Sunbreaks

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One of the first new-to-my-vocabulary, local-to-the-Northwest terms I quickly learned after moving to Seattle was the term “sunbreaks.” I remember having the local news on one evening in our tiny Ballard apartment and hearing the forecast, which, I’ve found, is a very common forecast for Seattle at least 9 months of the year: “Tomorrow will mostly cloudy with occasional sunbreaks in the afternoon.” Sunbreaks? Why had I never heard of those before?

Well, most likely because I had previously lived in a place where the weather was one way or the other– blazing hot sun or cool cloudy weather. Sun and rain didn’t exactly mix in Georgia. Sure, a day could start off sunny and then in the heat of the afternoon you’d see thunderheads on the horizon and know what was in store– but once the storm was over, the skies would quickly clear and that would be the end of it. Not so much in Seattle. We even have days where the sun is shining and it’s raining at the exact same time. My husband taught my kids the South African term for that: a monkey’s wedding. ūüôā

While living here, I’ve learned to very much appreciate sunbreaks. Some days, I’ll be sitting at my dining room table, feeling that the misty gloom is just about going to overwhelm me… and then– brightness! And I look up at the sky, and streaks of light are coming down out of the clouds, and there’s a hole in the sheet of grey where the sun is peeking through. A sunbreak!

I’m sure glad for sunbreaks in the sky, and I’m glad for sunbreaks in my anxiety-ridden life. I’m thankful that when I feel like I can’t take the worry, the stress, or the panicky feelings for one more second– the clouds part and the sun shines in, if only for a few moments.

The sun takes the form of my daughter’s laughter.
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A fireworks display on the 4th of July.
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Watching my kids do something they love.
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My husband’s mere presence, his arm around my back, letting me know things are really ok.
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Sometimes living in Seattle is hard, especially when it’s January and the warmth and light of the holidays has passed and it’s 5 long months until clear, sunny summer. Sometimes living with anxiety is hard, when life seems overwhelming and I can’t fully enjoy a day out with my family for fear of a panic attack and I wonder when my emotional summer will ever come. In both situations, one thing is true: A brief sunbreak makes the cloud cover a little easier to bear.

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My (Furry) Best Friend

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Lots of my friends don’t have dogs because they are messy. And kind of a pain. Almost like having an extra kid. They do know what they are talking about.

Our little Maisy weighs 5 pounds, if that, but she is a lot of work in a little package. She tries to sneak our food if we’re not looking and she has accidents in the house sometimes and one time she ran away. I used to wonder what our lives would be like if we didn’t have her, and thought that maybe our lives would be easier. But then we didn’t have her. And I was devastated.

When she annoys me with her barking, when I’m cleaning up her poop, my mind is consumed with thoughts of the annoying stuff and I forget the important stuff. Like how she can’t wait for me to sit down and watch a tv show or read a book, because then she can curl up on my lap. Sure, she leaves dog hair all over my clothes, but that’s why I have a lint roller.

When I read books aloud to the kids, she perches on the edge of the couch, ears turning this way and that, listening to the story, too.

When I lay on the lounge chair in the sunny backyard, she lounges in the chair next to me and lets the sun soak into her shaky little body.

When it’s cold and rainy, she burrows under the quilt on my lap, and I have a living heating pad for my achy joints.

When anxiety takes over once again and my breaths become short and I just don’t know what to do because I want to tell someone what’s wrong but I can’t find the words, I look into her eyes and I don’t have to say anything at all because her eyes tell me she  knows how I’m feeling… and she’s just there for me.

Yep, our Maisy is many things. She is a secret keeper for my kids, a good sport when forced to put on a fashion show in Build-a-Bear clothes. She’s my buddy, my sidekick when Gareth is at work and the kids are at school. She’s called many nicknames–Maisy Daisy and Maisy Moo and Crazy Maisy. She’s a diva dog, a drama queen who fusses and yelps at the slightest mishap. She’s always underfoot and probably thinks that the word “no” is part of her name. She makes us laugh and makes us say “awwww” and appears in many family photos. More than anything, she is my constant comfort, my true, loyal–and furry–best friend.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Mistress Mary, Quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With Silver Bells, And Cockle Shells,
And so my garden grows.

–English Nursery Rhyme

I’m no master gardener, that’s for sure. I¬†recently bought a plant at the nursery who’s little instruction card reads: “Thrives on neglect.” That about sums up my gardening ability.

