Tag Archives: Anxiety

What if I divorced God?

Back in high school I had a life-defining moment when the Living Christ connected with me in a way that assured me of God’s love and interest in me. The Apostle Paul calls this an adoption and that I was now in the forever family of the Divine Trinity, God, Spirit, Son.

I understood nothing of that at the time. I knew only this; Something in the core of who I was had changed. Somehow I grasped that my life, even as it just started out, was no longer my own. I was initially exhilarated in a way I’ve rarely experienced since. I felt it. I basked in it. Love. Belonging. Peace. I didn’t know what my “purpose” or “calling” was, but I knew I had one.

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” 

It’s thrilling to be young and lost and angry and then suddenly to be found and loved and hopeful. I had a purpose. Whew. I felt joy. But I also felt this nagging toothache type of irritation in my quieter moments when the same thought–I had a purpose, my life was not own–washed over into a slightly different point of view: What the hell did I just go? My life IS NOT my own, I thought with a panic.

I nearly fled. In my mind I pulled it off. I retracted my sign-up form. Only it didn’t take. I wanted my life, but I couldn’t change that experience. I couldn’t un-know the God I now knew.

Me and God go way back, right back to this moment in time on Sept. 21, 1983: the date of my adoption and few days later when my first rebellious panic threatened to erase the best spiritual experience of my life. Since that time, this odd, discordant mix of commitment and escape have continued. I have lived in ways completely counter to my faith, but I did so ever mindful that I was doing exactly that. I chated on God to be sure, but I never wholly divorced God. For reasons that still surprise me, I am confident God didn’t divorce me.

Like Huey Lewis sang, “I’m happy to be stuck with you.” At times I don’t think either of us were all that happy, but we both somehow agreed we were stuck.

In this way, my relationship with God is the single most enduring relationship I’ve ever had. It’s also the most consuming. It challenges my thoughts about colors everything I do. It changes how I see the world and how I use my time and how I think about the ways I use my time and how I feel about myself. If my life is not my own, then how am I living it when compared to the future God imagined for me?

More than three decades later and deeper into the throes of this turbulent love affair, I find myself still in panic at times over the all-consuming nature of God. She refuses to be cordoned off to spaces I want her to be. Like water over-running its banks, God floods and saturates me. I am soggy with the presence of God.

So why do I still at times feel so distant from God? Why does my heart for as dry as the dessert? More to the point, why do I still ponder a divorce from time to time?

I confess I ask myself this question more than I’d like to admit: What would I do with my life if I could live it on my own, apart from the standard, hope and future of God’s plans?

Flight is my great neurosis. Not fear of it, but lust for it, as in escape, as in withdrawal, as in going far away to live a life focused only on myself. The thought of screw the world, screw others, screw God can a delicious temptation.

So what if there was no God? What if I was wrong way back then. What the hell does a teenager know anyway? What if all there has been or ever will be is me until the day I am so-called “food for worms” and nothing more. How would I redirect if given the chance to navigate the course of my life?

in fifteen minutes of reflection on specifics I came up with this: Nothing. The two things I might do, flee and drink, are in the end so destructive I doubt even if left to my own devices I’d choose them, because I know if this is all the life I have and there is no life on the other side, I’m not wasting any more of it drunk, alone and purposeless. How strange the knowledge that the things I do now are the things I’d chose to do tomorrow if I decided to divorce God altogether.

It’s not my life, but it is. My life continues to evolve into the one God had in mind all the time. That flooding presence of God is so saturating I can no longer tell the difference between His plan and mine, which I suspect has been the point all along.

Just breathe: first step toward the God of peace

In the late 1990s my so-called perfect life was anything but. Typical of those like me who were relatively affluent, married, career-oriented, I had the accouterments of success. Outside I looked fine, stylish in fact… maybe even adorned. I had a designer purse and a nice car and my husband at the time worked in a successful family business.

And we were miserable.

