get out from under the huge onus of texts, e-mails and tweets. Skim your e-mail and messages by sender.  Pick out the few that are truly important and deal with them.  If you don’t get to the others?  Pfft. A lot of people will message or e-mail you instead of finding something out for themselves.

What a minute.  God, are you trying to tell me something?  The three calls and 24 messages above were mostly “check on what this person says and then get back to me with it” or “tell me again what you’ve already told me because I don’t want to scroll up.”

I picked up every phone including my cell.  I gave them to the teens gaming in my dining room. “Unless someone is dead or dying or there’s a fire, tell them I’m in Australia herding wombats.” Anyone who knew me would know that this meant “I’ve had it and will call back later.”

When one of my texters didn’t hear from me immediately she called.  “She’s in Australia,” said my son.  “Herding wombats,” yelled the others.  “I know she’s been texting you. Now I have the phone,” said my son. “You can talk to her after 5. After 5.”

God, you pointed me at my phone. Why did it take me so long to figure out you were telling me to disconnect?  Truthfully, I can be a little slow. I’m just glad that on the day I figured it out, I had a roomful of willing teen accomplices.

And the funniest part?  Once I listened and removed myself from the equation, they worked things out on their own. Yesterday, I had one phone call and 2 texts all day long. God really does bless us with the answers to our prayers.  We just need to hear the answer he’s sending.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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