Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Circle of Life

Another wonderfully enchanting new grand-daughter was born 2 weeks ago, Eden Rebecca Moore. The circle of life continues. This last year I lost both of my parents and a father-in-law, and 3 new grandbabies joined our family. They are coming and going; coming into a new adventure and going into a greater one!

Sometimes there is anxiety as I consider the world these precious babies are coming into. My parents lived through wars, my father fought in World War II, but they were "The Greatest Generation." The world today is changing rapidly. The wars are different, seemingly never ending, with no winners or losers. The increase in crime, drugs, loss of moral virtues, financial crises, pollution of the air, water and earth, increasingly alarming amounts of chemicals in our food, global warming, breakdown of families, extensive abuse--all of this causes wonder as to how these little ones are going to survive what we and our ancestors have created. And with all of these problems, how can even we survive to take care of them as they grow and learn? What if we get robbed, go bankrupt, lose our home, have to go to war, etc.? With our own issues and anxiety how can we appropriately raise our children? What will happen to these little ones if we are not capable to care for them?

This is a time of anxiety--a time when men's hearts are failing them, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Anxiety disorders are the most common emotional disorders in the United States, with at least 40 million adults over 18 affected, almost 1/5th of the population! And the numbers are growing. Medication seems to help in the beginning, but often over time the anxiety overrides the effect of the medication and worsens. Large numbers of children are also being medicated for anxiety.

There is a basic cause of anxiety, and that is lack of trust in the process of life. We have had what we consider to be negative experiences in our lives, and we expect to continue to have negative experiences. Because of the patterns created in our brains because of those negative experiences, our thoughts dwell on the negative rather than on the things we DO have, the positive things we are doing and that are happening in our lives. That which we focus on then expands. There is a saying, "The greatest pain comes from comparing what we don't have with what others have." The thing is, we usually don't compare what we have with what others don't. Our brains get stuck in the negativity rut.

Tragedy, stress, severe loss of some kind happens in all lives. But when we spend our thoughts reminding ourselves of past tragedies and loss, and preparing for future tragedy or loss, anxiety results. The past and the future are just in our mind. They do not exist. The past is clouded by the filters of our inaccurate memory, and no longer exists in the present. The future is simply in our imagination, and the fears that come are often lies. The only way to get out of anxiety is to live in the present.

When our house burned down, the fire set by my five year old son hiding under his bed because he knew he wasn't supposed to play with the lighter, I learned some important lessons that have truly reduced the anxiety in my life.

First I learned that possessions mean nothing. Yes, baby books and photographs and sentimental things were also lost, but really, they are just memories of this temporary world. My family was alive and unharmed, except emotionally. What is a house and things compared to that? Now, in the present, when finances make it so there is a possibility that in the future I might lose some of my things or even my house, there is no anxiety. Possessions are just things. Yes, my life will change, but things are just things, money is just money, and happiness can be found without either.

Second, I learned that change is always for the good, if we choose to see it that way. Change is something that is always present and yet we tend to fight it the most. Change of job, of living quarters, the city where we live, births, illness, deaths, our changing body, divorce, financial status, emotional state can all create anxiety. We often see change as hard or negative, and therefore fear the changes of the future. Anxiety results as we fight change, rather than embrace it as good. I have found the old adage to be true: "When God closes a door He opens a window." I just have to be patient, looking for that window, and when I find it, through it will always be a cloud shining with a silver lining.

Third, I learned that life is about learning to love, and to do that, life is about relationships, and relationships are always changing, and that is how we learn to love. When we moved out of our burnt house while it was being rebuilt, the family dynamics changed. Problems arose between us that have taken years to work through. But it also set each of us on a journey that is teaching us to love without expectation, to forgive by letting go of pain, by allowing change in each other, even if it brings crisis in the moment. This is the only way we can grow in our relationships, is allowing each person to go through their changes, whether they appear positive or negative, and learn to love them anyway.

Fourth, I learned that it doesn't matter what it looks like. We often are very stuck and have great anxiety over what others think of us. We had lived in that beautiful house for a little over a year before the fire, but I was ashamed of it because much of our furniture was still from yard sales or hand-me-downs, gotten while my husband was still in school. My husband was starting his business and I was in medical school with a high tuition, and we didn't have the money to fix up our beautiful house, that we bought in foreclosure, the way I wanted to, the way I wanted to show off to the world. As we sifted through our smokey belongings, the people helping us were able to see what junk we really had. But I realized that it didn't matter what anyone else thought. We were doing the best we could, and that is all God expects of us. We had few clothes for a while, and had to wear the same things frequently, and sometimes two days in a row until we could get a washer we could use. But it didn't matter. We were safe, we were doing the best we could, it just didn't matter any more.

And the silver lining...after letting go of possessions, of the fear of change, of needing things to look a certain way, our house was fixed up brand new and shining, with new furniture, carpet, drapes, paint, and everything because of the insurance! Our house ended up so beautiful that friends jokingly asked to borrow our five year old son!

We left that wonderful house as change came into our lives, moving to a new state. We built a new one. I lost that house through divorce. Now I'm living my idyllic life in a log cabin. Lots of changes. Might I lose this home once again? I pray not, but I accept that change can still happen, and I trust the process of life enought to know that if I lose it, it will be for my best good.

When we can trust that God is good, and can make good out of every situation, then we can begin to trust the process of life. It's good to heal from the past and be prepared for the future, but to spend the majority of time living in either place brings anxiety. Anxiety is a lack of faith, a lack of trust. We cannot grow in faith if we live in fear. By focusing on the positive, by acknowledging our successes and the successes of those around us, by trusting that whatever happens it will be for our and our loved ones best good, by trusting that God loves us and our loved ones more than we can know how to love, and that He isn't abandoning any of us, we can move out of fear, out of anxiety, into the peace of the present.

This isn't always easy to reach this peace when our brain has been patterned in fear from childhood. But it IS possible, with time and effort, to change those patterns and learn to live in trust and love.

Then we can find joy in the Circle of Life.

Until we meet again,

Dr. Judi