No Restaurants? No Problem!

It’s taken me a while to figure this out, but I don’t like eating out.

Just as it has taken a while to realize this, it has also taken time to determine why I don’t like eating out at restaurants. 

The realization came to me when a friend casually mentioned a restaurant that was still open, but wasn’t advertising that fact. 

Kind of a clandestine, word-of-mouth situation. If people knew the right people, they could find out where to go if they wanted to eat out and sit in an actual restaurant to dine.

I found myself suddenly worried that my partner would ask if I wanted to eat out. When that realization dawned in my conscious mind, as an HSP who deeply ponders pretty much every conscious thought that rises, I wondered where it had come from.

Why was I suddenly hesitant at the thought of eating out? After all, I’d dined at restaurants plenty of times in the past. 

But it occurred to me that COVID-19 and the resultant inability to eat in restaurants has actually felt like a relief to me.

If you consider yourself a highly sensitive person, maybe the lack of options to eat out has felt the same for you.

When reflecting on it, I came up with three reasons as to why I’m content without the chance to eat out at restaurants.

I feel uncomfortable having people wait on me

Naturally, it’s the job of serving staff at a restaurant to wait on patrons. That’s why they have traditionally been called waiters and waitresses.

But it has always made me feel a little bit uncomfortable having a person wait on me. Having a person serve me.

It just never felt right. At home, if I want something, I’ll get up and get it myself. A glass of water or more ice tea. Having another person serving me just goes against my HSP grain … I’m still not sure why.

I don’t feel comfortable eating in public

Honestly, I have no idea if this is an HSP thing or not, but I don’t like eating in public.

This could have something to do with a job I had as a teenager that involved me being dressed up in outlandish clothes and makeup. 

Whenever I went for lunch break in the mall where I worked, I would get stares … lots of them. I hated it and usually ended up not eating at all because I couldn’t handle the attention.

Even though it’s been years since I held that job, I still sometimes feel like, as soon as I sit down to eat, people are watching me.

I don’t like making orders

Whether it is standing at the counter at a fast-food eatery, or ordering from a menu at a casual sit-down diner, this is my least favorite part of eating out.

Especially when I need to order for a group, such as my family. And for some reason, it always feels like I’m the one expected to gather and take the order for the group I’m with. 

Every person’s indecision or every extra minute they take to decide what to eat weighs on me. I feel like I’m holding up the line (and sometimes I am, when at an ordering counter) and can feel the glares of everyone behind me … whether or not they really are glaring.

More often than not, I feel like I make a mistake with the order. This might not actually happen, but it feels that way. 

The stress of making a food order is something I would rather do without … and I don’t have to worry about it when the restaurants are closed due to COVID-19.

I don’t like spending money when I can save it

I consider myself an okay cook … a pretty good one, in fact.

I’m no chef, but I can fix a variety of passable dishes … from lasagna to spaghetti (with homemade sauce and hand-rolled meatballs), from chicken and coconut curry to chicken pot pie with homemade crust. 

Like anyone, I enjoy indulging on the occasional burger and fries (ahem … and milkshake), but when I eat at a sit-down restaurant and end up with a huge bill, I can’t help but thinking to myself, “I could have made this at home for a fraction of the cost.”

This likely has to do with my background and upbringing … when we ate out so seldom that visiting my aunt and uncle in another town was the best news ever because it meant I would get a trip to Wendy’s or McDonald’s. 

To this day, eating out in my perspective remains something to do on a special occasion. Restaurant eating too often wastes both the pocketbook and the taste buds.

NO RESTAURANTS? NO PROBLEM!

Now, if COVID-19 ended tomorrow and all the restaurants opened again, I would probably eat out. I might even enjoy it … for the most part. 

But I do appreciate this time — this distance, if I could call it that — as an opportunity to gain some clarity about this difficulty I have with eating out, and the reasons why.

I think it will help in the future when someone says, “Hey, let’s eat out,” and I feel that immediate hesitation. It’s not that I’ll turn down the offer … but I might find a table in the corner and insist that someone else make the order. 

Church, Coronavirus, and the Comfort Level of an HSP

On Sunday, I went back to church for the first time since early March. My husband had been attending for several weeks now, along with whichever of our kids wanted to go. I stayed back with whoever did not want to go.