My misery manifest itself in anxiety. Panic attacks. Fear. Times when my body rebelled against me. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and prescribed medication. But it was also the first time I began to pay attention to the little things that can make life better. Like air.


Breathe in, breathe out. It was good advice then and it remains a go-to-medication now long after I have stopped taking drugs and stopped self-medicating with alcohol.

I realized a long time ago how important deep breathing is for physical and mental health. My journey towards a more healthy well-being started with the introduction of deep breathing. I’d simply start each morning by taking ten long, deep breaths in, followed by a long, slow exhale out. I developed a routine that I continue to this day.

As the stresses in my life increased it became important to introduce other methods that would help alleviate stress. Meditation started to become a leading player in my life. The creation of a space in my home that existed and was free of television and other electronic devices was significant. The space with a comfortable chair and a warm blanket, and included lavender scented candles created an environment that allowed me the ability to live in it for as long as I could spare in any given day. Sometimes that was only five minutes, but it was enough time in that day.

Meditation consisted of me closing myself in that warm, safe environment. With closed eyes, I would begin my deep-breathing and would usually think of one word that was significant to me in that moment. I repeated that word (often times it was the word “peace”) as a way of clearing the space in my brain so that I could focus solely on meditating. This extended the deep-breathing to help relieve my anxiety symptoms.

My deep-breathing techniques have recently been enhanced by my introduction of yoga. I try to practice yoga three times a week for about an hour. Yoga has allowed me to strengthen my body, while also strengthening my mind. Yoga incorporates my deep-breathing and meditation. It has brought these two calming techniques together and taught me how to stay in the moment. It has become a mainstay in my life.

Yoga’s benefits for the mind and body are important for keeping me in control and ensuring that anxiety and stress stay away.

Within these practices of breath, meditation and yoga I have found a greater sense of purpose in prayer. In these times with God I find the root of my anxiety, which grew from the absence of God in my life during those so-called “successful” years. That generalized anxiety was more specific than I ever thought.

First I learned to calm my breath, which helped me calm my mind, which empowered me to calm my body, which infused my soul with the sense of calm that flowed me wholly like a gentle river back into relationship with the God of my youth.

I still struggle with anxiety from time to time. It’s still woven in my DNA and my brain and my biology. I know that’s a part of it. But I also know like all things, there are other parts as well. I don’t worry about a “cure.” Instead I use the anxiety for what it was designed to be, a reminder to stay close to the God who created me.

Whenever I start to lose my way, I can find it again… with that first, long, deep, wonderfully cleansing breath.

Holy Basil — ‘the immaculate one’ — added to garden plan

The hubby and I continue to plant our garden, making modifications from the original plan. I knew I may be up against stiff opposition when I suggested to him that we plant a different type of basil from the traditional Italian sweet basil that he adores.

He looked at me, dirt-stained hands hanging from his sides, with a stare that reminds me of his days terrorizing opponents on the wrestling mat.

So I gingerly started listing the reasons why I wanted to make this change.

“It’s called Holy, like the Holy Spirit?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, sensing an opening. Afterall, he’s the cook and the one with his hands dirty. I’m the brains of the operation — or at least that’s what he tells me. I was messing with about 100 years of tradition on this and I knew it.

“Well, I’ve already planted the other basil, but we can add it,” he said at last, picking up his rake to return to his work.

“Great,” I said. Baby steps.

I am intrigued by this herb and how it is used after reading its history. Holy Basil is said to have spiritual qualities as well as medicinal ones. It’s considered to be the most sacred plant in the Hindu religion, and as a result it is often found growing in courtyards and near temples. It is said to protect those that grow it from misfortune and to sanctify and guide them to heaven. Holy Basil is therefore appropriately called “The Incomparable One.”

Research indicates that Holy Basil offers medicinal qualities, though a lack of scientific evidence confirms these benefits. Holy Basil is considered antiemetic, anticancer, hypoglycemic, hypotensive, sedative, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, analgesic and antiulcer, according to PubMed.org.

