It’s been a crazy couple of weeks.
Having additional time off and not staying crazy-busy has sent me into a bit of a tailspin.
I had no idea how much I crave busyness. During the school year, I rarely have down-time. During the summer, even with my part-time gigs, I underestimated just how much down-time I would have. I seem to have forgotten the negative effect down-time can have on me. Suddenly, I have time to think. And when I have time to think I have time to obsess. And when I have time to obsess, I have time to be anxious about everything. And when I have time to be anxious about everything, I have time for panic attacks.
Before going to bed, while in the shower, while prepping for tutoring, while babysitting, while in the doctor’s office, while waking up in the middle of the night, while preparing for the day… panic, panic, panic.
It didn’t actually occur to me that I was having panic attacks until I took the time to look it up. All I could think was, “What the heck is wrong with you?! Chill, woman. You’re being ridiculous.” But all the chastising in the world couldn’t bring me down from the ledge I was about to hurl myself over. It all came to a head while in the shower one afternoon, freaking out about the numbness in my leg, convinced I had a life threatening disease that was going to kill me right then and there, when I pulled the towel off the rack, tied it around my head and…
A spider, the size of Cincinnati, crawled out of the towel and into my hair. The result? There is no gif adequate enough to properly convey the madness that followed. The screaming, the throwing, the hyperventilating… Winston (who doesn’t get up for anything) actually came to check on me. That’s how bad it was. When I realized I had trashed my apartment and emotionally fallen apart over a spider? I knew it was time to see the doctor.
So, of course, the doctor prescribed me something. But, of course, since it wasn’t a magic pill, it took a few days to kick in. (Actually, I may still be waiting for it to completely kick in…) In the meantime, I surrounded myself with Bible verses and prayer and sleep. (Well, the best sleep I could get when I wasn’t obsessing, worrying, and panicking.)
One night, while in the throes of yet another panic attack that had awoken me at 3:00 in the morning, Winston jumped up on the bed to offer his company… and I immediately launched into what I like to call my, “Have-To” mode.
I have-to cuddle him. I have-to let him know he’s appreciated. I have-to show him he is loved. I have-to give him some attention. I have-to be a better pet parent. I have-to brush him more, feed him less, play with him more, hold him more, leave him home alone less, etc, etc, etc. I have-to do this, that, and the other thing for him, right here, right now, otherwise, it’s all going to fall apart.
Okay, clearly the have-tos play a big part in my anxiety… But it was in the midst of me tearing myself down over how much I wasn’t doing and how much more I could be doing that the following thought crossed my mind…
Maybe Winston just wanted to give me some affection. Maybe he wanted to keep me company. Maybe he wanted to check on me. Why couldn’t I just let him love me? Why couldn’t I just let myself be loved… period??
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a thought. Maybe it was a prompting of the Holy Spirit. But it was this thought and/or prompting that made me realize… If I can’t even let my cat show me love, how can I ever expect the Lord to get His foot in the door long enough to show me love? I’m always so worried about what I’m doing earn that love – any love – all love – love from family, love from friends, love from coworkers, love from Jack, love from God, even love from my pet. What it boils down to is the fact that I seldom am able to receive love because I’m always convinced that I haven’t earned it. I haven’t done enough, I’ve done too much, I’ve done it too often, I’ve done it too seldom, I’ve done it too late, I’ve done it too early, I did it too eagerly, I did it impersonally, I did this wrong, I did that wrong, I didn’t do the other thing well enough… And until I can fix it all, and tie up the loose ends, and prove I’m worthy of love, I shrug it off, push it away, and ignore it altogether because… anything that unconditional… that free…. can’t be meant for me. I’m not good enough for it.
Why can’t I just receive it? Who said I had to earn it? What makes me think I’d ever be able to earn any of it? EVER?! That’s what’s so amazing about our Heavenly Father’s unconditional love… it’s just always there for the taking… but we’re not taking it… because we’re too busy trying to earn it.
At least I am. And it’s exhausting… and probably an excellent source of all that anxiety.
So, as I settled back under my covers with Winston nestled under my chin and drifted off to sleep, I realized, I can barely do enough to earn my cat’s love, thank God I don’t have to earn His. And with that, I let Him love me, as I settled in for the best morning’s sleep I have gotten in a long time.