Tag Archives: anxiety

outdoor cat.

After 4 long–and I’m talking LONG–months of personal restraint and self-control, I bit my nails. Like, I bit them clean off. I had come so far! I’ve been a nail-biter since I was 3 (truestoryaskmymother) and it was assumed that they had ceased to grow completely. But behold the power of a good prenatal vitamin and a superstition based in nothing but my own crazy head! By mid-February I had grown me some pretty fierce she-claws. Unfortunately, during this past bed-ridden Sunday afternoon, boredom and anxiety teamed up and became one great big mega-force to be reckoned with, and what started with the innocent nibbling of a thumbnail quickly progressed to an all-out war against my own hands.

I got gnarly man nubs again.

Though it feels really good to be biting my nails again, I am so angry with my self. I said “Self! Where’s your will power?” But my self never answers back, so I’m left to ponder, and probably over-spiritualize, the religious themes of The Walking Dead.

You’re welcome.

It is so easy to slip back into bad habits. Look at precious Darryl Dixon:

This is accurate.

This is accurate.

No really, look at him–so much awesome. For those of you who don’t watch, a little background information may be in order: pre-zombie-apocalypse, Darryl was a swampy white-trash redneck who drank moonshine, lived in the woods, and pretty much did whatever he wanted. Suddenly, zombies! Darryl Dixon met up with a group of survivors, and all of them became dependent upon his “Man-vs-Wild”-style expertise. The group was constantly in situations that called for Darryl to step up and be a protector and a leader. He made real connections with people. He became a hero.

Then that band of survivors got separated, and Darryl was roped into another group–this one made up of some real meanies: thieves, killers, and liars, who “claimed” things for themselves. Darryl stood firm in his struggle to be a good, fair person in a world that’s kill or be killed: “I ain’t claimin’ nothin‘,” he asserted, even if it meant going hungry or sleeping on concrete.

Sadly, by the end of one episode, Darryl (at least temporarily) gave up. He saw the body of an enemy and instead of respectfully covering it with a sheet (like Good Darryl would’ve done), he tossed the sheet aside. He gulped down moonshine. And he “claimed” things.

So much for fighting the good fight.

I wonder a few things:

  • How much decency did Darryl Dixon have in him before society went to hell in a hand-basket? My guess is, just like most people, he had the ability to be honorable and kind–just maybe not the opportunity.
  • Maybe his drinking and his swearing and his selfishness were all coping mechanisms. Maybe he was used to being in a kill-or-be-killed environment.
  • And in that case, was he just employing genius survival tactics when he started “claiming” and going along with the rest of the group?
  • Darryl is not known for his faith, in God or in anybody, and he occasionally says so around people of great faith. Does his self-reliance make him better equipped to handle the evils of his world? Or will it ultimately be his downfall?

And then I wonder a few things more:

  • How many times do I show kindness and compassion to someone in need? How many opportunities do I waste to be generous or hospitable? Do I really have to wait until the end of the world to be courageous and honorable?
  • What kinds of habits have I worked hard to overcome, besides biting my nails? People have all kinds of vices in order to cope with the unfairness, scariness, and pain from the world around them. My biggies are alcoholism and anxiety. In my happy bubble of church folk and family, I’m good–but it can be a slippery slope, just like gently nibbling one little fingernail. Of course I don’t need to be drinking a beer or going to a bar–even certain music can put me back into that good-time-girl mindset.
  • How do I act when I’m around people who might make fun of me for trying to set myself apart? I remain quiet. Or get drunk. Or drop f-bombs left and right while proudly displaying my (uselessly) vast knowledge of anything pop-culture.
  • It took me a while, but I have learned that going it alone is pretty much stupid. I can’t survive in the world without Jesus (as evidenced by sins of my past and present). I can’t carry on in my Christian walk without the friendship and the encouragement of brothers and sisters who hold tightly to my hand as we all walk along the same path. And I also can’t walk that path with a blind eye turned towards others who don’t share my hope–there’s a better way to live, and it involves so much more than survival alone.

 

“…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…” –1 Timothy 6:11-12

 

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welcome to the suck.

I had the *best* week ever.

It started off right with a baby-less due date. Things did take a very promising turn when my friends snagged me away for a morning of pedicures, lunch, coffee, and window shopping.

