New Chapter

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Now we are back. Back from the woods. Back from the mountain. Back from the small town.

We have arrived in the big city. the flatlands, the urban surroundings, the crazy.

For a while during the summer I thought of this as the pause button. I thought of it as the boring part. The summer is the excitement, the productive part of the year,  and the winter is the lull, the bleak months of bread lines and struggle. I viewed the return to here as the inconvenient return to reality and drudgery.

That’s not how life works.

There is no pause, there are no breaks and inconvenient stops. Sure, there are seasons in life. There are periods of calm, times of chaos, bleak days and happy days. But life ticks on.

This is not a season for sitting on my haunches and being miserable. Instead, I need to see this as an opportunity to grow. I have the time and the energy to invest in so much right now, it would be foolish to let my anxiety get the best of me.

It hasn’t been three days back and we already have met a few setbacks. I need a functioning truck to make money. She needs a vehicle to get to Virginia to make money. One’s got shot brakes and the other is still full of unpacked junk. We have a lot of emotional baggage about this house. There aren’t a lot of good memories here, and walking in the door to find it still cluttered with all the trinkets and accumulated crap from all the years is a drain on the mind and spirit.

Not to mention the adjustment to the time zone difference. Two hours makes a surprising difference.

In spite of that I have been able to accomplish many things so far. I have unpacked boxes, bundled up laundry, cleaned up the mile thick layer of dust on several surfaces, mowed the front yard and start tackling the back, cleaned the fridge of six months of scary, unburied the kitchen counters, diagnosed a brake issue, and hung out with friends.

Tackling this is no easy feat.

Taking credit and feeling proud of my accomplishments is not something which comes naturally for me. I tend to downplay or just outright deny my successes. This is something I am working on. There is nothing inherently wrong with looking at something I have completed and saying “I did this well.” It is not arrogance to take pride in legitimate accomplishments, only in made up ones.

This is a new chapter in our adventure. I intend to make it a good one.

 

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Honesty

How honest are you? In real life? In social media? Would the people who know you be surprised if you did something shocking?

Back in the day when someone went off and committed some horrid thing you would see the neighbors saying things like “He was always a little strange, but we never saw this coming.” Now that we have social media the circle of people who “never saw it coming” has grown.

And the ability to sugar coat has gotten easier.

Not only have we gotten better at hiding the bad, we have gotten better at exaggerating the good. When a man flies off the handle and kills his wife and children, we look back at their posts and say “but they had such a great marriage!” We look at smiling pictures of those who commit suicide and wonder where the problems were hiding.

So how honest are you? How much do you show the warts in your life? How much do you confide in real people? How much do you share with virtual people? How much do you exaggerate the good? Would your friends and neighbors on and offline be shocked if you did something tragic?

Why do people hide behind positive posts and perfectly filtered pictures? Are they afraid people might know their secrets? It’s easier to hide secrets now that we can bury them under a facade of beauty. It’s no longer just “he was a quiet guy”, now it’s “he really seemed to have it together.”

It is my goal here and elsewhere to be honest and open. I don’t ever want to sugarcoat my situation. If I ever seem too optimistic, call me out on it. If you ever need to confide something, I’m here.

The last thing we need is to be all over the news with our friends and neighbors surprised that our lives were really not so great.

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Stabbing Anxiety In the Face With a Soldering Iron, Part 2

Last week I discussed some of the things I do to conquer the physical aspects of anxiety. But what about the thoughts?

In order to kill bad thoughts it helps to understand the motives behind one’s thoughts. Most of my anxious thoughts stem from my severe need to be in control of all things. I am a control freak. When things are out of my control I panic. I begin to think the worst. I lose all faith and go into the selfish cocoon of anxiety.

Knowing what motivates my wrong thoughts helps in creating a strategy to defeat them.

So what do I do?

Well, I take control of the things I actually have control of. Despite my negativity, there are things I actually have some power over. Like my time, my children, and my personal space.

I make a schedule and try to stick with it, understanding that sometimes things happen that make that schedule obsolete for the moment. At the very least I follow a routine and make habits.

I work on establishing healthy boundaries with my children. Kids can be chaos incarnate, but usually only because we don’t put a foot down and make it clear what is allowed and not allowed. Discipline goes a long way towards helping calm that storm. Boundaries are important to all relationships, if there are other relationships in your life that create stress and anxiety it is likely that you need to establish some basic rules regarding it.

By personal space, I mean my house. I have control over the cleanliness and clutter of my home. Part of a good schedule and routine is taking time to organize and clean up. Visual clutter and messes are huge triggers for anxious thoughts. It took me years to figure this out, but it has made a huge difference since.

