An old companion

I woke up with my heart racing. There was a twitch in my eye. My brain seemed to be on fire with all the neurons firing off in an electric buzz. I knew this sensation. My old companion, anxiety had begun to tap on my shoulder again. I say companion, and not friend. This companion is like the annoying person on a red-eye plane who sits next to you and decides to jab their elbow at you the entire flight. This is the neighbor that won’t turn off his heavy bass music at 2am. This is the slightly crazy hitch hiker who you swore looked normal when you picked them up…

My old companion, anxiety, would usually show up in the most inopportune times when I needed to concentrate the most and be the best person that I had to be. Anxiety bothers me when I have to run a big event, when I want to ask a girl out, when I have to finish a huge project or when I have to have a tough conversation with a supervisor… except the problem this time was that my heart started racing, my eye started twitching and my brain started exploding… in the middle of my vacation.

As I assess where I’m at, I realize that it’s been a long year. There have been radical changes in my life with relationships, with my location, with my job… My last month has been intense: learning a new job, meeting a new team and looking for housing. My last 3 months have been crazy: Going from a serious relationship that I thought was going to be “the one”… to realizing that it wasn’t going to work out. The last 6 months have been intense- Announcing to my ministry of the last 7 years that it was time for me to move on, and the emotional goodbyes that filled the days before I left. My last year has been intense- experiencing the loss of my grandma and a mourning season that lasted longer than I wanted and that finally made me realize my time in San diego was over.

And it took me a whole week of my vacation to realize that my mind, body and soul was still riding the inertia of that stress and pushing it down, down down… This week, I didn’t stop myself- I just kept on charging ahead. I took the week off… but really, I spent all my energy trying to find housing. And it got to me. The rental market is extremely bad right now with a shortage of housing and extremely high income folk from technology companies outbidding me left and right. Cheap rent here is 1000/month… 2.5 times what I paid in San Diego. When I’m working, I usually have anywhere between 5-13 google docs open on my browser… I closed them to signal to myself that I was on vacation, but the google docs tabs were quickly replaced with craigslist ads. I even made a new google doc for housing.

Finally, it hit me. I was just as stressed out as I was while working. There was something about working that I was addicted to- this year, because of all the transition around me, I had learned to work harder so that I could gain some sense of control over the volatility and constant change around me. And worse, when I worked harder, I became more successful! I look back at the year and wonder how I accomplished all that I did- I successfully led and directed a great fall conference. I mostly destroyed a ministry and rebooted it within 6 months. I worked on planting new work with veterans and international students. I started the plant of an unreached extension campus. I recruited and activated a network of community college staff around the nation, and, from that, I directed and created an extremely successful learning day for community college staff- something that had not been done in decades.

…And although I was successful, I just kept working- to maintain the feeling that I, the mighty Daniel, was self reliant. I was afraid of the feeling of helplessness around me; the feeling on uncontrollable-ness. I needed to bury myself in something- it may as well be my success.

But during this week, I’ve realized that sometimes one can bury themselves so deep in their work and success, that they forget what rest is. It’s ironic that what I needed was to escape… but instead I was burying myself deeper. Even in the first half of my vacation, I was still driving myself into the ground- while the invitation of God was to stop flailing my arms around and look upwards. I had forgotten how to rest- to stop powering myself through life’s situations, and wait for Him to lift me up.

He’s been gently disarming me this week- twice, a couple that I’m good friends with called me to pray for my housing because they felt God laying it on their hearts- and they both felt that it would be God providing me a place to live in a way that would be miraculous. Then my anxiety attack happened yesterday… and while looking at a house, my future roommate, full of faith, said that he was confident God was going to provide. It took three times. And I realized I needed to stop fighting, stop worrying and start trusting.

So I’m getting out of town. As the song goes, I’m leaving on a jetplane. As I am sitting on this plane, I read to myself a celtic liturgy- that Christ would be over me and below me. I realized how high I was physically, and that in the same way the invitation for me during this vacation was to stop flapping my arms around, to be still and remember what it means to feel the strong currents of the Holy Spirit beneath my soul, lifting me high above to a place of perspective, stillness and closeness… closeness to the One who does not change. The One who has mercy on my wandering heart. The One who can heal me, restore me and teach me walk again. The One who is my true home, in the midst of a world in constant flux. It’s here where I find that my anxiety and hubris don’t have to be my only companion- that in fact, this One has been inviting me again and again to be with Him. 

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