In truth, I did not want to go to church.

Maybe it’s because I’m a highly sensitive person, but the idea of gathering together again, wearing a face mask for safety and the comfort level of other attendees, practice social distancing all the while, feels to me like an exercise in futility. After all, the messages have been made available on social media and we have been watching regularly as a family.

It actually turned into a fun Sunday tradition: watching the Sunday School message at 10:00 am, making a special brunch at 10:30, and eating while tuning into the 11:00 message.

In all honesty, the last few months have been totally my “worship style.”

As an HSP, tuning into inspirational podcasts at my leisure while working out or tidying up, listening to contemporary Christian bands on YouTube when organizing, and watching sermons online are simply easier for me.

I find it more natural to connect with God and to receive from the song or the message or the text when I can focus on it completely. And I can more completely focus when I am not surrounded by people.

At church, I automatically tune into people’s actions or reactions … or the noises they’re making … or their interactions with others. Or I tune more into my children and trying to make sure they’re not disturbing anyone.

These months of staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic have been challenging for many; they have been challenging for me, too. But church from home has been a blessing in disguise.

Obligation and Depth of Processing Information

Then, our church started gathering again: face masks and social distancing in place, but still there at church. And although I skipped a few times, I have simultaneously felt obligated to attend because of my family.

And at the same time, I have felt guilty because attending church feels like an obligation rather than a joy. What is wrong with me? I wondered.

As a highly sensitive person, I have a different makeup … different ways of processing information. I get overwhelmed easily, and even a small church can cause those overwhelming feelings. I can’t deal with crowds. Feel anxiety rising if I don’t immediately see a place for myself and my family to sit. Hate walking through what I have dubbed “the gauntlet” — a group of people standing around outside waiting to “greet” people as they walk into church.

The Power of Introverts, The Tension of Introverts

Not long ago, I read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking , where she discusses this very problem. The book provides amazing insight and helped me understand myself as an introvert far better than ever before.

It also helped me feel a little less guilty about my ambivalence regarding going to church as an HSP with a strong depth of processing. Of course, that’s not what the whole book is about; she only discusses churchgoing and evangelicals briefly, but that part had stood out to me because it spoke to that part of me that has always struggled on Sunday mornings. One quote states:

“Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme…If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly.”

Now, I support the idea that fellowship and gathering with other people of the same faith can be a positive experience. (I also believe that respectfully connecting and gathering with people who have very different beliefs and walk different paths is a hugely important aspect of growth and empathy … but that’s for another post.)

The Inner Tension of Church Attendance

But what I mean by the above comment about attending church seeming like an exercise in futility is that in some ways, for some people or groups of people, the idea of attending church during COVID-19 has become yet another politically-charged event. It has turned into a “freedom” cry … and the kind of freedom being cried out does not feel much like the message Jesus gave when he walked the earth.

Of course, that’s getting into a whole ‘nother topic … and I don’t really want to go there. What I do want to do is get to the heart of this tension within myself – my desire to go along with my family and simply enjoy gathering together with others at church, against the all-too-frequent reality that I don’t usually enjoy it.

I get so much more out of a Bible passage or message I listen to on headphones from my phone while I’m out walking our two dogs.

And I don’t think I’ll figure this out any time soon. In the meantime, I will get up and get dressed and smile and greet others; I will chat and those who see me doing so will never guess how much of a struggle it is, as a highly sensitive person, to do this week after week.

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps

Maybe there’s a special blessing in store for HSPs who make that extra effort to gather with people.

Maybe it is nothing more than an exercise in futility.

I hope that, if nothing else, I am providing for my children a place where they learn to call home and feel comfortable with people they know and love … which is the main reason I return to church week after week.

I did not have that “place of belonging” when I was growing up … and I feel that it is far better to feel a place of belonging, even though it comes with awkwardness and discomfort, than to have no such place.

Chronic Pain, Bane or Blessing?

Although I don’t like to talk about my chronic pain much, I recently mentioned it to my uncle, as I had to decline on yet another offer of his to join him in hiking around the Rocky Mountains. He takes these trips regularly and it’s a wonder that he is so fit for being nearly 70 years old.