And then.

Then.

Then I pissed off my husband in such a way that it’s a wonder he acknowledges my presence.

I don’t say that because I want sympathy or I want to talk about why our fight started. I say that because married people mess up. They hurt each other sometimes. And they argue. And they don’t always see eye to eye. And they make mistakes–or in my case, failures. And they lose their tempers. And they get annoyed and upset and sad, and every other emotion that you can think of.

Being married is not always fun or romantic. It’s really, really hard to be a godly wife or husband when you’re seething mad at one another. It’s even harder when you have to put on a smiley face and go out into the world and be around people together, or worse–out into the living room and be in front of your kids together.

We’re going on day 6 of crankiness, snappy-attitudes, frowny-faces, and crossed arms. But God has a wicked sense of humor–I know for a fact that He has fun jacking with me and Caleb. Case in point: yesterday afternoon we discovered that we had lice all up in my house–specifically on me and one of my children. And also the dogs got sprayed by a skunk. Again.

Awesome.

So guess who stayed up until 2:30 a.m. greasing and de-licing my head? Through his anger, straight through his disappointment and irritation–Caleb tenderly and patiently picked nits and bugs out of my slimy hair for 3 hours. You know–kind of how Christ loves the church and stuff.

Pretty sure God is laughing so hard He shot Cherry Coke out of his nose. I’m also pretty sure God drinks Cherry Coke.

It is purely by His grace that the two of us are still married. The short version of our life together so far? 5 horrible years of an alcohol-fueled hell, followed by weight gain and weight loss, anxiety and depression, craniosynostosis and skull surgeries, medical bills and layoffs, 2 lost babies and several royal screw-ups by yours truly.

We are here.

Sometimes it feels like we are out in the deep, deep ocean and the waves are slamming us down under the surface and we’re getting saltwater shoved up our noses and our eyes sting, and whenever we’re able to come up for air, rain is coming down as hard as it can, and we can barely breathe or stay afloat.

Sometimes the waves are just choppy enough to be adventurous and fun.

And sometimes the ocean is calm and glass-like and we can see our toes underwater and enjoy the sunset.

Our marriage is always changing. We are always changing. I can’t say I don’t hope the worst is behind us. Hard times suck. But we don’t call it quits when we’re in a storm–we hold onto each other tighter.

For better or for worse.

….

So to recap, my husband is aggravated with me, my parents will be here in a week, I have lice, and my house smells like skunk. This is real life. One day, when the water is calm again, I’ll laugh my head off about it.


picking stupid weeds

We got these awful stickers in the yard–the kind that are more painful than a thousand poisoned darts made out of jagged razor blades, if you get stuck by one. They’re the worst things in the entire world and there are approximately 3 million lining our back porch.

If you’re fancy, you can get a weed hacker and slice those puppies down. The only problem with that is, they’ll go all over the place and just spread the problem of the stickers.

Or, if you’re like me, you’ll try to tackle each and every sticker–pulling them up one, by one, by one, until after 4 hours of hunching over a tiny clump of weeds, you look up to see that you still have 17 more feet of sticker-pulling to go, and you cry out to the Lord because good gravy it will take a decade to pull them all. And even then, you won’t get the ones that are way down in there, deep.

You could try to ignore them; but you’ll have to wear shoes, all the time, in your own backyard. And you’ll have to jump over the weed patches and you’ll probably still get stuck. And so will your kids. And that makes them cry. And your dogs will try to eat them and they’ll sit there and drool and schlomp and schlack their tongues on the roof of their mouths because they’ve got stickers in their gums. And then the stickers spread and get thicker and thicker, and become highly visable, until there’s just no avoiding them at all ever.

Or: you can take those patches of stickers and face them, head on. You can cut them down and dig them up–all the way up–leaving nothing but dirt where all those green weeds once stood. And it will be bare and ugly for a while, but you’ve cleared them completely and you can start fresh and maybe even plant some flowers or some nice soft grass.

And even though it took a long time and even though it was hard work, you can finally enjoy your backyard again, to the fullest. And life is better with a sticker-less backyard.