As for the things I can’t control… (which are far fewer in number than my mind will let me believe) those things get put into my prayers. Only God can control those things.

That may seem like a cop out answer, but I assure you that faith is harder than any scheduling, disciplining, or cleaning. Having faith requires catching my thoughts and correcting them. Taking every thought captive requires constantly telling myself truths to correct the lies that my mind wants to tell me. In order to do this I have to know truths, I have to study and think about truths, and I have to believe truths.

Anxiety is ultimately the antithesis of faith. Faith is ultimately the solution to anxiety.

Bad Week

So you had a bad week,

What could you do?

Providence isn’t always easy,

What we all go through.

Maybe you were tired,

Maybe you ate too much junk.

Maybe you indulged

In sin or in too much.

Maybe you fed your guilt,

Or stroked your shame.

Maybe you didn’t give your sins to God,

And instead soaked in blame.

So you had a bad week,

Everyone does,

Sometimes.

Will next week be better?

Who’s to say?

Perhaps it will get better,

Maybe it will stay the same.

You can’t always control the circumstances,

Just how you respond.

And I promise you this:

If you respond the same,

The bad will remain.

So change.

Epiphany

Do you ever feel like you don’t know what you feel? Like you just have a blockage somewhere and you wish something could come along and clear out the pipes of your soul?

I don’t know if I have ever used the term “emotional constipation” on this site, but it is a phrase which occasionally pops into my brain. This constipation frequently occurs when I have nothing to worry about.

Anxiety is like fiber in that it really pushes all that emotional crap out into the world. It’s an extroverted emotion that wants to display itself and be the center of attention.

Peace on the other hand… Peace just likes to be. When I am at peace I tend to hole up and be insulated. I need no one to share with, no one to dump on. When life is stress free, nothing moves.

Stillness can be great, don’t get me wrong. But my natural inclinations are towards worry, so when nothing is moving I feel like a marble on a tabletop. I just roll wherever I am tilted.

This leads to conflict, I don’t know what I am feeling. Am I at peace? Am I secretly anxious? What should I be? Then I get meta-feelings about my feelings. Or non-feelings. Whichever happen to be occurring at the moment. Then I get all clogged up, not knowing which way to go.

How do I solve this blockage? Simple: stress. Writing, reading, sex, painting, singing, praying, a walk, running, weight lifting, forcing myself to do something intense, anything which puts a load on my body or my mind to the point where it just can’t hold anymore.

Some people need peace and quiet. I need a challenge.

This Year’s Resolutions

The Track of Time?

I’m a little late this year in getting some resolutions out there. Last year I did “Birthday Resolutions” instead of New Years. This year I guess I am too late for Birthday Resolutions, so they will have to be New Years instead!

But first, I want to examine how well I did on last years:

“My biggest resolution this year is to learn contentment.” 

To be honest, I am probably about as content as I have ever been. I am exactly where God has me, and that is never a bad place to be. I have learned to accept every day as it comes for the most part. Anxiety still keeps me from doing this perfectly, but it is a bit easier every day

“For as long as I can remember my focus has been on the negatives of life. I have always seen all of the wrongs and never the rights. I apologize for enjoying anything and feel like I should be ashamed of good feelings. I push down all the good and instead focus on all of the “shoulds” of life. Far too often my response to a blessing is “This should be____” or “I wish this was more____”.” 

This pretty much sums up the definition of anxiety for me. I always assumed that I was just cursed to be a pessimist, but it was so much more serious than that. Thankfully this past year I was able to truly identify the problem and have been working towards fixing it. 

“This year I want to learn how to enjoy my blessings and be content with all that God has given me.” 

See above. 

“I resolve to play with my children more.” Still nowhere near as much as I would like. Exhaustion and busyness tend to get in the way of this. 

“I resolve to love my wife more passionately and with more abandon.” Again, improving but definitely not where I want to be.

“I resolve to take every day as a gift and work to glorify God in each one.” 

There have been whole weeks this past year where I blinked and it seemed the week was gone. This definitely demonstrates that I am not taking my days one at a time and making the best of them. 

“I resolve to live life according to what is, and not according to what I wish it was. I resolve not to take for granted my work, my talents, my family, my friends, or my days here on Earth. I intend to stop saying “I’m sorry” when I enjoy my blessings and instead say “thank you.”” 

I think all of those are good forever resolutions. I would be lying to say that I have vastly improved on any of them, though I feel all have been improved. Sanctification is a slow process. I do say Thank You quite a bit more than I used to. 

So how about 2018? What do I want to work on this year?

Well, in addition to continuing work on all of the above, this year is the year of focus and discipline. 