I love hiking and nature and felt bad for turning him down yet again. I told him as much when he offered last week. He mentioned that when he was about my age, roughly 30 years ago, he was dealing with similar pain and was desperate for some kind of fix.

Pain and Painkillers

Like me, he was not is not a proponent of painkillers. I will take painkillers if I need to. I’m not going to suffer in agony just for the sake of personal pride; at the same time, I will not pop a pill at the first sign of pain. I prefer to understand where the pain is coming from and what natural things I might do to get rid of it.

For instance, headaches in my life are often a simple result of not enough sleep. With a good night’s sleep, I’m usually feeling much better. Then I don’t have to take a pill at all.

With this chronic pain I’ve been facing, I felt similarly. Back pain can be quite intense, but I knew there was a core reason for it, and I didn’t want to harm my body further by taking a pill to dull the pain and then damaging myself because I couldn’t feel it.

My uncle told me that his pain got so bad, he finally went to the chiropractor. Previously, he did not have much confidence in chiropractors and avoided them completely, but at this point, he didn’t have a choice.

I suppose he went to a good one because his back problems rectified. The chiropractor also gave him a set of exercises to do, which he practices religiously to this day. I believe those exercises are the main reason he has not dealt with severe back pain since that time. He said as much to me when we chatted over the phone and recommended that I find a good set of exercises and stick to them.

HSPs and Running on Inspiration

I find it a challenge to stick to pretty much anything. I know that running on inspiration can be good but it can also have its drawbacks.

I have grown accustomed to the drawbacks but I still for the most part run on inspiration. In other words, I stick with something for a week or two or maybe even 40 days, but at some point, the interest wanes and I generally find myself neglecting whatever it is I have chosen to do.

I do not know if this is common to highly sensitive people or if it is simply a weak area of mine. If it is common to highly sensitive people – running on inspiration that is – it is likely because of the fact that we put our whole minds and hearts into the things that we do and into the relationships that we carry. As such, there are only so many things we can maintain inspiration for. Beyond that, we tend to lose our focus and inspiration. And yet another aspiration falls to the ground.

But I know my uncle is right in his recommendation and I have indeed begun a series of stretches and back exercises that are gentle enough to not cause too much pain. I believe it might work to ease the pain and hopefully also strengthen my back.

Who knows? Perhaps 30 years from now, I will be contacting a younger niece nephew or niece and inviting them to scale mountains at the age of 70.

The Importance of Pain

No one likes feeling pain but I believe that we often neglect to realize just how important pain can be. Without this chronic pain, I would let another five or ten years go by in which I do not strength in my own body through regular exercise and stretches, which some people might not need, but which my body clearly does need.

The body that houses us does not have a voice, and thus it speaks to us, and quite possibly the most common medium uses to indicate danger is pain. It would do us good to stop and listen rather than to ignore it and continue on with what we are doing or mask the pain with painkillers that might control the symptoms and sensations, but not the cause.

The problem of pain is a problem, to be sure, but it is also a blessing.

I might have mentioned a book I read in a previous post by Philip Yancey and Paul Brand, Where Is God When It Hurts? about pain and its importance. Without pain, one does not feel and may end up with serious problems that they might have avoided completely if they had felt the pain of a broken finger or a bruised heel.

This is the essence of the disease of leprosy. Although someone might wish to not feel pain and think of it as a gift to have deadened senses, that is what the disease of leprosy is; not feeling pain can cause far more damage then one might imagine and even lead to fatalities, as does eventually happen with the disease of leprosy.

In Closing

Few people today if any, seek out pain. And those who do seek out physical pain are likely masking another type of pain, emotional or spiritual or mental. (That is a topic for another post.)

But although we do not seek it out, do not need to always run from it. We might learn, if we are open, the blessing of pain and not always consider it a bane.

The HSP Trigger of Pressure

I get more frustrated then I should as a highly sensitive person when my forward movement is interrupted in some way. For example, when I am walking down a busy sidewalk and someone is walking more slowly than usual … usually because they are texting or doing something on their phone, and then they stop altogether and I have to go around them.

It irks me terribly.

I have wondered why it bothers me so much. As a highly sensitive person, I should be able to understand that the person is doing something that is engaging them completely. It’s not like it interrupts my entire day by having to slow down a few steps or maneuver my way around them.