Holy Basil is also said to contain powerful antioxidants. Preliminary clinical studies suggests that Holy Basil may have a positive impact on ulcers and blood sugar levels in Type 2 Diabetes. It is also being studied for its positive effect on anxiety/stress and for its prevention of cavities. We don’t have many cavities, but as we’ve written before, we both have our share of anxiety.

Holy Basil can be grown quite easily in either pots or in the ground. It prefers warm soil in direct sunlight. Because it requires full sun it has a tendency to dry out in the hotter summer months, so ensure your plant gets plenty of water during these times. Holy Basil will develop flowers as it grows, however, it is noted that if you allow your plant to flower, it will not affect the potency of the herb.

A tea is the most practical way to use Holy Basil. Cover two teaspoons of fresh leaves with 8 oz of boiling water. Cover and steep for five minutes prior to straining out the leaves and drinking.

My husband will be far more likely to toss into his cooking than make a tea. I’ll try that one.

My interest peaked by the different flavor it may bring to my family’s Italian dishes. (hmmn… I hear the hubby mumble at this idea… which translates into, “I have my doubts.”) Research indicates that Holy Basil has a more peppery taste than our well known Sweet Basil. Finally, since I am always interested in herbs that have a potential to assist in reducing anxiety I will try this to see if it helps in that regard. The spiritual history around Holy Basil also has me interested in growing it on my property. Who doesn’t want to keep misfortune away from their doorstep?

Mindfulness is like living on the ocean shore

A few years back The Bride and I spent nearly a month in Mexico living along the Sea of Cortez. The beautiful seas could kick up waves and whitecaps and turbulence like most great bodies of waters. But its remarkable ability for morning stillness captures my memories most. I’d get up and that enormous, powerful, mystical sea would lie calm as a lake without a ripple across its surface. The pelicans would fly low, barely above the crystal clear glass with a perfect view of the breakfast swimming below. They’d fly up and with the urgency of Robin Hood’s arrow pierce the tranquility, snatch their prey and fly back up to the skies above. The water would ripple outward at the momentary disturbance but soon return to the silent calm.

Th hectic nature of the day would rise. Fishermen would crack the water’s surface with their boats and winds would stir up the waves and the sprinkling of tourists would splash up on its shores. By mid-day the waters would resemble their natural state, sea-like, with whites and foam and curling waves.

I grew up with the powerful Pacific nearby, always within a quick drive to visit. It’s relentless power never stilled. It’s slamming shoreline never quieted. So the stillness of Cortez showed me a stark contrast that offers a silent portrait for stillness, a power my mighty Pacific has never known.

Throughout my life my mind has been the Pacific. I’d stare incredulously at The Bride when I’d ask, “what are you thinking?” and she’d reply, “nothing.”

Impossible, I thought. The idea of a silent mind was as foreign as building a house on Mars.

I learned to drink to quiet my mind. For more than twenty years I took my medicine faithfully, never once letting a night go by without some measure of calming elixir dulling the crashing waves inside my head.

The Bride struggled with anxiety in those years.  I felt such compassion for her even though I was oblivious to the idea of “worry.” I didn’t really grasp it. She once asked me — during a particularly scary time in our life with the storms of life crashing powerful waves against our existence — what I feared.

“Nothing,” I said, fully meaning it. Because the alcohol had done its work, the relentless activity of my mind had dulled and even though a storm brewed outside our doors, my mind felt calm. Ah booze, you once made me feel like Superman.

It’s this reality that causes me to resist a gentle suggestion that I consider anti-anxiety medication. I’d love my mind to slow down, but I prefer to figure a way to do it naturally through the disciplines of silence, of yoga practice, of prayer, of relationship.

