“Keep calm and carry on!”
Found on a famous World War II Poster in Britain
Before I write any further, I want you to know that I do NOT have any diagnosed anxiety disorders. I understand that is a real diagnosis, and I appreciate that sometimes trite expressions like, “Keep calm and carry on” are thrown at people in a vain attempt to ‘happy someone up.’ To the person with an anxiety disorder, I am sure that it feels like these types of quotes can seem to do more harm than good. Before you read on, please know that it is not my intent to ‘happy you up.’ This story is about me and my journey to become better than I used to be.
Last Monday was the first day of open registration for Preschool. I was very excited. I got up early that day. I intended to arrive to work about forty-five minutes to an hour earlier than usual so that I could greet all these new families when they arrived. I am not a morning person, but I was in an uncharacteristically good mood that day. I was ready to go. I had all the things I needed. I was on the phone calling Dunkin’ to order two boxes of Joe to provide some refreshments for the families that had come in to register. It was going to be a great day!
Then I got in my car and turned the ignition, and… nothing happened, not even a click. I had a dead battery. GRR! And just like that- the dark clouds of uncertainty began brewing in my head. Luckily for me, it was President’s day. My daughter was home from school, so I went into the house, woke her up, and asked her to move her car to give me a jump. Problem solved, right? Wrong. My car was parked in the garage, and the jumper cables would not reach from her battery to my battery. O
OK, time to call Missy and let her know that my day was not going to plan.
After I called Missy, I called my husband. I knew we had a battery charger somewhere, but where in the world was it, only he would know. Adrian told me exactly where it was: on the workbench by the wall. But guess what! Battery chargers have to be charged to charge a dead battery. So there went plan B! I am getting pretty anxious now, and if I am being frank, frustrated.
So on I went to plan C. What in the world was going to be my plan C? Oh, yeah! The jumper cables I got for my daughter when she got her car! Maybe they are longer than the ones in my car. I will check in her car.
Low and behold! There is a battery charger in her car!!! Why she didn’t think to share this information with me when I woke her up 20 minutes ago adds to my frustrations.
I hooked it up, and it worked like a charm! I looked at my phone to check the time and call Missy to say I am on my way. OH NO! I am late now. It is passed the time that I wanted to get to work, AND I still have to stop at Dunkin’ to get that coffee that I ordered. Anxiety is creeping in more! I got to go!
Would you believe that everyone AND their brother was at Dunkin’ that morning? The line for the drive-through was soooo long. No problem, I thought; I’ll go inside. I placed my order thirty-some minutes ago, surely it is ready to go.
I didn’t even get out of the car. I could tell from the parking lot that it was packed inside. So I white-knuckled the steering wheel as I consigned myself to wait in the drive-through line. I was silently judging all the people in line ahead of me for taking their sweet time. I was late! Other people were waiting for me! I was tempted more than once to honk my horn in frustration as if honking my horn would make them feel bad for going so slow.
After I leave Dunkin’ and finally start heading to Good Shepherd. I become conscious of the crazy person I had become. At first, I tried to rationalize my upset feelings and blame other things for MAKING ME CRAZY!
That is when I caught myself. One of the things that I believe about myself is that “No one can make me ________, without my permission.’ No one can make me happy. No one can make me angry. No one can make me anxious.
I then begin to notice how my body is feeling. I am still gripping the steering wheel tightly. My breaths are very shallow, and my shoulders are tense. I still had about 5 minutes left of my commute to work. I spent that time, breathing deep and being grateful to God for all the blessings in my life: My family, my job, my co-workers, my friends, my church.
By the time I arrived at school, I was back to feeling like it was going to be a great day!
What did I learn from this? First, next time I feel anxious or frustrated by things that are out of my control. I am going to breathe and ask God to help me to change my perspective. I know that the hard part about this will be stopping to notice myself and not fall into that trap of blaming others for my upset.
What do you do when you find yourself in a state of upset? Do you actually find yourself in a state of upset, or do you figure out later that you were upset when you realize that you made choices that you were not proud of? How do you work yourself through your feelings? How do your kids work through their feelings? I don’t know, but if I had to guess, your children respond to anxiety and frustration similarly if not identically to you. Your children are watching. They are learning from you how to handle their upset.
I wish you well!