HSPs and Checkout Counters

Perhaps part of the reason it bothers me so much is that I am a highly sensitive person. I am hyper-aware of the people around me and what is going on. One of the absolute worst things in my semi-regular schedule is standing in line at a checkout counter.

I dislike this scenario so much I usually avoid shopping in grocery stores until I absolutely have to, which means that my cart is generally absolutely full every time I go shopping. This means that it takes me a while, as quickly as I try to move, to get all the groceries onto the conveyor belt and then to bag them afterward. That part is not difficult.

The difficult part is the people waiting behind me.

I hate making people wait. It is a trigger for me and I will suddenly become very short-tempered and anxious because of this. I frequently take my children shopping with me and one of my kids often helps to begin bagging the groceries while I wait to pay. This child is invariably never even halfway done by the time I’m done paying; by then there are usually two or three or more people in line behind me.

I try to keep my anxiety low while I briskly takeover in bagging things, more often than not putting some fragile or bruise-able items underneath some heavy item just to get it done and get out of the shop.

The Trigger of Making People Wait

I still don’t know why this dislike of making people wait is so much a trigger for me. I’ve tried to think back to my own childhood and wondered if there is a reason for it.

I know that I do tend to move relatively slow naturally, though as a mother I have learned to pick up the pace and can move swiftly and efficiently and can multitask with the best of them. Still, it doesn’t come naturally to me.

I have memories of trying to help my mother in some task or another. She has always been a fast-paced and constantly working individual. (It is my father who I’ve recently recognized as the highly sensitive person from whom I likely got my nature.)

I remember more often than once offering to help my mom or even stepping in to help with something like peeling potatoes for dinner or washing the dishes and her always verbally pushing me aside with the words, “I can do it more quickly,” and then her taking over.

Unfortunately and to my chagrin, I have used the same words with my own children although I am aware of how damaging even a benign phrase like that can be. Although I have tried not to, it has come out at least once that I can remember when one of my children offered to do the dishes. I only hope that the humor and the gentleness came across as well, rather than a spirit of haste and rush that invariably says you’re not good enough … or at least that’s how I took it when my mother pushed past me to get something done.

Trying to Figure Out the Source of the Anxiety

But I really don’t know if this unhealthy dynamic between my mother and myself is what has made me so anxious about making other people wait and slowing other people down. Or if it’s just part of my highly sensitive nature and high levels of perception regarding the people around me.

There have been times that those in the line behind me have waited for a few minutes and then moved on;I always feel so terrible as if I have ruined their entire day.

At the same time, many times in my life, I have been stuck behind someone who moves very slowly, possibly because they are writing a check or paying by cash or using coupons. Instead of feeling frustrated and angry, I put myself in their shoes. I often try to do something to displace the tension by smiling at the person or the cashier or trying to say something general to distract the others who are also waiting in line.

It is so strange, I feel, that although I generally respond with understanding and empathy in situations like this, I still have the deep fear of inconveniencing others in the very same situations when the tables are turned.

Do I not have enough faith in other people?

Is it my own experience or my fears that are in play when I am triggered?

I really don’t know. But perhaps the questions and the awareness themselves are steps toward healing and growing out of the triggers and anxiety.

Meanwhile, I avoid grocery shopping with all four of my children, especially on summer afternoons because I have experienced meltdowns and know to stay away from those environments.

  • As a highly sensitive person, what are some environments that you know trigger you or make it difficult for you?
  • What have you done to avoid them or process them?
  • Do you find that you are slowly improving or are some things generally just difficult for you no matter how many times you experience them?

I’d love to hear from you as to how you deal with pressure points and anxieties you face.

HSP Poem – The Places We Stand

We stand on the edge

at the end of this

there will be no place to hide

no solid doors

no holy wars

no stopping

no stopping this tide

We stand at the brink

watch gathering clouds

and ask when the storm will break

and if it will end

and if at the end

we can count the lives it will take

We stand on this hill

yet the force of our will

may not stop the force of the Fall

and storm clouds collide

and the strength of the tide

overshadows

overshadows us all

And yet, yet we stand

with a strength in a plan

with a hope that pierces the night

for the storm is a grace

if it upsets our pace

to start walking by faith

not by sight

 

 

 

Healthy Eating for a Highly Sensitive Person

In the discussion of healthy living, the matter of healthy eating is bound to come up at some point. “You are what you eat” and all of that.

