Category Archives: In Real Life

Posts that focus on more personal stories based on my life.

Anxiety and the Vanishing Fireflies

Fireflies by VivzMindDo you remember the magic of catching fireflies as a child? Memories of catching them came back a few nights ago as I was walking Hunter and the fireflies were just rising from the ground.  It was beautiful, but also sad as it occurred to me that my anxiety robbed me of some of the magic in recent years.

How?  Many years ago I noticed a few fireflies slipped into my apartment.  Being curious, I took a closer look at one of them and began to notice details about their bodies, the markings on their legs, segmentation of their body. At that moment they magic began to fade and I started looking at the firefly as just another dirty bug. The thought of catching one – not so appealing anymore.

Oh, they are still beautiful to watch from afar but the desire to touch them was gone – just another bug.  Why? Because I looked too closely and the wonder of this incredible creature slipped away.

It’s much the same in our daily lives. Sometimes we look a bit too closely at the world around us rather than taking things at face value and as a result cause needless worry or loss of joy. For example:

  1. We hear an ambiguous – perhaps innocent – comment from a co-worker, friend or family member and begin to study it for any hidden meaning, often generating needless worry for ourselves.
  2. We attend a brilliant magic show and begin to puzzle out how certain tricks were done. It’s fun at first as we speculate but once the secret has been discovered the magic is lost.

While the second example is common, it’s the first that can eat away at us. Those of us prone to anxiety regularly deal with situations (real or imagined) that may or may not lead to problems down the road. In an effort to prepare for the worst we imagine scenario after scenario and how we might react to each. Someone once told me it was my way of trying to feel as if I were in control.

In most cases the situation warrants only a cursory glance and a few thoughts about next steps – nothing more.  Could something go wrong? Sure, but to avoid needless anxiety we need to 1) not look so closely as to tie ourselves up in knots and 2) have faith – in God, ourselves, our friends and family – that when action is needed we can rise to the occasion to meet it.

So as you go about your routine this week, try to enjoy the moments as they happen and don’t puzzle over them too much.

Fireflies by CrushedSilence

Top Image Credit: VivzMind

Lower Image Credit: CrushedSilence

The Dog, Anxiety, and Small Victories

Hunter in a peaceful moment
He looks so innocent

I had a scare last night thanks to Hunter (see photo), a world-class sprinter.  He slipped out the front door and took off on an epic journey through a new and exciting neighborhood as my father and I slowly, methodically stalked him in the dark of night until cornering him on a neighbor’s porch.

It was a revealing incident, a test of my ability to handle a stressful, potentially traumatic situation.  A few years ago I might have panicked and either frozen or run blindly through the night for a dog I couldn’t hope to catch.  I didn’t and that’s a win, something to celebrate

Aside from the obvious danger to Hunter, it was an especially stressful situation for me due to a childhood trauma.  As a child – not even ten – I was walking through my grandparent’s neighborhood when a car struck a small dog and then unintentionally backing over the dog again.  For years and years I leaved in fear that our family dog – Blondie – would be hit because she had free reign to run through the neighborhood.  In fact, I remember going to be anxious because I knew she was out for a nightly run.  Once I ran after her  and in the process nearly chased her into a a car.  I was in full-blown panic mode.

But not last night and that is a sign of progress.  I kept my head, reminded myself during the chase that there was only so much I could do, and was prepared to walk away from the chase until morning.  Thankfully, the 30-minute chase ended happily right across the street with Hunter happy as could be.

So what small victories (or big) have you achieved in battling anxiety?

Know Thyself – What Drives You?

The Purpose Drive Life - CoverIn The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren highlights five negative things that often motivate a person’s life and the need to find positive purposes to replace those things.  Naturally, these negative drivers can exacerbate anxiety and depression for many, myself included:

  • Guilt – yea, that’s Todd
  • Resentment or Anger
  • Fear – yea, that’s Todd
  • Materialism
  • Need for Approval – yea, that’s Todd

Raise your hand if two or more of these apply to you?  *Todd jumps up and down with his hand raised*

Guilt, fear and a need for approval (or being liked) are my weaknesses.

I can’t fully explain the guilt, but I have this tendency to  blame myself even when I know – I know – that I shouldn’t.  Perhaps I just have this sense that if I did something different, or better, then I could have prevented or averted some crisis.

As for the other two, I firmly believe that fear – of something or everything – is at the core of anxiety. If you aren’t afraid of something that might happen then what is there to be anxious about? Learn to deal with the fear and the anxiety will begin to take care of itself.

I have mixed feelings about a “need for approval” because I certainly go my own way and could care what people think about some areas of my life.  For example, I have action figures and other odd toys and collectibles on display in my office.  A little odd, but I don’t care.  They bring me joy and keep me young.  However, I do have this need to feel liked or respected and that goes along the same lines as a need for approval and it’s an area for me to work on.

Excerpts from Chapter 3

“Knowing your purpose simplifies your life. It defines what you do and what you don’t do. Your purpose becomes the standard you use to evaluate which activities are essential and which aren’t. You simply ask, “Does this activity help me fulfill one of God’s purposes for my life?”

Without a clear purpose you have no foundation on which you base decisions, allocate your time, and use your resources. You will tend to make choices based on circumstances, pressures, and your mood at the moment. People who don’t know their purpose try to do too much — and that causes stress, fatigue, and conflict …

Knowing your purpose focuses your life. It concentrates your efforts and energy on what’s important. You become effective by being selective … Without a clear purpose you will keep changing directions, jobs, relationships, churches, or other externals – hoping each change will settle the confusion or fill the emptiness in your heart. You think, Maybe this time it will be different, but it doesn’t solve your real problem – a lack of focus and purpose…

The men and women who have made the greatest difference in history were the most focused. For instance, the apostle Paul almost single-handedly spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. His secret was a focused life. He said, “I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”

If you want your life to have impact, focus it! Stop dabbling. Stop trying to do it all. Do less. Prune away even good activities and do only that which matters most.”

Questions to Ponder

  1. What would your family and friends say is the driving force of your life?
  2. What would you say is the driving force?
  3. What should be the driving force in your life?