Focus because anxiety has wracked my brain to the point that it no longer stays on target very well. I get very distracted from simple things like cleaning up a mess or writing a blog post (seriously, I just spent ten minutes looking at the proper use of “wrack” VS “rack” even though I was confident in my usage. Then I went and check my Steemit blog to see if I got any upvotes. It’s bad…)

Discipline because it is very closely tied to focus. Focus is part biology, part discipline. One can have discipline without focus, but one definitely cannot have focus without discipline. I want to be more clear about my purpose. I want to determine priorities and stick to them. There are things in my life that should be givens but are not. I intend to make these things absolutely critical and shape my life around them, not let my life dictate whether or not I get to them. These types of wants take discipline to achieve.

This year will also be the year of listening before I speak. No. Actually listening. Not just thinking about my response the whole time the person blabbers on. No matter how much they blabber on. It’s hard, but I know I can do it. 

Likewise, I want to work on responding instead of reacting. Too often I get triggered and blow up. Or I sweep the feelings of others under a rug before they can fully express them. This is largely because I don’t want to have have feelings myself. It’s another offshoot of anxiety.

Seems like I blame anxiety a lot eh? Anxiety doesn’t make me do anything. I am still responsible for my actions stemming from it. But identifying the weakness and the sin spurring my actions has been immeasurably helpful in getting those sins killed in my life. So if you think you may have genuine anxiety, get help, you’ll be glad you did! 

Anywho. I’ll keep it simple with those. We’ll just assume that I intend to eat right and exercise (isn’t that the normal resolution?).

What are some of your resolutions? Comment below if you have any interesting ones. 

Love Your Wife: Love Yourself

Simpson Selfie
Sometimes I see myself as a Simpson, apparently…

From stay-at-home moms being called bad moms for wanting an hour to themselves, to husbands and fathers who just want some time away in their “mancaves” being called irresponsible, self-care gets a bad rap.

In blogs and books and sermons, folks are told that they should give up everything and give themselves to everyone else’s needs far above their own. People are beaten to death with the line that true happiness is only found in complete and utter self-denial.

But the Bible implies something very different, especially to husbands, in Ephesians 5:28-30:

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

In order for a man to properly love his wife, he must first love himself.

But… This is not the selfish, narcissistic, self serving “love” that many men demonstrate through cruelty, waste, disrespect, slovenliness, and misplaced passions.

The self-love spoken of in these verses is informed by a proper perspective of self. The man who practices this self-love is enlightened by Gods own view of him. This man sees himself as God sees him, frail and sinful, fallen and weak, but loved, saved by grace, imperfect, but being sanctified daily and made more holy. God is pleased to see us as image bearers reflecting His glory back to Him. Instead of wretches clothed in rags He is pleased to see us in the robes of His Son.

A man who loves himself will care for himself, he will take pride in himself. He will understand that his value and loveliness is not in his success, his wealth, his looks, or his health, but simply in his createdness. Only when he understands this will he be able to take care of those things. When he properly loves himself he will be able to properly love those things and care for them.

And when he cares for those things he can care for his wife. Only when he cares for himself will be able to care for her. When he takes care of his health he is able to care for her. When he tends to his wealth he is able to care for her. When he is successful in any number of other areas, he will be able to care for her.

A man who eats too much, sits too long, and invests far too much time in pursuit of wealth and “security” is not a man who is able to care well for his wife. A man who hates himself and takes no pride in the fruits of his labors is most often married to a miserable woman.

Christ cared for Himself, He took time away from the crowds, the disciples, and from healing. He knew enough to rest, because His humanity was frail like ours. By taking the time to care for Himself, Christ was better able to care for His bride, the church.

About a week ago I was forcefully informed that my self-hatred was killing my marriage. My life to some degree has been falling apart because I have been refusing to take pride in my own life and worth, and refusing to care for my responsibilities (because what’s the point?). Even what I learned back in February seemed to be going by the wayside.

I tried to take care of everyone, tried to make everyone else better, but neglected myself.  I shut myself down, never expressing feelings thoughts or emotions. I never had an opinion that didn’t agree with someone else.

I became a nothing. And my wife despised it.

She wants a man who loves himself, who takes charge of himself, who disciplines himself, who prioritizes himself. She wants a man with a voice, opinions, thoughts, challenges to her daily life. not a lump of flesh. Certainly not the weak-willed mumble I was quickly becoming.

I am learning, slowly, to love myself. I’m figuring out how to to do the things I want, to make time for me, to refresh my soul and take care of my body. I’m making sure to take care of my appearance as well, as this is important.

And for the first time in my life I’m learning to take some pride in what I do, instead of loathing the silence from critics or friends, I’m taking it as a sign to improve and keep striving. Eventually I’ll get someone’s attention. At least I’ll know my capabilities.

It’s refreshing and terrifying all at the same time.