Obviously, stickers are sin. Sin sucks and hurts. You can try to cover it up, but eventually it wears on you and everyone else around you. And it sucks the joy out of everything. And you can’t just trim them here and there, and you can’t pick out tiny little ones all on your own. Deal with the sin, because you’re better off in the long run. Even if it’s gotten seemingly out of control. Even if it’s more than what you think you can handle. God helps us with these things if we go to Him. He might recommend a painful course of action. And you’ll get pricked and poked and it take more time than you originally expected, and you might cry in the process. Grab hold of the sin and yank that mess out by the roots. He will see you through it.

Incidentally, we do have a crud ton of stickers in our backyard that hurt like the mother freaking dickens.


word on the street

Here was soccer practice last night: my team was running around like lunatics while they waited for their turn to shine under the bright team-portrait lights. I stood idly by watching the madness, and I guess I just look like the kind of girl to chit-chat with, and you know, share a life story–complete with political views and spiritual struggles–with.

People talk to me. Well, I talk to people. Well, actually I more or less run my mouth until I look like a total jackass, and then people feel comfortable talking to me since they figure they can’t possibly look any stupider than I just did.

It’s a gift.

Really.

I enjoy talking to people when I’m not totally wigging out (’cause I got the anxiety!) As I listened to some of these ladies talk, I realize that every person has so much baggage. We all struggle and strain and fight the work that God wants to do in our lives. Sometimes, if we’re particularly feisty by nature, we create our very own custom-made hell-on-earth.

It’s not just me.

The thought is both relieving and sad.

I’ve been there. I’ve been too tired to go to church. I’ve been so lonely I could just die. I’ve had the knock-down drag-out fights with my husband and I’ve screamed at my kids for a week straight.

I’ve also drank myself into a stupor every day by 3:00 in the afternoon for a good solid 3 years. I’ve cried in my closet partly because I was ashamed of being drunk and partly because I was too drunk to do anything else. I’ve given precious pieces of my heart and body to people who didn’t love or respect me. I’ve brought down mad dishonor on my parents. I emotionally neglected my daughter and I flat-out ignored God, saying things like “I’m just not into Jesus right now.”

But the whole time, Jesus? Was very much into Toni McClung. And He pursued me super-duper hardcore and He fought for me and when I was at my rockest bottom, He walked right in, paid the price for everything that I had done, and everything that I would do and everything that I haven’t even done yet. He redeemed me.

Say that with me: redeem.

I am worth something to Him. I don’t deserve it, I don’t fully understand it, but He calls me His own. He calls me Daughter.

I see these people, these moms and dads and these children out there on the soccer field and they talk to me and my heart hurts for them. It literally hurts, and I could cry over their pain. I know.

I know loneliness and fear and panic and anxiety and desperation and hunger and sadness and despair and depression and anger and rage and hurt and pain and loss. I know the frustration and the impatience and the feeling of being overwhelmed and powerless, and I have had the shakes for something that never fixed anything–only made it all worse, worse than I could ever imagine. Sometimes I still get the shakes, actually.

I always had trouble understanding that church term: my chains are gone. I used to think: “Chains? Really? My life is good. Really good.” (a Nacho Libre quote for the win!)

But I get it now. My alcoholism, my laziness, my pride, my sins: it was absolute slavery. Jesus wanted me to be free. And though those very human feelings still come up and temptations still rear their ugly heads, they don’t own me and they don’t define me, because He calls me Daughter.

It’s not about church or church activities or church people or the church building. It’s not about things I do or do not do or about acting right and avoiding wrong. It’s about loving Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength because He first loved me; He died for me and for all people.

And that’s…awesome. Awesome is what it is.


(More) Uncertain Times

As wars rage in faraway countries and U.S. battleships line up in foreign seas, let’s try doing something a little outside the box, a little crazy: Let’s….say…a prayer…for our president.

Take a deep breath, because that really did come out of my mouth just now.

And all I know is that, like so many other points in history, this moment in time is meaningful. The government’s decision on whether or not to step into a situation that may or may not be our business absolutely requires our most fervent prayers.

It scares me that we live in a world filled with such ridiculous violence. I hate that I can sound off my half-informed opinion of it all from the comfort of this uncomfortable office chair, while real people–young, old, male, female–are literally ducking for cover from gunfire in dilapidated buildings. Gunfire, people.