Naturally, diet is an important part of a healthy-living conversation, but it is not the whole conversation. I feel that sometimes when discussing healthy living, diet and exercise are the only things discussed to the neglect of other important aspects of healthy living.

At the same time, diet and healthy eating cannot be completely ignored when it comes to the matter of healthy living. A healthy diet is part of a healthy lifestyle, and it is vitally important for a highly sensitive person due to our often keen sensitivities to certain foods. The link between diet and HSPs is a central one.

Why The 40-Day Journey?

I’ve taken these journeys before in which I have tried to embrace various aspects of healthy living, usually over a period of 40 days. Why 40 days? Well, I’ve read that it takes roughly six weeks to build a habit, and 42 days is basically six weeks – give or take a few days. So that’s one reason.

But the other reason is the significance of the number 40 as in ancient literature 40 days (or 40 years) were significant markers measuring a bridge from one place to another. (I hope I am not the only highly sensitive person who loves significant numbers and patterns.)

Think of the Israelites and their 40 years in the wilderness. Or Jesus and his 40 days in the desert before beginning a public ministry. Or the 40 days he remained on earth after rising again before ascending to heaven and releasing his gift of the Holy Spirit.

Whether or you consider these ancient narratives as truth or myth, there is definitely something about that 40-day mark that acts as a bridge from one thing to another.

In choosing 40 days for my journey toward healthier living, I am hoping to tap into that medium and find some form of bridge or breakthrough.

Now I am not naive in thinking that 40 is a magic number. (Would that it was.)

It is all too easy to land upon a certain time frame – or a certain diet, returning to the earlier conversation – and assuming it is all you need to find significant change in your life.

It rarely is all that you need. Usually, significant life change is only bought at a significant price.

The season of the coronavirus pandemic we are facing worldwide bespeaks the importance of being aware that significant life change can occur when we least expect it. Perhaps a reason to do what we can to prepare for such times.

A Just Balance in Healthy Living

But back to the conversation about diet and healthy eating. In times past, I have used my diet (and more specifically, my weighing scale) as a measure of how effective my healthy living quest happened to be.

In short, if I lost 10 or 20 pounds, it was a success. If I didn’t, well, that was all that really mattered. It is embarrassing to admit this especially when considering the fact that I have never been overweight. As a highly sensitive person I have been aware that thinness is merely an unhealthy societal expectation, I have still succumbed to the cultural view that the thinner you are, the better.

This is why I I’m making an effort to focus on other aspects of healthy living before the matter of my diet. Aspects such as a clutter-free lifestyle and a mind learning and growing through good books.

The problem is that it is often all or nothing at all with me. If diet is not the main focus, I find it difficult focusing on it at all.

Perhaps this is a common plight of highly sensitive people. Because of our depth of processing and the fact that we think so deeply on various matters, it is difficult and next to impossible to focus on so many aspects of healthy living at the same time.

And so it has been with me over the past week since I began my 40-day journey toward healthier living.

I start out the day decently, but the early part of day has never been my problem. It’s always near the end of the day when I begin to crave salty or sweet things.

Questions from an HSP on What Healthy Living Really Is

It is, I believe, my seeking of a comfortable and familiar thing, the way I turn to these things in the evening, usually when I have a small amount of space to myself, even for just a few moments, to read and to indulge in a few squares of dark chocolate or even something as unsophisticated as Cheetos.

And I find myself as a highly sensitive person waging some inner war against myself in some inner discussion. Wondering if I lack the strength to simply say no to these bodily concessions and do without. Wondering if it really would make a difference to my soul or spirit if I were to cut the extras out of my diet, to trim the fat so to speak.

Or if by the eating and the indulging I am simply being true to myself and partaking of those things that help to relax or refresh me as an HSP when I need it the most.

Who is to say? Which really happens to be the healthier kind of living?

What really wins when the mind wins over the body? Is it a victory or simply a decision?

Naturally, I understand that moderation is key to all things, and if I were to consume a pound of dark chocolate on a nightly basis, the discussion would be a different one altogether.

For now, this is only the beginning of the conversation of healthy living and healthy eating, and perhaps one vital aspect of the conversation is to be open to these questions and to understand there is no single right or wrong way to “do life” or to “do healthy living,” especially for a highly sensitive person.

