I was recently reading a book called, “Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together” by Ed Cyzewski when he shared something that hit my chest like a brick. Talking about himself…
“Anxiety and fear became habits that have worn their way into my life after years of practice. I also suspect they are behind my desire to control my life circumstances and the rage I feel when circumstances don’t line up the way I want. So many events in my early life felt completely chaotic and out of control, that I’ve made myself a nervous, controlling wreck trying to reassert control over at least a few things.”
As I said this was Ed describing himself but he easily could have been describing me even though he has never met me. Many people don’t know this but anxiety can show up in someone’s life as irritability and that is definitely one way it shows up in mine. When things don’t go the way I have planned or there are unexpected changes it can throw me for a loop. As with Ed, earlier in my life, things felt pretty chaotic. I moved several times back and forth across states, switching schools, trying to make new friends all the while trying to adjust to not only my parent’s divorce but also my new surroundings.
I can remember when I moved back to Iowa with my mother and younger brother I was filled with a lot of anger and rage. Not only was I dealing with the task of making new friends but also a drastic decline in finances. While my mother did her best it still was not enough to make ends meet so we received food stamps and welfare. My brother and I were two of the kids whose names were placed on the Christmas trees at Christmas time in need of gifts, I received free school lunches and free school supplies donated from churches.
I did not want to be the kid everyone picked on because clearly, I did not have the coolest clothes and many times I was overdue for a haircut, so I discovered if I could become a class clown and also be aggressive towards other people then I might just fit in and not be the target of bullying. This seemed to work well so I continued to act up in class, cuss words pretty much filled every sentence of mine from a very early age, and I seemed to get in fights on a normal basis. This attitude presented a front of strength, but in actuality, it was fear and weakness in disguise. I was greatly in need of help.
My life to say the least was chaotic. While my life now is much different there is still a temptation to exert control over my life. I think the greatest way I feel this now is with my 3-year-old daughter. She is a wonderful child that I love very much, but she is very strong willed and persistent (much like myself). As I said before I like things to go as I have planned and 3 year olds are great at throwing a wrench in the mix whether that is dumping ranch dressing on themselves like mine did when we were getting ready to go somewhere yesterday, refusing to brush her teeth unless you let her do it while she pretends to be a cat, asking for something approximately 5,000 times, or singing the same line of song over and over again while you are trying to focus on completing a project. These types of things definitely increase my desire to exert control over the situation. It is in times like these that it is very easy for me to become irritable and not patient or gentle. Why? Why is that my response? I think in some way it is because if I can control that situation then I have control over my life, but to understand that things are going to happen sometimes that I can do nothing about requires me to have faith.
So, while I am not going to be flawless at this all the time my prayer is that I will begin to exhibit more faith and gentleness. I will seek to practice the art of letting go instead of holding onto nervousness and control. As you reflect on your own life where might you need to do the same thing?