I’ve never been shot at. The only times I’ve ever even heard gun shots were at my high school track meets. I’m beyond sheltered. And probably also beyond naive.

A part of me says, “No. Let’s not go to war; let’s not invade yet another country. Let’s not start this.” But another part of me says, “This is wrong. What they’re doing to their own people is wrong.” And still another part of me questions, “Was it really us that gave them the ability to hurt their own country like this?” And most of all, I think “What about our country? What about my children? What about gas prices? Food prices? What about my comfortability? When are we ever going to get a twirly cushioned office chair?”

It’s not all about the United States. It’s just not. We live in the world. The world has 99 unending problems. We can’t ignore them, and even if we try, it’ll all eventually come crashing through our front door.

I don’t say this because I think we should obliterate other countries off the face of the planet.

I don’t say this because I think the U.S. is morally and ethically superior to any other place.

I don’t know what the right answer is.

But I know who does. And I know that His plans are unstoppable. And I want on the side of Him. Because–*spoiler alert!*–Jesus wins.

Would God be on the side of our country? Let’s just say I’m hesitant to believe it. Shall we take a short look at pop culture, perhaps? Music that glorifies violence, alcohol, and drug use. Men who objectify women. Women who completely degrade themselves by grinding on teddy bears in front of a world-wide audience. Parents who let their kids get away with any fool thing at any hour of any day. Teenagers who go on random killing sprees because they’re bored. This is the stuff that scares me far more than the possibility of war on foreign soil.

But let’s keep in mind that none of this is taking God by surprise. This is not the first war in the history of mankind. Obama is not the first leader to mess up. (Can we agree that King David’s whole love-child/arranged murder scandal would’ve had Americans calling for his actual head on a stick?) Miley Cyrus is not the first girl to lose her damn mind. And this is not the first economic disaster we’ve endured (The Great Depression/Dustbowl days seemed pretty freaking bleak.)

I will admit, that although nothing is new under the sun, our current problems don’t exactly point us in a promising direction.

So now that I think about it, let’s pray for our president and our country. Let’s pray for the poor souls overseas who are in the midst of battle today. Let’s pray for the women and children who are powerless and scared to death. Let’s pray for ruined countries and countries headed toward ruin.

Let’s pray for the people across the world that don’t know Jesus. Let’s pray for those who can only think of hate and fear. Let’s pray for the people who don’t know love and kindness.

And pray for your neighbor. Pray for your neighbor’s marriage, and their children. Pray for the single mom walking in the hot sun to pick her kids up from school. Pray for the single mom at work, worrying about how her kids are getting home from school. Pray for the family in the car in front of you in rush hour traffic. Because guess what? If it’s not your problem now, it will be soon. And if it’s Jesus’s business, then it is your business.

And spread the word: You don’t have to be a slave of the world. You don’t have to give in to evil. You don’t have to be sexually depraved and addicted to drugs. You don’t have to seek negative attention. You don’t have to kill. You don’t have to fight.

There’s something so much better, and you are loved.

john 16


Dealing.

I am running again, and it feels awesome. Except for in the morning like before 7:00 p.m., or whenever the temperature is above 80 degrees, and also I don’t like to drip sweat. A little sweat is okay, but leaving a trail is just unattractive, as is the heavy breathing associated with this type of physical exertion. But I do love running.

I’ve cut down on coffee. For instance: instead of drinking an entire pot, I would have only, say, 8 cups. But then Caleb caught on to my little game, and now I’m down to 1 measly cup and excuse me but that’s bogus.

Painting has been somewhat therapeutic, although, to be honest, when I start painting, what I really want to do is just drop everything and everyone else in the world and just focus all my energy and attention to the canvas. And when I can’t do that–simply take 24 solid hours to devote to one painting–my mind obsesses over every little detail that I DIDN’T get to finish. Kids? They can open their own Capri Suns if they’re still up at midnight.

Of course that hasn’t been the way of it. I’m putting my kids to bed semi-on-time. I’m making them drink milk and read books. We go to swimming lessons in the morning and ride bikes in the evening. No one is neglected, and no one is becoming a tortured manic artist who forgets to shower or eat.

Because I certainly remember to eat.