However,¬†my family is entwined in gardening, as my husband is a career gardener; I also remember my grandmother’s amazing gardening skills. I have chosen an alternate path: to¬†travel a short distance to the farmer’s market where I can purchase a rainbow of goodness in minutes, rather than spend months nurturing and weeding and waiting–and then waiting some more–¬†for the same goodness. I tend to wait for a lot of things in my life– I wait for a day of feeling good, the whole day; I wait for a day where we feel financially secure, a day where a surprise bill doesn’t show up in our mailbox; I wait for a day when I can see family and friends again that I’ve missed for so many days…. So I decided long ago that I didn’t want to wait ANY days for some dang fruits and vegetables.

And then, my kids grew to the age they are now, and something happened: they went to an elementary school in nature-loving Seattle and learned about gardening from their teachers and came home singing Pete Seeger: “Inch by inch, row by row… Gonna make our garden grow…” And now, they want me to garden with them. Since I would do pretty much anything within reason to make my sweet kiddos happy– we are now novice gardeners.

While I stated that I am no expert gardener, I am for sure an expert shopper, so I had great fun with that part. The kids and I traveled to various home improvement centers where I purchased cute floral printed gardening gloves and exotic sounding seed varieties. I even purchased a TROWEL. (Impressive that I even know what a trowel is, no?) I learned which things I could grow from seed, which were better to purchase as starts, and which to plant nearly full-grown. The kids were thrilled… I was willing, at least… and then we began.

Were our rows of seeds straight? As I discovered after 7 days of sun and water, no. No, they were not straight at all. More like clusters than rows, really. Did I leave enough space between the plants? Probably not. But we saw GREEN in the midst of brown dirt, and that was good enough for us. And honestly, checking up on the garden each day in the warm sunshineРspraying drops of water down on each little plantРended up being such a nice stress-reliever and a way to forget about worrisome things, even if it was for only a few minutes.


Several months have passed since our endeavor began, and I’ve noticed things. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that I had gardens where I didn’t even realize I had them. According to dictionary.com, “garden” is defined as “a plot of ground, usually near a house, where flowers, shrubs, vegetables, fruits, or herbs are cultivated.” OK, well, by that definition, the not-so-attractive mound of shrubs near our shed turned out to be “a garden of delicious raspberries.”

The neglected bed in the front yard full of weeds that my husband and I “forgot” to pull? One day, I caught a glimpse of red beneath the tangles of green– a huge bed of strawberries! What a welcome surprise– I love berries of any type.

The discovery¬†of the berries leads me to the second thing I’ve noticed: despite the weeds, despite¬†my neglect, the plants still grew. And produced. And gave us delicious fruit. Do you happen to feel that a point is about to be made?

Because my reader/writer¬†mind always¬†feels the overwhelming need to craft¬†a connection to a moral regarding¬†my discoveries, here is the realization: despite my thoughts running in crooked rows along the paths of my brain; despite the weeds of worry that continuously clog up my coherent thoughts; despite forgetting to give myself enough water and sun at times– I am still a whole, complete, valid person. The strawberries that grew in my weed-infested garden taste just as delicious as the strawberries you can buy at the market that were grown in pristine conditions on a farm. And so the hope springs forth that my creation, my talents, and my efforts will matter to someone whether they emerge from underneath a bed of weeds or from a professionally manicured thatch of earth. We plant seeds the best we can, with love and with care, and then, we trust that something beautiful might come from them. We utter this little prayer that Pete Seeger penned: “Inch by inch, row by row, please bless these seeds I sow. Please keep them safe below ’til the rain comes tumbling down.”

Busy Little Bee

“Keeping Busy” seems to be the primary weapon in my war against anxiety. I think part of my inherent need to be on the go is hereditary– my parents are definitely movers and shakers– they keep busy with their jobs, their hobbies, or just doing stuff together. I grew up witnessing that, so naturally, I am like that too. That can pose a bit of a challenge in my marital relationship at times; while my husband is a very hard worker, he is also a big proponent of nap taking (and rightfully so). He will suggest taking a nap on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and my reaction is like, “Gasp! Oh, the horror of horrors!!!” when it reality, if you’re tired and take a nap– so what? I just can’t stand the thought of not consciously using up every second of the day with activity.

I realize that my philosophy runs counterintuitive to what most might think… “Uh, doesn’t being busy add to stress, which in turn adds to worry about things getting done?” True, but when it comes to the whole anxiety issue, I guess I’m of the mindset that if I stay sedentary for too long, I just might sink into the mire and gloom of being anxious; but if I’m a busy little bee, perhaps I won’t have time to worry about anything. However, I definitely need to exercise caution when it comes to this philosophy, lest “busy” becomes “frantic.”