A Philosophy of Pain

Chronic pain can make it nigh impossible to focus on anything else.

I’ve dealt with chronic pain off and on for years. Over the last several weeks, it has been particularly bothersome. Progressively so, to where for the last few days I have found it a challenge to focus my attention on other things for long periods of time.

Pain is such a strange yet centering thing.

It does not simply invite your focus. It forces your focus.

As humans, we have struggled with the problem of pain for hundreds, yea, thousands of years.

Over the past couple of hundred years particularly, our focus has been on how to minimize and if possible eradicate pain from our lives. Whether physical or emotional or mental pain, we try to escape it. Medication for the body. Medication for the mind. And so many distractions and entertainment to choose from that we may escape whatever emotional we might be facing.

In reading about the lives of past saints, I find it interesting that their reaction to pain was very different from ours. Many of them embraced pain. Some even sought it out … although the very thought to us can seem strange and even pathologically wrong.

The reason behind their seeking, however, makes some sense, even though it is not something most of us would seek out or choose to do. It goes with the idea of Christ as Suffering Servant. To embrace pain and suffering is to embrace him and to become more like him, to take on his cross of pain.

I don’t like pain, especially when it’s debilitating. I don’t like the fact that it forces my focus, especially when there are plenty of other things I want to focus on.

However, perhaps there is a purpose for pain.

There is a physiological purpose for pain, to be sure. Feeling pain indicates that something has gone wrong in the body and needs attention. 

Philip Yancey in his book, Where Is God When It Hurts, discusses the importance of pain by highlighting the plight of those with leprosy, who cannot feel pain. Without the important nerve endings, they can injure themselves without realizing it, ending up with infected injuries that can deteriorate to limbs lost simply because they did not feel the pain.

In such a case, pain is a gift. It enables a person to realize something is wrong with the body and to seek medical attention.

But what of the aches and pains that simply do not go away, that persist and turn into chronic pain? I do not know, just as I am not sure what to do with the pain that I am feeling.

Simply grin and bear it? 

Or refuse to get up in the morning on days the pain feels too intense?

Or turn it toward Christ somehow and seek His presence within it?

There are some questions we, as humanity, have asked for centuries, for millennia. There are some questions that, I believe, will not have answers this side of eternity.

But as we live within those questions, as we live the questions, perhaps we will live towards the answers we seek. 

And perhaps that is one of the purposes for pain.

HSPs and the Peace of Nature

Continuing my thoughts from my last post on day two, when it comes to space, it feels different outside.

Outside, the energy of people seems to dissipate into the atmosphere and it’s easier to just breathe.

Easier to find myself and to lose myself … in all the best ways.

It seems, wherever I am outside, a bird is laying forth a song. I might not know what type of bird, but the song is always beautiful.

Even in the summer, with the weather far warmer than I would prefer, sitting outdoors brings a measure of peace and tranquility.

As a highly sensitive person with the depth of processing that comes naturally to us, I would think that the outdoors would have the opposite effect.

After all, there is so much to see and to feel and to hear.

But I find myself healing, recharging, and naturally breathing more deeply when I step outside. One reason, I think, is that although HSPs do process everything more deeply than average, what takes up a lot of our emotional energy include things like:

  • Processing conversations
  • Reflecting on nuances in other people’s words, reactions, and body language
  • Dealing with harsh and sudden noises and (unnatural) sounds
  • Sifting through information to make everyday decisions

All these can tally up to an exhausting amount of mental input and output!

But outdoors, highly sensitive people can enjoy a more passive variety of input. Like hearing a birdsong, or watching clouds form and drift past. 

Our own thoughts have the chance to also drift and wander without needing to actively process the information. We are familiar with the song of the bird or the trickle of a rushing stream.

Even though other sounds might be audible, such as the steady din of traffic in the distance, they do not overwhelm us because they remain in the background.

If you are a highly sensitive person, try to spend some time in nature each day. As I continue my 40-day journey toward healthier living, this is something I choose to do.

Even five, ten, fifteen minutes in the morning, breathing in peace. Or in the evening, passively sifting through the events of the day and letting them settle.

May your day be filled with the peace of nature.

