The wealth of a prosperous man or woman should be measured not by the money lining their pockets, but by how much peace they have. If this was truly how society measured wealth, I would have been marked as destitute for most of my adult life.
You see, I used to suffer from debilitating anxiety. I’m talking 3-5 full blown panic attacks per week. It didn’t matter where I was, what I was doing or who I was with; anxiety would hunt me down like wounded prey on a daily basis. This (quite unintentional) tendency to be a bit high-strung left me held for ransom by anxious thoughts and habits for many years. Panic and worry made my day to day life far more difficult than it ever had to be.
Aside from wasting the majority of my days fighting back invisible bogeymen and straining to achieve even the slightest semblance of normalcy, my chronic lack of peace bled into every area of my life that meant something to me. My health, relationships, career and finances all took significant hits, leaving me with feelings of discouragement that couldn’t be overcome no matter how hard I tried. But this was then.
Before last night (technically this morning), I couldn’t tell you the last time I experienced something that could be mistaken for a panic attack. Regardless of the difficulties I am faced with, I’ve reached a place in my life where I simply don’t experience these issues as I once did.
The majority of my peace comes from being firmly rooted in the Lord, and being quick to cast my cares and worries upon Him. I know His intentions for me are always good, and that any trouble or strife I encounter is not from Him, but the enemy. Well, I personally only care about what God desires for me, so it is usually pretty easy to kick panic and confusion to the curb these days. Maybe this is why last night came as a bit of a shock to me.
While settling down for the night, I pulled out a magazine I wanted to read. After a busy and rather tiring day making exciting plans for the future, I was eager to put my mind to rest. However, as I leafed through the magazine’s glossy pages, I found myself doing that annoying thing I do where I’m doing one thing, but thinking about everything else. So though my eyes were concerned with stories of healing and transformation, my mind was busy thinking about everything I’ve scribbled and doodled into my bullet journal this week.
Then it happened.
It came upon me like a tidal wave, yet there I was, caught with my back turned towards it. An overwhelming sense of panic knocked the wind out of me, causing me to toss my magazine aside. I hadn’t experienced such sudden and unexplainable terror in such a long time that I had no idea what was going on. The more I tried to figure things out, the worse I felt.
Thankfully, I had the wherewithal to say a short prayer— my seemingly groundless fears dissipated within minutes. Still, I was left wondering, “What was that? Why did that happen?” I ended up falling asleep soon after though (I guess I wore myself out!), so I had to wait until this morning to reflect upon it. It comes to find out that I had unwittingly invited panic into my experience through my failure to remain present.
Is it just me or is it becoming increasingly more difficult to keep up with the pace of the world these days?
Notifications, alerts, bells, beeps, bops and whistles! Missing even one of someone’s status updates can be the difference between being pitifully over-informed and embarrassingly ignorant. You’ve got to be sure to take lots of selfies anytime you do anything because if you don’t, how will anyone know you did it? You can then head to your local Apple store to drop a solid G on their latest phone, but by the time you’ve spent forty minutes choosing the perfect cover, Apple will tweet a sneak peak of the new new phone… so much for being on the cutting edge. 😀
In a fast-paced world that runs off light-speed advancements and infinite repositories of information, many of us are living on the brink of over-stimulation. In an effort to keep up and eliminate possible FOMO, some of us may develop a “Go! Go! Go!” mentality that requires us to always think two steps ahead of ourselves (and others) at all times.
While this approach may help us zip through life like heavily caffeinated squirrels, a constant preoccupation with things that have not yet happened can leave a lot to be desired. It is possible to exert so much energy looking to the future that we miss the ability to enjoy it once we actually get there. What is the point of all this activity and “efficiency” if we fail to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor?
Last night’s panic attack crept up on me because I got caught up in the fine details of my plans for the future. Instead of keeping my eyes and thoughts on what I was doing in that moment, I went off on a tangent of thought, trying to predict the outcomes of my future endeavors.
Will I have the resources I need?
Will I meet the right people to help me?
Will he like me?
Am I good enough?
Is this a bad idea?
What if it rains?
What if I wear heels, trip on a crack in the sidewalk and face plant myself into the cement?
I wonder if there will be cake…
I like cake.
From the practical to the downright ridiculous, I contemplated every obstacle and possibility I might face in the future. Many of the events I concerned myself with were as many as four months away, yet I had erroneously found it “necessary” to ascertain the nitty gritty details of everything four months in advance… while in bed… in my pajamas… at 1:30 in the morning. I’ve certainly done dumber things before, but it is no wonder why I became overwhelmed!
While it is always good to plan for the future, we must also remember to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. As of late, the Lord has been speaking to me about the manner in which I sometimes focus on the end result to an extent that I trivialize the in-between, or the process itself. As you can see, I failed to sufficiently heed His promptings!
In all fairness, most people want to see the end result of their goals. They want to see the flourishing business, their perfect partner, the ideal weight on the scale— that’s the truly exciting part! As for the road getting there… meh, not so much. The blood, the sweat, the tears. The cringe-worthy dates, the grueling workouts, the need to decline such delicious confections.
Though the paths to our goals aren’t always smooth, filled with fun or clearly defined, they still serve a purpose worthy of our full attention. There are beneficial lessons to learn in each passing moment, but we can miss them if we rush ahead.
The present moment is the only moment there is.
I’m going to give you some time to think about that one. Perhaps you think I’m off my rocker, but it’s totally true. Whatever is in the past has already happened. We can’t interact with it or change it, so in some ways, it no longer exists (I mean, outside of our ability to remember it). Thank goodness for those selfies, huh? 😛
Meanwhile, whatever lies in the future hasn’t yet occurred. It has one million and one possibilities, yet it remains a mere construct of our mind that lets us know that there’s something that comes after this (“this” being the current moment in time). And once the future arrives, it will only be the experience we have in another present moment… until it too passes and ceases to exist.
Remaining fully aware in each moment that passes is the key to living a peaceful and enriching life. By doing this, we can be freed from the guilt and pain associated with mistakes from our past, while eliminating worry over a future we cannot fully control. Being present grants us the opportunity to not only better appreciate and enjoy the things that happen in our lives, but also make the kinds of decisions that can produce the future we desire.
So, the next time you find yourself feeling out of sync or frazzled, ask yourself, “Am I fully engaged in the present moment, or am I caught somewhere in the past or future?” Chances are that you’ve accidentally slipped into a train of thought that’s headed in the wrong direction.
In order to get back on the proper path, divert your attention back to what you are doing in the here and now. Soak up your present surroundings and fill your senses.
If there’s something worrying you and there is something you can do to immediately solve the problem (or at least make a dent in it), do it! But for everything else, make a mental or physical note of it until you can actually take action. Just remember that worrying is not an action— you could do it all day and get absolutely nothing done.
I hope this post finds all of you well and that it helps you if you’re in need of a little more tranquility in your life. I’d love to hear what you guys and dolls like to do to stay calm, cool and collected, so please feel free to share down below.
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