“Laura Beth, come out of your feelings and get back with us!”
More than once over the past several weeks one of my new church friends has called me out that way as we started to gather. Usually it’s after he and his wife have called my name several times in an attempt to get my attention.
I’m not confessing or confirming anything here, but I will acknowledge that there may be a slight possibility that I will sometimes “zone out”, or as I put it “get lost in my own head”. I really do make a conscious effort to not let it happen in public, but occasionally my thoughts will still carry me away. It’s been especially true these last few days as I’ve done some mental gymnastics around some issues. What the issues are is not really important at the moment (at least to the subject of this post). What is important is that I often find myself dealing with fear and anxiety as a result of these lines of thinking.
There have been countless studies seeking to understand fear and anxiety. The studies have looked at everything from what happens in our bodies that triggers the emotions to the long term physical effects they might have to their historical purpose in the survival of our species. As I’ve watched myself live in way too much fear and anxiety over my lifetime, I’ve recognized these two truths about them: Fear is what I experience when I expect something to happen, but I don’t know that it is; anxiety is what I experience when I know what is going to happen, I just don’t know what impact it’s going to have.
There is one consistent theme that covers both fear and anxiety as I experience them: I don’t know.
Has the “answer and knowledge” driven culture that I’ve grown up in set the stage for fearing what I can’t possibly know?
To make the not knowing more palatable, I’m recognizing that fear and anxiety…
- …rarely happen in the hear and now, they focus on the past or the future.
- …are not often the result of acting on my own behalf; they usually require me to think or respond on behalf of someone else as I think about the past or future.
- …are not usually present in “the big picture”; life has an infinite number of variables, anxiety comes when I choose to focus on just a few.
- …are not healthy thoughts (in this case). Positive actions are the results of healthy thoughts; fear and anxiety rarely if ever produce any productive or actionable results.
Here is another way to sum it up: I get fearful when I allow myself to dwell on things over which I have no control!
What I need right now is to get back to living one day at a time (today), making one decision at a time (no overthinking), managing one person at a time (me), and taking slow but sure and measured steps forward.