So now, both sober and finding far more common ground over our anxiety, we together pursue the mindfulness that keeps life in balance. The daily activity and winds through our life whip up a good internal storm now again, but the focus on that Sea of Cortez dawn-like calm remains a daily pursuit. Some days are more Cortez like than others. The Pacific routinely makes its presence felt on our shores. But we’ve learned a few things along the way that I consider critical for finding the balance that leads to a healthy emotional, mental state.

  • Relentless truthfulness — with yourself most of all — is critical. I read from the interesting book Pastrix, by Nadia Bolz-Weber, that Jesus didn’t compare good and evil but truth and evil. We don’t overcome our evil with white-knuckled goodness but truthfulness. As Jesus said, “the truth will set you free.”
  • Honor the silence — Even if I can only go for a few minutes, the discipline of silence is worthy of practice just as I exercise my body physically. Few doubt any longer the health benefits of silent meditation. I am often ragged at best with my efforts, but it’s worth it, in particular, the intentional disconnect to the digital world this affords me.
  • Season liberally with grace — Peace is not a place we arrive to but a condition of life’s journey. We will storm through life often enough. We will, frankly, make a hot fucking mess of our lives even on our best days. I am so grateful for grace. The 11th step is the daily moral inventory, which is paramount in my life. It’s like letting the air out of the balloon that has built up all day. I still struggle with the practice of simply admitting it when I’ve screwed up. This step forces me to do so and the waves inside me calm when I do. God’s grace is so abundant. I need to be reminded of it daily.
  • Learning what is — A change in the weather often comes when I simply embrace the weather. I hear the storm inside my mind. My nerves crackle with the energy of a power line. I feel the disquiet in my chest and gut. I do best when I simply name it all. This is what is it is, I tell myself. I’m anxious. I’m pissed. I’m scared. I’m tired. Life feels shitty right now in this moment. I learn to see what it is. Because once I do so, the mother’s heart of God comforts me and reminds me, “All that is true, but your are OK. You are still here. This storm will pass.” And sure enough, soon enough, if does — and for the last 57 months, it has passed without me taking the drink I always want in times like those.
  • Avoid future tripping — Do you ever have a conversation with yourself about a future conversation coming up that you fear will be ugly? I’ve driven down the road playing out the scene I anticipate before me so thoroughly, I can’t recall the drive at all. But my body feels the experience as if it’s happened. The back and forth rehearsal, in which I’ve played all the roles, usually goes dramatically bad. I play out the future and it’s like a Shakespearean Tragedy — full of woe. Then the real event arrives and it’s rarely as bad as I anticipated. But my body went through the agony of the worst anyway. This future tripping feels real and I suffer it as real, even when I’ve done it all in my mind. Perhaps this is why Jesus gently reminded us, “Do not worry about tomorrow, today has enough troubles of its own.” Jesus never expected us not to feel anxiety, he only offered the advice of staying present, in the moment, so you only experience what’s real not the pain you envision.
  • Combine heart and head with yoga and prayer — too much of our spirituality is sedate, which gives little release to the physical needs of our bodies. Yoga has remained over the last five thousand years because it refuses to compartmentalize our souls but deals with us as what we are, a vastly interconnected human being that all needs to sync in harmony to run at peak performance. Yoga allows the body to lead the mind and connect with the soul holistically. When I couple it with prayer I simply feel better almost every time. I rib my oldest friend — a gay pastor who loves modern Evangelical church services (ugh..) — that all those antics would be better served dancing at an Ozzy concert. He tells me with a silly smile, “I love happy clappy services. I’ll admit it.” I suspect it’s like his yoga, when his body can match the worship in his mind, so maybe it’s not so bad after all.

If you struggle as I do with anxiety, and with mindfulness and the discipline of being present, I hope some of this will help. Please understand that for many — perhaps even me, who knows — the problem is a chemical dysfunction within the brain and could best be treated with medication. I don’t suggest anyone should feel bad for taking what makes them feel better, no more than a diabetic takes insulin. That choice is yours and you should do as you will. I just know that these things don’t hurt either and we all can benefit from them to a lesser or greater degree.

