Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The sky [could be] falling

I wish I could tell you that I've been MIA in the blog-posting arena because I've been preoccupied with all sorts of wild adventures, but I can't. Instead, I can explain my absence in a few rather unflattering ways:

1. I have Senioritis.

What they don't tell you when you contract Senioritis — an imaginary illness characterized by exhaustion and apathy — your senior year of college, is that you will experience seasons of Senioritis forever and ever, until you die.

Two weeks ago I entered a season of very, very severe Senioritis. I've had to give myself daily pep talks about the victories that await me when I've finally trudged through all my grading. I've had to lay on my bed for hours at a time staring at the ceiling and listening to "Oceans" on repeat. I've had to bribe myself out of bed with waffles every day since the onset of Senioritis. I've even caught myself wringing my hands and performing an impassioned speech to my students that goes something like this:

"Stop giving me so much to grade you guys; just stop it already!"

My students wish I'd stop assigning them so much for me to eventually grade, too.

2. I've gotten sick.

An end-of-the-semester bug has bitten me with its germ-y fangs and I've been rendered unable to do much more than re-watch season three of the Office. It ain't a bad situation.

3. I became Chicken Little for a bit. 

This is the story:

It's a Tuesday in April and grey clouds have enveloped Portland like a comfy blanket. The city streets are slick with rain and the day is fading into dusk.

My friend G and I are tucked in the corner of a cheery delicatessen, chatting, when the waiter brings us each a reuben sandwich piled high with steaming salami. We look hungrily at our dinner and just before we dig in I whip out  my ever-present bottle of hand sanitizer.

"Do you want some?" I ask G. "This could be the one thing standing in the way of you and a parasite." I grin mischievously, 50% joking and 100% serious because, thanks to my eighth grade science class, I know that parasites are serious business.

"You're afraid of a lot, aren't you?" G observes as I squirt sanitizer into his open palms.

I'm surprised by his candor, but I shouldn't be because this is one of the things I love about him.

I answer yes, and explain that I've always been a worrywart, but the trauma of my illness has acted like a fertilizer to my worry, growing it into full-blown, full-time fear of more sickness. I'm especially concerned with keeping my house safe as I fight to get healthy. If my body won't stay safe, then I'd like my home to be. So my impulse is to try to protect myself, insulating my life from more pain. I tell G I'm making progress on my journey toward conquering the fear of more loss, but it's slow. He listens quietly and soon the conversation turns to motorcycles and dance moves. Then we clean our plates, lick our lips, and hit the road.

Days later I'm back in Orange County hanging out with my plumber and his entourage. We are exploring the upper part of the property, which is currently for rent, when one of them notices that the unit above me is a garage. My very old apartment is built on the side of a steep hill, which is why the garage is above it. The tenant who eventually rents the main house on our property will get to park his car above me. Until then, it remains empty.

"Is that wood on the floor of the garage?" the worker asks. "Wow," he remarks as he walks into the garage and begins to investigate. "That's really old wood. It doesn't look sturdy at all. It cannot be safe for you to live under this garage when there's a car in it, especially a big car. Who knows what kind of termite damage, or just plan aging damage, has been done to this wood."

I gulp big because the concerned worker has voiced a fear I, and number of others in my life, have had for awhile now. I try to shove down the worry that's welling up inside of me.

A few days later the plumber returns to do more work while I'm at school. When I return from school my neighbor, who talked to the plumber in lieu of my absence, says they discovered a broken pipe under my house that will remain broken and could cause a sink hole.

I gulp again, and wonder if my bright and airy bungalow is actually a death trap.

That day the new tenant for the main house — the one who will park above me — arrives. He is driving a Chevy Tahoe the size of Rhode Island. I feel quite certain I know how I will die now, and death by SUV is not the way I want to go.

In fact I realize, with great fervor, I am not ready to die. I want to live. Oh! how I want to live! And the sneaky tentacles of Fear begin to wrap around my heart and squeeze, like a hungry boa constrictor.

For days I battle periodic bouts of fearful paralysis. I try to grade, but I can't. I try to clean, but I can't. I try to write, but I can't. Instead, I sit there waiting for a Chevy Tahoe to fall on my head. Chicken Little and I are two peas in a poisonous pod sometimes.

My tendency when I'm anxious is to retreat into myself, but I know that I must reach out to people in this post-sickness battle with fear. So at small group I tell my friends that I'm battling fear again, and I need them pray. The next day, I call my brother and ask him to pray. The day after that, I ask my students to pray. And all of them pray, not only for my safety, but for Fear's tentacles to dissolve and for God to fill my heart with peace.

It's been a few days since I asked my community to pray for me, and since then my worry has begun to dissipate. Instead of feeling weighed down by fear of that heavy SUV, I've been bombarded by true things. I remember that God is always at work, fighting on my behalf. I remember that Satan is looking to incapacitate me, and he's likely using fear to do it. I remember that God does things differently than I would because he is infinitely more good and powerful than I am — and should a Chevy Tahoe fall into my studio, his grace will be sufficient. And I remember that God will use any and every painful thing in my life for my good, his glory, and the good of everyone around me.

And grace upon grace: I've been able to rest in these true things. I even feel a sort of supernatural confidence and bravery that I haven't felt in a long time (Take that, Satan!).

So this is the moral of my story: When worry begins to gobble up your peace, joy and productivity, find safe people, invite them into your worry, and ask them to pray for you. It's a sure-fire way to transform Chicken Little into a spiritual William Wallace of sorts:

And hey, it's a mighty good switch, Jack.

Have you had adventures this week, my friends?! I hope they've been enriching, at the very least.

Happy Wednesday!


© by scj


  1. When fear begins to well up inside you, remind yourself, "I ran HURDLES in track." That is a feat for the fearless. Enough said! My daughter is in middle-school track right now. Can I just say I breathed a huge sigh of relief when she said she didn't want to run hurdles. I don't think my poor nerves could have taken it... she would have never known how I suffered if she had elected to run hurdles. When I watch the athletes compete in that event I find myself holding my breath, and clenching my teeth for the duration of the event. I'm visualizing face plants, bloody knees, chipped teeth, broken noses and more. It's hardcore, and only for the fearless. :o) ~Sharon

    1. Sharon,

      Hehe, thank you for this reminder, Sharon! It's true, hurdles are not for the faint of heart. I'm hoping that I'll soon be recovered enough from this illness-related fear to feel like my old, hurdling self. I cracked a few ribs mountain biking last year, which gives me hope that I'm returning to my old, pedal-to-the-metal self. ;) Bit by bit I'm getting there!

      What event did your daughter decide to do instead? I can imagine that watching your daughter sprint full throttle toward a series of closely-placed obstacles would be unnerving. I'm glad her events have worked out for the both of you. :)

    2. My daughter has been competing in the 400m, 200m, and occasionally the 800m relay when she qualifies for it. She has been having fun, and doing her best, which is what we have been encouraging. So far, not so much as a skinned knee....whew! :o) It has been fun to watch her fun. ~Sharon