I wasn't sure if I'd remember how to access my blog it had been so long since I had shared anything. So why bother with unearthing it today? Because yesterday I experienced a years-in-the-waiting victory that seemed too important to go unannounced. Maybe you'll find encouragement in it if you, too, suffer from anxiety.
Yesterday I decided to take the girls (ages 16 and 14) shopping for shorts and swimwear. We live in Michigan now and have been living like hermits since the beginning of the quarantine, with retail stores just beginning to open. The plan was to make a day of it: shopping, lunch, and haircuts if time permitted. It was the first time we had a girls' day out in I don't know how long. Seriously, I can't remember the last time...they could have been preschoolers. That's pathetic, I know.
We hit the mall during its revised hours. Without getting into the weeds too much, I'll tell you the youngest immediately found a bathing suit at one of her favorite stores and got a cute haircut thanks to a cancellation at J.C. Penney's salon. The oldest, who hates shopping (one of the reasons we don't do girls' days out) found lots of needed summer clothes. Wins happened all around. We appreciated these minor successes despite the fact the mall was hot especially while wearing masks, the dressing rooms were closed, and the checkout line resembled the wait for Splash Mountain at Disney World.
When we got back to the car it was time for lunch, so I asked one of the girls to research local restaurants with her phone to see what was open for dine-in. As I sat in the driver's seat awaiting the verdict, I was overcome with the realization that I had just had a good time. That I wasn't feeling rushed to return home, anxious at the thought of going out to eat. I was enjoying myself. This may sound like a silly victory to some, but it has been a rare occurrence since my breast cancer diagnosis that I've actually left the house to do something deemed enjoyable and not felt some level of stress. In hindsight, I probably had some degree of social anxiety (if that's what it is) prior to my diagnosis three-and-a-half years ago.
As we ate our lunch, I almost expected dread to seep in because that would be the norm. But it didn't. The food and conversation caused me to lose track of time and were well worth the eye-popping bill I received at the end. Afterwards, again, there was no rush to get home. I didn't have to remind myself that I had medication for this sort of thing if needed. No. We were gals on a mission. Now we had to get shoes. So we did.
I don't know if I've turned a new leaf. If this will mean I'll no longer feel anxious when I'm out for extended periods. But it doesn't matter. I know I CAN enjoy myself and hopefully my girls can enjoy company with an anxiety-free mom from time-to-time. If this IS the new me, I best record a few more audiobooks because there could be more shopping adventures in the days ahead.
One can't unknowingly apply BENGAY, or some other topical analgesic, any more than he can unwittingly fly to Las Vegas for a weekend getaway. Even if what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, you know if you've been there. What in the world am I getting at? Good question.
Sunday we were headed to church, running late as usual, when a searing heat instantly developed along the nape of my neck and branched out below, spreading like tree roots. It felt exactly as if I'd smeared BENGAY underneath my hairline - it was that cooling sensation you receive on the surface accompanied by penetrating warmth. It wasn't painful, just burning and unusual.
"What would cause this?" I wondered to myself as we barrelled along. I soon told my husband Randy, who was driving, about the strange feeling. After a few more miles he asked if it was worsening. "Yes," I responded. It intensified in waves. At times it lessened but it never went completely away.
Unfortunately, the "new me," the post-cancer me, kicked in. That's the woman who is certain that a stomach ache is undetected cancer that the gastroenterologist should have caught during my maiden colonoscopy - not the result of consuming three slices of cheesecake.
If you've ever been diagnosed with cancer or some other illness, maybe you have a "new me" as well. Another example is the old me would get an occasional headache at the side of my temples - stress-induced, I'd assume, or from lack of water - but now I'm convinced that awakening brain tumors, once dormant, cause those same head pangs. I've had all kinds of scans and my brain is physically fine. It's irrational, I know.
When we finally arrive to church, speed walking across the parking lot in hopes of us all finding a seat, I ask Randy to slow down and smell the back of my collar.
"Do I smell like menthol?" I asked him.
The less irrational, still hopeful me, thought maybe I had worn the shirt before during a time I had applied some smelly pain relief cream to my neck, and that some of its residue remained in the top of my shirt.
"No," he offered, "I don't smell anything."
There went that theory. And now you know I sometimes hang previously worn clothes back into my closet to wear later.
The new me surmised, "I must have malignant tumors growing in my spine." I couldn't have a simple pinched nerve. No. That's what old me would have thought.
Nearly as soon as we sat down and Mass began, the burning sensation subsided. But my mind kept going. New me wouldn't let it go. Could I have developed spinal stenosis like my dad had? It's a condition that for him required surgery, a surgery that stole his life. My chest started tightening and it became harder to breathe.
Where is your trust? I questioned myself. That's my word for the year. I always thought I trusted the Lord and didn't know why that word would be one the Holy Spirit would give me for 2019. But did I?
As I sat there wringing my hands trying to calm my heart I knew I needed to keep my eyes on Christ. What if I did have cancerous tumors in my spine? In my brain? So what if I was developing spinal stenosis, a genetic condition. Was there anything I could do to stop any of it? No. Can I stop any of the evils in the world? Prevent harm from coming to my children? Can I remove all troubles (real or imagined) from my life or anyone else's? Not a chance. But can I trust in Jesus to walk with me, to be with me, to still use me for his glory? Yes. Can I still believe that there are joy-filled days ahead and all things work together for good?
In John 16:33 we read, "...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Sometimes I think it's my job to overcome the world. How ridiculous, huh? We'd all be in a sinking ship if it were up to me to save the world from anything.
When the disciples were distressed over the rough seas bashing their ship, they cried out to Jesus, waking him. They all asked if he cared what was happening to them, they feared for their lives. Out of his compassion and with a few words, he quieted the storm - scripture says it became completely calm. Then he asked them why they were so afraid. I think he asks us that same question today when we face life's storms. Why are we afraid? Why do we worry? He is with us, in every circumstance, we have no need to fear.
Interestingly, in Rembrandt's painting of "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee" he depicts the disciples in various states of being during the waves' fury. Some are doing their best to take matters into their own hands, attempting to control the boat. It's an impossible feat. One is heaving over the edge of the boat, undoubtedly feeling completely out of control in the precarious situation. The rest are looking to Jesus.
We have those same options in life's storms and uncertainties. We can try our best to take matters into our own hands, we can do nothing and let the situation control us, or we can look to the creator of the seas and all that's in them for wisdom and courage. We choose.
Recently I learned that Rembrandt painted himself in the scene. If you look closely, he's the one with one hand on his hat and the other on the rigging.
I would never knowingly place myself in the midst of a real storm, but when a storm finds me, I want to place my trust where it makes the most sense and will do the most good. Allowing my mind to conjure up and dwell on irrational thoughts only intensifies an imaginary storm. My goal, moving forward, is to place myself (and my trust) at the feet of Jesus - like the disciples - and like Rembrandt - where I know there is peace for my mind and soul.
" May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." ~ Romans 15:13
Funny, after sitting here to write this, my knee is beginning to ache. I think I'll retrieve the BENGAY tucked away in my nightstand.
Funny that the title "Author" appears above this description yet I have no idea what to share about myself in this space! How about my first name is Kim. My last name is Tisor. Tisor rhymes with miser, though I try not to be one.
For more information about me, please visit the author page.