My anxiety’s name is Ann. She is loyal and licentious. She is envious. She commandeers my joyful moments and replaces them with doubt. I call her Ann because “Ann”xiety (duh), but also I often have to remind myself that she is simply Ann emotion. She is not me; nor does she represent me. She does not have the final say because she is disobedient, ruthless, and deceitful. She has no one’s best interest at heart, other than her inconsolable friends depression and despair. She is simply an emotion that forces me to be intentional with my steps. She is separate. She is there, and I tip toe around her hoping she won’t see. But I also stomp my feet with purpose, unafraid of if she hears. Some days I feel her close like an itch I just can’t spot. Some days I tie her tightly and throw her out with all the rot. She will return, and that is fine. She is an emotion. She is excited by another. She is not me.
I mindlessly scrolled through my feed until I came across a photo of a woman in a hospital bed, smiling with her whole body, without a strand of hair gracing the top of her head. She was surrounded by three of her closest ones, wrapped in the deep love of family. The caption read that she was finally going home, and I smiled. I don’t know this woman, but I know she has been given a gift. I sometimes see faces like hers as I walk the halls of the hospital. The photo’s caption went on, describing their blessings and God’s goodness toward their family. All this through a variety of hashtags, with words smashed together because time is so crucial, not enough available to give each word its own beginning and end. Time was moving on, and her life was out there waiting to be lived. What a gift she had been given.
But then my smile fell. God’s goodness sent her home that day healthier than she had been in months. God’s goodness had made her stronger and whole, had extended her life, had buoyed her and those close ones during a dark time. I am truly thankful that such miracles exist.
But my ache is still raw and my thoughts go here:
what about when it doesn’t happen that way?
God’s goodness may not always feel that good. Sometimes it feels like a lonely house. A broken relationship that keeps gnawing at you. Being the new girl in the room. Stepping out of your comfort zone. Staying late when you don’t have the time. Sometimes it feels like the phone call that never came or the horrific one that did. Accepting help when you wish you didn’t need it. Ignoring the hurtful words of a coworker.
It’s a mess of things that can feel and truly be quite messy.
It can be hard to pull yourself out of bed and put on a brave face when it feels like God and his goodness didn’t show up, at least not in a way that you were wanting or expecting. Although unbearably tough at times, I listen to my heart beating softly and certainly. I hear him there. I reach out through the blurry tears to find a hand to steady me. I feel him there. I let someone hold me just a little bit longer.
So what does it take for us to continue repeating God is good during those times when we want to scream that he is not? Maybe simply separating God’s goodness from the good things that happen in our lives and the good feelings we experience throughout our days. These things are not the same. Maybe settling into the discomfort and knowing he has settled in too. I wish I could say that I have the answer, but of course you know I don’t. His goodness is a mystery that leaves me wanting more. I want daily to understand, to be more capable in the processing of my hurts and the hurts of others, to identify God’s goodness in every situation, no matter how dark, and still be able to smile with the gift.
It feels like tears welling when I think too much and when I think too little. It feels like closing the door to keep it all, everything, out there and simultaneously yearning for someone to open the door, all the while knowing that if they do I don’t have the words to explain why I closed the door in the first place. It feels like being the outsider even though my name entitles me to this home, even though this home has felt to be just that for years before. It feels like a buzzing in my ears instead of the clear articulations spoken by the ones in front of me. What did you say again? It feels like trying to refocus again and again and again. It feels like forgotten prayers or even prayers that never come, like words that sit heavily on my eyelids, coaxing me to sleep, and then waking in the morning with hopes that God is a mind or dream-reader, surely he has known all along. It feels like going to bed too early and rising too late, with muscles that ache from the exercise I never got, with doughy guilt sitting in my gut expanding more and more. It feels like a silent house is yelling at me. It feels like Fear and Anxiety are my best friends, more loyal than I can comprehend. It feels like fingers crossed that I will not be noticed or addressed directly. It’s a discomfort that I want to describe to you, but as soon as my voice leaves my tongue, that sing-song speech well-practiced and fine-tuned, to meet your eyes, I know you have misunderstood. My depths are not your depths. I’ve confused you with my disguises so I leave it be again.
The moment I begin to settle into the silence of the house when I’m alone, I also begin settling into the uneasiness. That previously unheard creak magnifies and echoes in my ears. Since when does the dishwasher make a noise like that? And can anyone really be sure that the air conditioner is responsible for those sounds that are so similar to an axe murderer stealthily unlocking my backdoor?
Did I say settling?
Clearly I meant unsettling. The act of unsettling is so easy when others are nowhere nearby. And clearly my loaf of a kitten-cat is completely useless in fighting off the bad guys. And so I turn on every light in my house. And I refuse to walk by the back door or even make eye contact with a window. Don’t ask me to take a single step down the basement stairs. I stick close to my kitten-cat for the rhythm of his snoring and the soft sound of a heartbeat, no matter how lazy. I snuggle up to the uncertainty of a home all alone. I attempt to make peace with this invisible friend of uncomfortable. Thoughts tend to grow lavishly if not kept in check. Truth and not truth become blurry, their colors mixing into a magnificent shade of gray, like tonight’s cloudy night sky.
Friendship is good and important, faithful and calming.
It’s two in the afternoon, and I’m just now taking a slow long inhale of that perfect coffee smell. The one that says you are fine, right where you, just breathe because you are fine. Why two in the afternoon for my first coffee of the day? Well, on days off one gets the lofty idea that coffee isn’t needed and all other Priorities take over and coffee gets neglected.
Until I realize that I have seen my husband for a total of 2.33 minutes on this day and that didn’t stop me from spewing every hurtful word and thought my silly brain could contrive. And I know those words hurt. I knew my words would hurt before I released them and I released them anyway and this makes me so angry with myself. My words hurt others and then hurt me in return when the shame rises up and what good do I bring but increasing hurt?
I must decrease and He must increase.
I want to make myself so small and crawl up in the corner and silently disappear with little fanfare.
I want my lips to seal together and my ears to grow large with the strength of quiet continual listening.
I want to hear the wreak I havoc before I ever get to wreaking. I want it to stop me cold. I want to be a wife who builds instead of breaks.