07 Jul it has to be now. (part 2)
I write this blog for me. If you read along then… great, welcome! But primarily it is for me. To remind me, to enable me to make sense. To collect my thoughts and sometimes be surprised by truth. If you are, or have been, reading though – please get in touch, I can tell from the stats on the wordpress site that i use to post this, that people from around the world read this and I’d love to know who you are!
My faith is integral to my life. I have written about it a bit before (here) but mainly I have been writing about my state of mind. My battles with anxiety and depression. I’m sure I will continue to write about both, but this post probably falls more into the faith category.
This sort of follows on from another post I wrote here
Youngest two in the bath tonight. I’m telling Madge (who has just had her first experience of musical theatre) which classic musicals I will be educating her with over the coming weeks (Guys and Dolls to start, followed by West Side Story).
Out of nowhere Ed (4) covered in soapsuds stands up and announces,
“God’s love. You can’t get round it”.
We laugh. This truth repeated out of its framing in some kids-church song catches me off-guard.
There is an excellent book. ‘A Thousand Gifts’ by Ann Voskamp. I read it for the first time about a year ago. I got to the last page and immediately turned back to the beginning. It just caught me at the exact right moment. Where I could hear what she was saying without feeling condemned. Where i could relate to her tales of agoraphobia, depression and the exhaustion of raising a family, but see the stuff she had learnt and consider putting it into practise.
In it, Ann talks about counting gifts – counting things to be grateful for. I began to count. And once you start it is hard to stop. I have so much to be grateful for.
When I was at my lowest, when anxiety was ever present and I barely felt I could survive the days, if someone had told me to practise gratitude I would have punched them and said very rude things.
But this revelation – the importance of gratitude – has been one of the things that has really helped me. To get through the dark days, and as a habit which, sometimes, can help to keep the dark days at bay.
There has been a lot written about gratitude recently. Lots of social media research. Lots of people doing #100happydays. Lots of people sharing articles from psychology blogs and journals that state that increasing your gratitude has multiple benefits for your physical and mental well-being. (seriously – google it).
It is good for me to be grateful. Not good for me in a self-improving, must-try-harder way, just …good for me. It makes me feel good.
At dark moments, when anxiety still crowds in (when I remember and have the volition to – because I so often don’t get this right) I count. I get the kids to count with me. We count gifts.
Actually, saying ‘we count gifts’ makes it sound very worthy. What happens in reality is one of us (often Ed) shouts/ sings loudly from the back of the car “Tell me something good ….(insert name of someone in the car, i.e. “tell me something good – Mummy”)” to the tune of Rufus and Chaka Khan’s 1974 track of the same name. Total tune – watch the video here if you need some 70s groove in your evening – you won’t regret it. Once the gauntlet has been laid down, whoever has been selected has to state a good thing about that day.
As i focus on the truth of the beauty of the everyday gifts (of the ‘something good’), I remember.
I remember. That there is a world and a life outside of the dark anxious days. That there is life even in the dark anxious days. Pockets of joy. Moments of relief. That there are people who love me.
I counted and made a note of them on my phone for a while last year, when i felt i was in a real battle day by day. We were making some major decisions about things that would effect our lives in significant ways. There was a lot of unavoidable stress. Counting was really helpful.
Here are a couple of screen shots from that time. The inane alongside the profound. The momentary things alongside the eternal. All of it.
As i slowed down to look… to really see, I saw a lot to be grateful for.
Recently this has morphed into my pursuit of everyday beauty. If you stop and look beauty is ever present. A few years back a friend asked me what my life was for… if I had an idea of what I was here for. If i felt I had a purpose and knew what it was. I replied quickly and somewhat glibly that it was to ‘find beauty and show it to people’. My response was off-the-cuff and not thought through. But it was the truth. The more I seek the truth, the beauty, and share it, the more i feel… well, like me I suppose.
And the beauty, provokes gratitude, because it is all a gift.
Today’s offering. The sweet-peas have started flowering!
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”
God’s love. You can’t get round it.