Welcome to the United States of Anxiety!
I would love to say that I coined that phrase, but alas, credit for the clever title goes to one of my favorite authors, Jen Lancaster.
I actually have a copy of this, her latest book, but had to stop reading it because to be completely honest, it made me anxious!
As I write this blog, my anxiety level is high, as I’m filled with fear of the unknown, and am so very sad about what happened in our country on January 6th.
I have purposely stayed away from the major news networks for the last couple of months, simply because I found that the more I watched, the more my stress level skyrocketed. Thankfully, I found peace and solace in watching “Nick at Night,” enjoying re-runs of “Young Sheldon,” and of course, re-watching episodes of “Friends,” for the umpteenth time. I enjoyed the stability and predictability and found comfort in knowing when it wasn’t “my day, my week, my month, or even my year,” they were there for me.
But Tuesday night, the all too enticing cable news channel sirens came a’calling and I decided to tune in once again, flipping back and forth between News Max and Fox News.
I’m honestly not meaning to sound too dramatic, but after a few minutes of watching, I had a couple of sharp pangs in my chest. I didn’t think it was anything serious, but out of caution, I took a Bayer aspirin just in case, and continued to torture myself with the updates and information that was rapidly pouring in.
I’m sort of like the sixth grade kids at school who said, “We don’t have to wear our masks anymore because 2020 is over!” If it were only that simple!
I guess we were all hoping that 2021 would start differently. That it would immediately be a new, happier, more hopeful beginning. But it feels like 2021 said to 2020, “Hold my beer.”
I’m no stranger to stress. I mean, I’m a mom and have also worked in public education for thirty-some-odd-years. Stress is a part of my life. The last few months, however, have been over the top. From the Coronavirus, to quarantine, to the election, to the holidays, to the Georgia run-off, to the events at the United States Capitol, life hasn’t been all that peachy.
While I have enjoyed watching my Aggies play football this season, their bowl game almost did me in. I guess in the year of crazy, keeping your fans on the edge of their seats might be part of the game plan!
The fourth quarter of the Orange Bowl was epic, and a new star was born as Devon Achane flashed down the field at the speed of lightning, turning the game around. And in a matter of seconds, Aggie football was fun again! And my faith in my team was restored when the time on the clock reassured me that this game would end up in the win column. With less than three minutes left in the contest, I could finally relax and enjoy the season!
I was flying high for the rest of the weekend, and into Monday.
And then my excitement and peace waned. You see, on Monday I had to go to my “yearly check-up,” which for me, is the most dreaded day of the year.
As I got ready for my appointment, I felt my anxiety growing. There is nothing fun about this visit. From getting weighed, to having your blood pressure taken, to being violated in every manner possible.
The one positive thing that I could come up with about this dreaded physical was that the Physician’s Assistant is an Aggie. I knew there would be a few moments of revelry, and boasting, and re-living the game. And that is what carried me forward.
But then I had this thought: What if she doesn’t remember I’m an Aggie?” I definitely needed to wear an A&M t-shirt and of course, my Aggie ring (which would undoubtedly make me heavier when I stood on the scale… 😊)
When I arrived in the office, I was surrounded by four pregnant women, and a couple of ladies around my age. While waiting to check in, I stood behind a young lady and her husband. They were there to find out the gender of their first baby. What an exciting event!
As I heard the conversation, though, I realized things might not be so cheery after all. The couple was attempting to make a payment for the sonogram, and the receptionist said, “There must be a mistake. The sonogram is scheduled for the next appointment, not this one.”
The young, soon-to-be mom, said, “But the doctor told us it would be today. That’s why my husband took off work.”
I could tell by the sound of her voice through her mask, that she was about to burst into tears. And I didn’t blame her one bit.
The conversation/exchange ended with the young mother crying and the receptionist saying, “Your husband will have to wait for you in the car. If for some reason they do decide to do the sonogram today, you will need to text him and let him know he can come back in.”
Hmmm. That seemed a little harsh.
And just so you know, I wasn’t being nosey. I couldn’t help overhearing this conversation. I was simply waiting in line to hand over my insurance card and whatever dignity I currently possessed.
I found a comfortable seat on a couch in front of a fireplace (with a fake fire that gave off a whole lotta heat). As I waited, I once again got caught up with another couple who had just completed a sonogram. The woman was crying (as she was smiling) and said, “Well, all I had picked out were girls’ names. Guess I’ll have to start over…”
I noticed another lady sitting on a couch in the corner, stylishly dressed with a beautiful scarf tied around her head. I pondered my ability to make such a fashion statement, and quickly decided there was no way I could pull it off. But that lady…well, she exuded class as she gracefully walked toward the nurse and exited to the exam rooms.
I glanced down at my attire: an Aggie t-shirt (maroon), a pair of black “jogger” pants, black Asics, and a black Adidas jacket with white stripes. I reassured myself that I was simply in typical “boy mom” attire, never mind the fact that my boys are now the ages of thirty and twenty-eight…
I looked at my watch for the fifteenth time and wondered when it would finally be my turn.
About that time, the young father-to-be who had been banished to the car, re-appeared inside and at the window of the receptionist. I actually threw my hands up in the air, victoriously shook my fist, and whispered, “Yes!” when I heard him say, “I got a text to go back to the exam room. They’re doing the sonogram today.”
In that short amount of time, I had invested in this little family, and was overjoyed that they were about to experience such a life-changing moment!
