Archives For Anxiety

Several months ago I signed up for eHarmony to prove to all the imaginary critics in my life that I was doing my part to get married. You know, all those people out there who mutter under their breath about how I’d be married if I just tried harder. By the time I’d typed in my credit card number, I’d practically composed an entire speech about how I’d spent my twenties trying to get married and I wasn’t about to waste my thirties doing the same, especially if God intended to keep me single. This didn’t strike me as odd—spending my hard earned wages on internet dating just to prove some theoretical faultfinders wrong—until I heard my niece wailing about the Play-do in her tights. That’s when I realized it was time to fire the imaginary critics.

 

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I was FaceTiming my sister-in-law when my five year old niece found Play-do smashed into her tights. As her mom told her to pack up the dough so they could get to church on time, my niece began to whimper about needing her tights washed. Her mom said there wasn’t time and that no one would notice, but my niece began to wail that they would. Who? The mean people. Those all-seeing, all-knowing, invisible judges who zero in on bits of Play-do smashed into tights, who whisper disparagingly about single women who aren’t trying hard enough. It’s time to pull a Donald Trump on them and let them know for once and for all that they’re fired Continue Reading…

I dug into my brownie Sunday as I asked him to catch me up on the last fourteen years. Jeremiah and I had lost touch after college and only recently reconnected via Facebook. Despite more than a decade of silence, we fell back easily into friendship. We’d both lived overseas, survived faith crises, never married, and felt our lives to be on the verge of something new. Neither of us expected our stories to turn out this way. Our other college friends got married, had kids, and lived in the cities they’d planned on with the jobs they’d hoped for. But not us. God doesn’t have us on the group plan. 

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I know Jeremiah and I aren’t the only ones who can feel like we’ve missed open registration for God’s group plan. Most of us tend to compare our personal slice of adversity to everyone else’s plenty. If the doctor diagnoses us with a chronic disease, every one on Facebook just glows with health. While we scrimp on groceries to pay the rent, everyone around us drops twenties at Olive Garden like it’s no big deal. When another month passes and our hopes for children get dashed all over again, another five couples at church announce their pregnancies Continue Reading…

I almost hate to admit it, but every time I pick up a new book by C. S. Lewis, after the first chapter, I check the cover to make sure Amazon mailed me the right book. By the end of the second, I’m questioning the cultish love that Evangelicals hold for Lewis when his writing style is so vague and drab. By chapter three, I’m hanging on for dear life, just based on the principle of the thing—I mean, I love Narnia after all. Fifty pages more and I’m confessing my disappointment to a friend like it’s some sin. As the pages keep turning, I nearly give up hope. But then it happens: the one line that changes everything.

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I last suffered through this emotional roller coaster while reading, for the first time, Till We Have Faces. As I plodded, then dragged, myself through the book, I began to lose faith in Lewis all over again. But, then, in the final chapter, at the end of the first paragraph, in a single sentence, his genius overwhelmed me again. With a handful of words, Lewis turned a disappointing bedtime read into a life-transforming, leave-me-gasping-and-flipping-back-to-read-it-again book. That one sentence made all the difference. 


Life is like a Lewis book


It strikes me that life often works like a Lewis book. We’re trudging through some page in our story, disappointed. The writing feels dull. The plot seems to be going nowhere. The tragedies break our hearts Continue Reading…

We buckled ourselves into the SUV, four adults and two nieces smooshed between all the camping gear. By buckled, I mean to include Grandma’s arms which clasped around the two littles in their pink swimsuits. Not exactly legal, but the Honda Pilot inched past pine trees and toward the sand about as slow as the snails whose vacated shells we planned to hunt at the beach. Mom asked if our souls felt at rest, being here in the Adirondacks, wedged away from our busy lives, but silence greeted her question. 

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I’d spent the week sleeping late and paddling across lakes powdered with sunshine. My body had slowed down, but when I checked my soul I found it ticking away just as fast as ever. My brother and sister-in-law felt the same. 

 

It probably didn’t help that every time we got cell reception, driving through Lake Placid on the way to a hike or just outside the bathhouse at the beach, I’d look for text messages, Jen would check her email, and Jason would post pictures on Instagram. Only mom, still living in her paleontologic world devoid of Facebook with it’s real, in-person friends and live-time conversations—where being social doesn’t require media— seemed to have soul rest Continue Reading…

When I sat down before a pile of old journals last month, I prepared myself for a barrage of adjectives and angst. The notebooks crowded around me like walls of a torture chamber—spiraled and thread bound ones, some covered with waxy Chinese paintings, others collaged with magazine cutouts. But I needed to fill some gaps in my memory and those journals held the clue. Two mornings and one headache later, I emerged, not only with the salvaged facts under one arm, but six surprising discoveries about myself under the other.

 

1. Some things never change. (A.K.A., I’ve always been a bit pretentious). 

 

The opening page of my first journal, which I penned around the age of ten, states, “In this journal I will write down all my memories from my early years.” For some reason, I thought that the story of getting my first bed from my grandparents’ basement ought to be saved for antiquity. 

