There are moments, are there not.
You can be going about your day seemingly managing to cope with the washing up, laundry, bills, dogs, phone calls, work commitments, school commitments, relationships and kids when suddenly.
**** (insert imprecation of choice).
In these moments, I tend to reach for chocolate or Netflix. It used to be wine but in the past two years wine became all too attached to my rear so we’ve had to break up for a while.
I am a Christian so I expect some people will think, “PANICKING? HA! YOU SEE! FAITH MAKES NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL!” And, in some ways, they’d be right. In moments of extreme stress if you were to take my blood pressure alongside that of an atheist, I bet you I could give them a run for their money.
So, what to do in these moments?
First of all, I find it best to stop thinking. My mind cannot be trusted to say anything sensible in moments like these. I suddenly become the Sadness character in Inside Out and cover every atom of my existence with DOOM. Hopelessness. Pointlessness. An existential cry of “WHAT’S THE GOOD?” and beat my head upon the kitchen table.
So, best to leave my brain to its own devices and try to ignore it completely.
Next, I stop doing whatever I’m doing. In this instance, hanging out the washing – an activity I generally enjoy but today it felt like mediating a trade agreement between Russia and the Republic of China.
Then, I practice the breathing my children have been taught to do when suffering from stress over their parents’ divorce: “In for 4… Hold for 4… Out for 4. Aaaaand again…”
Fourthly, I reach for sustenance to prevent low-blood-sugar-induced injury. My sister was here recently so I’ve been able to grab really good BRITISH chocolate (which is obviously the equivalent – I presume – of scoring really high grade Crack).
It has helped, I won’t lie.
And now, finally, I’ve sat down to write a blog. Because a) it feels like I’m doing something constructive and not just wasting the all-too-important-hours-sans-kids-in-which-to-get-everything-done. And b) in writing things down I find my heart is able to overrule my brain and reveal to me what is actually going on.
And I realize this. My panic today is that I won’t manage. It’s all too much. Too much responsibility, too much pressure, too little work, too many plates to spin, too many meals to cook, too many things to respond to (and well).
And this panic has happened because instead of calmly breathing and methodically moving down my list, in a fit of petulant frustration and rage I have thrown myself punitively at the mountain of need.
And guess what? The mountain (a totally living being, natch) just laughs at me as I skid and scrape my way down the painful scree back to the bottom of my valley.
Bleeding, pain-full and sorry for myself, I recognize that chocolate won’t change this. Even wine won’t change this. I can’t just wish the mountain away and, even if I could, there would be another one hove-ing into view shortly. Because such is the stuff of life.
And AH! HERE IT IS! Here now is how I am helped by writing it down.
For I now remember that I sat with a friend who was dying a couple of weeks ago. I sat with her and prayed with her and loved her. And yesterday as I was driving down to my boot camp class I thought what a beautiful day it was then immediately thought how she will never experience a day like that again.
And I will. I am. I am breathing. The baby birds in the honeysuckled nest outside my bedroom are chirping. My three dogs are basking in the afternoon sun. I will go and pick up my healthy kids (incredible human beings) from school in an hour, and then I will bring them home. HOME. And we will finish our day together.
To start it all over again tomorrow. Because, God willing, I will be able to. And I am grateful for that.
I can’t speak for anyone else’s method of overcoming panic. But, for me, it clearly turns out to be an issue (post-tantrum) of perspective and – again – taking the hand of the One who has laid my path over the mountains and behind whom I am to follow with measured gait.
In addition, let’s be honest. There is no question in my mind that coming to this epiphany was helped enormously by – you guessed it – chocolate.
Everything in moderation.