And then I heard, “Sharon. Will you come on back,” and I did an emotional U-turn, from complete glee to overwhelming nausea.
Of course, the first stop on my Bataan March was the scale, and just as life-long dieters/strugglers with weight do, I took off my shoes before stepping on the scale (I had already freed myself from any jewelry hoping that might take off an ounce or two!)
When I viewed my weight, I was both pleased and relieved. As I began stepping off the scale, already feeling lighter on my feet, the nurse exclaimed, “Wait, I need to get your height.”
She pulled out the measuring apparatus, and then placidly stated, “You’re almost five feet. You’re four-nine-and-a-half.”
I know, I know…
That’s not almost five feet! In fact, that’s three inches less than five feet! What in the world??!!
I had no words, but in my mind I was now referring to myself by my new name, the Incredible Shrinking Woman.
I knew there was no way on God’s green earth that the height she gave me was correct. But those words filled every bit of my now fifty-seven-inch body! And I felt like I was on the verge of having what we Southerners call a “come undone.”
I tried not to dwell on the fact that I could now join the group of fellas who hung out with Snow White, knowing that the anxiety of this newfound extra shortness could affect my blood pressure. I took several deep breaths but wasn’t at all surprised that it was a little high, as I seem to suffer from “White Coat Syndrome.”
I was then told to change out of my clothes and into the paper garments on the exam table.
I did as instructed and waited for Betsy, the Aggie PA to come in…
And it was in those awkward moments that I realized this: She would never know I was an Aggie! I had taken off my ring, as well as all my clothes, and was now wrapped up in a couple of paper towels!
Ugh! I guess I’ll just have to be obnoxious and state, once again, that I’m a third generation Aggie with fourth generation sons.
But, as luck would have it, when Betsy stepped through the door in her maroon shirt, and black scrubs, she remembered! (She could have been tipped off by the Aggie mask I was wearing which I had completely forgotten about).
We chatted about the game and relived the best moments! And my anxiety lessened. I was at ease, and all the yucky parts of the visit weren’t nearly so bad.
At the end of the appointment, Betsy asked, “Do you have any questions?” and I just couldn’t let it go, and stated, “Um. I am a little concerned about my height. The nurse told me I was almost five feet—that I was four-nine-and-a-half. That would mean I’ve shrunk three inches. I’m just a little freaked out and concerned with this jarring news.”
Betsy glanced at her tablet and said, “She has you listed as 59-and-a-half inches.”
Whew! I guess she was typing 59 inches and that’s why she said the nine part. While I should have been concerned about the half inch I had lost, I really wasn’t because I knew deep within my heart of hearts that I wasn’t standing up straight. In that moment, I had a renewed appreciation for all the times growing up when my mom preached about the importance of good posture. Being a slacker cost me half and inch, and when you’re already a short girl, that’s a lot! But it’s certainly better than the three inches I lost and then found!
As I reflect back over the first week of 2021, I’ve realized one thing. I’m sort of like the Cowardly Lion. I lack confidence and courage in things I shouldn’t. But, once I can see an inkling of how a situation is going to play out, I’m all in! I’m filled with instant courage, and faith, and confidence! I believe! And I let out a big sigh of relief and relax!
Once I knew the Aggies were going to win, I enjoyed the game.
And even when the news is bad, it seems once I can see how the situation is going to go, I accept it. When I can’t see, I feel out of control and am consumed with worry and fear. “Yea!” for the acceptance part, and “Boo!” for my lack of faith. After all, as Hebrews 11:1 reminds us, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
This reminder that I am guilty of being the “ye of little faith” person has propelled me to use this as my theme for 2021—having trust and belief, without a doubt, of the things I can’t see or control.
When I was in 8th grade, every morning of the spring semester as soon as I got up, I played the Barry Manilow song, “Daybreak” on my stereo/record player. I even had a little dance I performed (in the privacy of my room). Imagine jazz hands and a little shuffle step from side-to-side.
The song set the tone for the day. It helped me when I was trying to curl my hair, struggling to make my “wings” look as good as Farrah’s. I found the words so encouraging and positive and thought it was the perfect way to start a day:
“But it’s daybreak, if you wanna believe,
It can be daybreak, ain’t no time to grieve.
Said it’s daybreak, if you’ll only believe
And let it shine, shine, shine
All around the world.”
As a grown up, I currently have a song I play often and have decided it will be my theme song for 2021: Jeremy Camp’s “I Still Believe.”
I personally am struggling right now. I love my country, and I just want everyone to work together in lifting up America and making it better and stronger. I have to hand over that fear of the unknown. Completely give it up. I need to have faith and believe without a doubt that God is in control. I need to accept the things that I cannot change.
I preach this to my students all the time: the circle of control. Everything inside the circle represents the things we can control. All the things outside the circle, are the things we can’t control. Focus on what you can do every day to improve your situation and life.
So, as we stumble (at least that’s what I’ve done) into 2021, it is my hope and prayer that you will also cling to your faith and believe in the things you can’t see or control.
It’s a new year. A new beginning. A time for peace, and a time to come together and reason.
In closing, I want to share a story about our founding fathers:
On the final day, as the last delegates were signing the document, Benjamin Franklin pointed toward the sun on the back of the Convention president’s chair. Observing that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising sun from a setting sun, he went on to say: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
It’s Daybreak. The sun is rising in America and I’m going to believe and let it shine, shine, shine all around the world.