 

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Like that diary, I bestowed a title page on every new journal I cracked open, inspired by the importance of the words I had yet to write. I find that propensity, which I still fight, embarrassing, especially given #6 below. 

 

2. My memory serves me well. (Or, at least it serves my ego). 

 

One of the “memories from my early years” shocked me with its rendition of a story I’ve told several times when proving the point that I’m an introvert. I’d cried at a birthday party in kindergarten because the piece of paper under my plate instructed me to sing “Jesus Loves Me”—clear proof that I’ve always been an introvert. But that wasn’t the whole story. My journal revealed that I cried, not just because of the song, but because I wanted my paper to say, “Spank the birthday boy.” Apparently, I wasn’t that much of an introvert Continue Reading…

“God, I just don’t have what it takes,” I blurted out and grabbed a sweater off the hanger.

The sound of my voice surprised me. I usually slog through mornings mute and zombi-like, but standing between the doors of my closet I felt trapped by my inadequacy—to deal with the politics at work, difficult patients, and another ten-hour day. Even worse, I was completely out of ideas—and had been for weeks—about how to connect my coworkers to the God who loves them. 

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My inadequacy twisted around me, squeezing the air out of my lungs. But, as my words scattered onto work pants and blouses, I felt an answer—the kind you’d never think of on your own, the kind that feels green when all your thoughts are purple. The answer was colored like this: “You being adequate was never the point. Not at the beginning, and not now.”

Just like that, God torched one of the portraits of him that I’d been hoarding. It’s a picture of God up in heaven. Sometimes he’s cheering me on. Other times he’s drumming his fingers on the throne. Always he’s waiting for my graduation day—the day when I’ll finally master being a Christian and get everything right. On my own. Without his help Continue Reading…

There are questions worth asking in life. Did I put deodorant on? Did I forget to pay my credit card bill? Should I eat the re-fried beans considering I’m on a date? These are helpful questions.

Then, there are unhelpful questions, the king of which, in my opinion, is “Am I spiritual enough?” 

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Nothing sucks me into a vortex quicker than The Unhelpful Question. High winds and negative pressure suck every insecurity into it’s path. It pulls up contentment by the roots. It splatters guilt everywhere. And, it keeps me spinning so fast, that I start to lose grip on reality. 

I should know better, but last week I stepped into the vortex. A friend has taken a couple months off work to Continue Reading…

Grand Central Station

smgianotti@me.com  —  September 22, 2015

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Photo courtesy of Maria Molinero via unsplash.com

 

Sprinting, squeezing through the metal doors,

my mind a passenger on every train,

careening through a cityscape of deadlines,

past endless blocks of tasks that must be done,

now dipping into tunnels webbed with worry, 

then out again into the blaze of dreams, 

each line a frantic scramble toward tomorrow, 

carrying me to everywhere but here Continue Reading…

I flitted through Hope Coffee dipping in and out of each photograph. I had promised myself to leave by 8:30 p.m. and it was already 8:45. In less than 12 hours, the men from church would be knocking on my door, ready to load up the U-Haul, and I still had packing to do. 

 

Attending the art show, which featured my classmate’s work, let me check two boxes off my to-do list. It fulfilled the “cultural engagement” assignment due Monday for my Theology of Art & Worship class, and it let me wave goodbye to the world before the tsunami of cardboard and packing tape pushed me under.  

 

Reflections on light and darkness. Each piece nodded to the name of the exhibit—light flickering off a child’s face, sun slicing through the distant clouds, a cobblestone street basking in the morning light. All of them saluted to the theme, except one.

 

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In The Mist by Paul Singleton, used with permission.

 

It stopped me as I buzzed around the corner and pulled me onto the cement jetty, past twenty-five seagulls, maybe thirty. It was hard to tell that far into the fog. Still. Peaceful. Stark. I felt those foggy mornings back up north on the dock, when the mist refused to say goodbye to the lake Continue Reading…

Six years ago, I clocked out of the burn unit for the last time and said goodbye to IVs, night shifts, and skin grafts. When people learn that I worked as a burn nurse they often blink and whisper, “That must’ve been so hard.” 

 

Working on a burn unit was hard, but not for the reason people think. Burn nurses walk onto the job each day expecting the worst. This protects us against emotional paralysis and allows us to focus on helping our patients—loading their IVs with Dilaudid, washing their burns, and slathering them with Silvadene. Burn care wasn’t always the hard part; often, night shifts were. 

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Photo courtesy of Alex Santos Silva via flickr.com (Used under CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

Unless you’ve stared 4 a.m. in the face, contacts blurring from dryness, you’ve never met the pit of night. Usually, by 2:30 a.m. my coworker and I had succumbed to silence. During the eternal inertia that stretched from then until dawn, I would agonize over whether another cup of coffee was worth the hole it would burn in my stomach.

 

One night, as I clawed my way toward morning, a patient’s call light turned on. I took a quick trip through Kubler-Ross’s stages of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression before accepting the inevitable Continue Reading…