Namaste, God Bless, Peace, and may grace abound.



Anxiety not just all in your mind

Shortly after I turned 30 I remember thinking that there was something physically wrong with me. I just didn’t feel right. I was confused and worried about what it could be. I saw a doctor. She performed a complete physical on me. She asked me what my symptoms were. I proceeded to list them. I feel nauseous. I feel like I’m going to pass out. I feel my heart racing and it feels like it’s going to blast out of my chest at any given moment. I was sure I had a disease.

I remembered that I was careful to list off any nagging feeling that had plagued me. I was sure she was going to tell me that something was wrong with me. Instead she told me I was in picture-perfect health. There is nothing wrong with you, she told me… physically.

Discouragement swept over me. Something was wrong… I told her. Instead, she recommended that I see a therapist. I thought at the time, that there must be something wrong. I need a shrink?? A head doctor? Come on, doc, I’m not crazy! Check me out again, it’s got to be something. Maybe I need a second opinion? I was certain she had missed something.

When she assured me that it seemed to be “all in my head” I made the call, and started a relationship with a therapist who diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder. She told me the symptoms that I was having were related to panic attacks. At the time I was having them at least once a day, sometimes more.

At any given moment I could have an attack. I remember being in a crowded restaurant and feeling that hot flash all the way down my body. This wave of dizziness would travel from my head, and it seemed to rush all through my body. I cannot tell you how many restaurants or movies, that I had to leave because of this feeling. Fight or flight, I remember this is what my therapist called it.

My therapist wondered if I was having any stress in my life. Anything to make me feel anxious?  Where should I start, I thought.


I was prescribed drugs. I took Xanax daily and washed it down with beer. Anything that I could pump into my body that would take away the fight and flight. I drank quite a bit back then. I drank because it made me feel more comfortable and at ease in social situations. At first, I thought my anxiety disorder was a more social anxiety disorder, and as long as I took my Xanax and washed it down with those beers I could hang with it.

When I started having panic attacks in the car while driving, I realized that I would have to consider other ways to deal with it. I remember a friend once told me that she heard vocal lessons, where you focused on breathing, was helpful. So, I started voice lessons. Why not, I said to myself? I was always told I had a good singing voice. Maybe this would kill two birds with one stone. I would become the next Gwen Stefani and front my very own rock band, while smothering this anxiety and burying it for the rest of my life.

Slowly, the breathing helped a bit, as did a regular exercise routine. I started counseling and confronted that massive pile of stress from my messed up life.

I erased the Xanax from my life, as well as the alcohol.

The panic attacks didn’t go away for good. In fact, to this day I still have one on occasion, but I know how to deal with them. Instead of running away from them, I actually embrace the symptoms. I stop whatever I’m doing, acknowledge all of my feelings, and stay in the present moment as each fight or flight feeling travels through my entire body.

I realized it wasn’t “all in my head.” My body is interconnected. My brain, my heart, my soul, my feelings are as interwoven as strands of a rope. My disorder was real, something was wrong with me — the whole me — and yet I was still OK. In fact, I was on the road to being better, which was why I went to the doctor for a physical in the first place. It wasn’t something I could just “stop thinking about” as people would tell. I had to deal with it and I did.

For those of us who suffer from a generalized anxiety or panic disorder (which I do), you might be able to relate to this article. I found it very accurate for me personally.

What I want to say to those that may be suffering, is that you are not “crazy.” Most importantly, you are not alone, AND you can manage them.

My advice:

  • Get a physical so you can erase doubt that you may have a disease.
  • Talk to a professional. They have tools that can help you deal in your day to day battle.
  • Tell your family and friends. A good support system is crucial to help you manage.
  • Exercise regularly and practice yoga for the meditation, wellness and breathing benefits.
  • Most importantly: Love yourself, because you are good enough!