I wish I could explain anxiety. My mind thinks rationally for the most part, but my skin crawls and my blood tingles and my head pounds. And I feel like I have to yawn but I can’t–and then the thought of not being able to take a deep breath makes me try even harder to breathe, and then I really do start to panic because–holy crap–I can’t breathe.

And sometimes I can’t get my words out. And sometimes I forget what I was saying or doing. And I can’t focus and I feel jumpy. And also loud noises and crowded hallways and traffic jams and people I don’t know freak me out, because what if I can’t breathe?

Caleb says that this is the thing that he hates the most: “What do you mean you can’t breathe? That’s ridiculous. Yes, you can breathe. Just breathe. Just do it. Breathe.”

Sometimes my husband knows just the right thing to say. But a lot of times, no. Just…no.

I kid.

No I don’t.

But out of all the people who deal with me on a regular basis, Caleb gets the brunt of my funky moods. He gets the shrill, worked-up rant over the scuff marks on my church shoes. He gets the tossing and the turning at 4:00 in the morning, and the “What part of ‘I’ve got a freaking headache‘ didn’t you understand?” He comes home after a long day to a strung-out, unkempt wife, who cooked burnt pancakes for dinner, and who forgot to buy syrup.

Bless his precious, patient heart.

My friends are awesome. My folks are awesome. And God is awesome, because of course during this past week’s Sunday School lesson, we studied David and Goliath: a little boy, fighting for God, and overcoming a seemingly undefeatable giant. Goliath was big, ugly, and mean. Anxiety is scary. Life is scary. I have to face these things. But God will see me through it, and He will use these experiences of mine for good.


Painting Mania

Ah, Monday. Approximately 3 weeks left until school starts. Cheyenne is back from Maryland. Mia and Merrick are taking swimming lessons. And I’m still muddling through a crazy phase. Though I must say–there are perks, such as the inevitable surge in creativity.

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Of course, it usually happens at night, and I either toss and turn in bed with my head spinning from ideas; or, I get up and paint/draw/write it out.

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Unfortunately, these late-night art sessions can get me going on a vicious cycle: early morning exhaustion leads to massive amounts of coffee; coffee fuels anxiety, anxiety wears me out, the extreme fatigue keeps me from my afternoon run, and the lack of afternoon run keeps me up at night. When will it end? And can I keep the imaginative part?

In other artsy news, sign-ups for my kids art classes were held last week. I had 13 spots filled within about a 24-hour period. I’m going to have to rent a U-Haul to pick up art supplies this season. It’s going to be amazing: we are of course covering Horace Pippin, Georgia O’Keeffe, Banksy, Dale Chihuly…

And Vincent Van Gogh, who was more than a little off his rocker, God love him. Now there was a man with a lot of good stuff to say. Did you guys know he was a preacher once? He taught about Jesus down in the dingy coal mines of Belgium. He actually sold everything he owned and gave it to the poor miners and their families. When he stopped preaching, he painted like it was his religion. Heart and soul into everything. And then he cut off his ear, shot himself, and died.

Sad stuff right there.

My July art classes have just about wrapped up. It’s been so much fun, working with so many different people and all their different preferences and styles. It’s fun to see some kids come in so rigid, afraid to even hold a paintbrush for the fear they’ll make a mistake–but when they leave, they’re loose and fluid and relaxed. Some kids seem like they’re born to paint and create.

One day I had a little girl who was determined to paint a soft, realistic picture of a butterfly. This sporty chica had a heavy hand; her strong softball arm would not make a “light” mark to save her life. I took this to mean we should try a different approach–we decided to go edgy with a pop-art style painting:

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Last week I had a mother/daughter/son class with some of the most laid-back, teachable people I’ve ever had the pleasure to do art with. Noah loved them so much, he got all dressed up for their session. Here are the final products of the mellow family:

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Why yes that IS my dog wearing a necktie.

And now that classes are almost over, I’m going to enjoy the last few weeks of summer before school starts–the calm before the storm. And calm means: running from swimming lessons to band camp to grocery shopping and back-to-school shopping and house-cleaning and bill-paying and painting and art-lesson-planning and anxiety attacks and ripping my hair out over stupid Disney channel songs called “I Know What Boys Like/Girls Like.”

Here is one more picture of our July in Oklahoma:

A Van Gogh-worthy field of sunflowers.

A Van Gogh-worthy field of sunflowers.


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