Case in point—

Good: volunteering twice a week at the kids’ school. Posting entries a couple of times a week on this blog. Planning weekend outings for my family.

Bad: Deciding the same month that I have numerous end of school year activities and a kiddo’s birthday and one of the busiest months of the year at work and a Vacation Bible Camp to help plan, that it’s also a great month to remodel my kitchen. By myself. Every day after work.

While I now love seeing my bright white cabinets in the sunshine when I walk upstairs each morning, my life was anything but brightness and sunshine during the almost 3 weeks that it took me to get it done. I quickly became overwhelmed with everything I had going on, and that, my friends, is NOT helpful for someone with anxiety issues.

So, the moral of the story that I myself am trying to learn each and every day is that it’s great to be busy–just not overwhelmed. It’s great to take advantage of every day to the fullest, and to express my gratefulness for the life I’ve been given by appreciating it and not letting it pass me by. But, when I get so busy that my kids wonder when I’ll ever get done painting the kitchen so that I can just sit down and read a book with them, that means “too busy.” Now that summer is upon us, and the kids have 2 more weeks of school, I’ve made a goal: this summer will only be fun-busy. Vacation Bible Camp week–something I have never helped plan before– will be busy, but fun. Day trips to the beach when mommy gets off work–which are full of parking wars at Alki and remembering the sunscreen and packing snacks and sand toys– will be busy, but fun. A camping trip to Winthrop–which will be like the day trip to the beach times 100–will be busy, but fun. And at the end of the summer, “busy” will return to it’s familiar ways of NOT always being fun–work deadlines will pick up, the mom taxi will resume it’s routes, and homework, dinner, and baths will need to be done in a timely manner each night. But hey, I’ll just do my best to manage my time well, and I’ll look back on all of those “fun-busy” activities of the summer, and try to incorporate a bit of summertime’s philosophy the whole year through.

Shelter From the Storm

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“Love will hold us together, make us a shelter to weather the storm; and I’ll be my brother’s keeper, so the whole world will know that we’re not alone.” –Matt Maher

This lyric is from “Love Will Hold Us Together”, one of my favorite songs. The reason it’s a favorite¬†is twofold.

First, when “Christians” share a message of hate, judgment, and “I’m better than you”, I’m reminded of the basis of MY faith– love. I don’t hate anyone, it’s not my job to judge anyone, and I’m certainly not better than anyone. I feel my mission in this lifetime is just to share God’s love. The end.

The second reason this song resonates with me is also my reason for starting this blog… my anxiety disorder.

I’ve always leaned toward having a worrier’s disposition, but for the past 7 years–since shortly after the birth of my youngest daughter–it’s grown into a greater issue. I’ve had to see doctors about it, it’s disrupted my life, and it’s made me feel things deep inside that I wouldn’t wish for anyone to feel. For the past 7 years, I’ve been seeking shelter from it. Medicine, doctors, therapists, dietary changes, breathing techniques– they all provide a bit of relief, I suppose, but I’m not really sure they’ve provided a weather-proof shelter. As corny as it sounds, when I’m the most overwhelmed by worry and fear, ¬†the umbrella I reach for in my myriad collection (hey, I do live in Seattle) is the one labeled “love.” The love from family, friends, and God is what has allowed my brain to escape from the¬†storm of panic and worry and has brought¬†me back into the clear skies¬†of reality. The reality is, I’m loved. I have a shelter, under which I can hold myself together, and weather the storm. I couldn’t be more grateful for all of my “keepers”– the ones who check on me, who send me funny pins from Pinterest, or¬†deliver short¬†emails or texts to my phone at the exact moment that I check my phone to distract myself from the worry building inside of me.

There are a few reasons I’ve started this blog. I’ve always felt a need to write–it’s just part of who I am. When I was 5 year old kindergartener,¬†I felt a need to write; in college, the need to write forced a change in my major; and now, despite the busyness of being a mom and a working person, I still feel the overwhelming need to just WRITE!¬†A blog also seems like a great way¬†to vent: to share my frustrations and fears, as well as my happiness and hope. Besides all of that… while exploring the internet, putting forth my best effort NOT to delve into the depths of worst-case scenario websites, I found very few blogs about “normal” people working their way through anxiety. Anxiety gurus claiming they have a “secret cure” for the low price of $19.95? Sure, found a lot of those kind of sites– but none that were real, none that made me feel like maybe I wasn’t so crazy or alone. And so, I dedicate myself to sharing real experiences here– so that perhaps even one person living through the storm of anxiety may wander over here and find this truth– that we, most definitely, are not alone.