Turning to Love in Times of Fear

When I was growing up, I remember being taught that faith is the opposite of fear and if you have enough faith then you cannot be a captive to fear. I spent much of my childhood teen years and even early adulthood captive to fear and anxiety, and often assumed it was because I did not have enough faith. No, I no longer believe what I had been taught.

Faith Is Not the Opposite of Fear.

Love Is.

There is a lot of fear speaking out today in so many ways. And it seems strange that we are fearing it because terribly fearful things are already upon us, are already happening.

Today, we are suffering a worldwide pandemic in COVID-19. You might even call it a plague. This is something that has not swept the world in hundreds of years. A year ago … even a decade ago … just the idea of something like this happening would have been preposterous. But here it is.

And here we are.

And in many ways, we are succumbing to fear. Not succumbing in that we are growing agoraphobic and that fear is keeping us home. In fact, what is keeping us home, for the most part, is the mandate to do so for our protection (or if you are not concerned for your own health, then for the safety and protection of the more susceptible members of society).

No, we are succumbing in that although we are facing fearful things and we could be responding with courage and hope and support, many are responding with anger about the coronavirus and the blame game.

I understand. It is frustrating. I have barely had a moment to myself since this started. Before COVID-19, my personal schedule was more conducive to my needs and personality. I had some “me time” several times a week … but no longer.

I also lost roughly 80% of my income due to the coronavirus pandemic and on top of it had to homeschool a few students for the last quarter of the 2019 to 2020 school year while still paying for their school fees.

There are uncertainties, frustration, and unrest, to be sure. But I feel encouraged by the many who are responding with hope and ways to reach out such as a child sewing and donating masks for people who need it and other people performing acts of kindness during the pandemic.

I suppose that during this time … as in all times … one primary choice before us is what we will tune into. Sources that dispense fear and ignorance and hate will always be there; yet, so we’ll be sources that spread hope and charity and love.

From Fear to Faith to Love

I’m trying to think when and how my mind made the transition to what the opposite of fear is. I think it was when I became a parent.

There is an anecdote about how faith is trusting the hand that holds you even in the dark, like a child being led home through a dark forest. The only thing he has to hold onto is his parent’s hand.

But that faith in the parent must be predicated by the love of the parent. If that child was not confident his parent loves him then he could not have faith that the parent would lead him home. Although his hand might have been momentarily grasped, he would be afraid that the parent might let go of him and leave the child alone.

Sometimes as a child, and sometimes as a teenager and young adult, I found myself like that child, suddenly without a hand to grasp onto, and I was afraid.

But when I became a parent and felt an intensity of love that I had never felt before, I realize that that love was the foundation of faith. And that it was the antidote to fear.

I think this is a thought I’ll have to unpack more as I spend more time thinking on it but for now, maybe the task is to think about it. To consider what love is, what faith is, and what fear is for you during this time.

And perhaps think about ways that you can find sources that dispense love and faith. Tune into those rather than sources of anger and fear. Because, as cliche as it might sound, right now we all need a little more love.

Saints and Making Space

By HSP Mystic

For the next forty days, I have decided to read about and contemplate the lives of various Catholics writers and saints.

I was not raised a Catholic and would not today consider myself one, yet I find more and more that there are knowledge and wisdom to be gained from many beliefs and from people on many walks of life.

The stories and lives of certain Catholic writers and saints have interested me for several years now.

I decided there is no time like the present to begin reading about them.

More than reading, to contemplate and ponder and decide to take on some practices from their own lives for my own.

Interestingly, while looking at an online calendar for the Catholic Feast Days in 2020, the day I began my 40-day journey toward healthy living, there is no Catholic saint honored on that day.

The space is blank.

I thought it fitting, considering the focus in the posts on day one and day two on space.

One theme I have noticed in the lives of many Catholic saints and mystics is that of space. They intentionally created space in their own lives. This time they devoted to prayer or contemplation or serving others as serving Christ became a sort of medium or Way.

Through it, their lives and eyes were opened to deeper or greater or more lasting things.

This is something I wish for, something I have found at times taking place in my own life. But it always comes at a cost. And often, the cost goes against our human proclivity toward comfort and ease.

For instance, Saint Rose of Lima only slept two hours each night in order to devote more time to prayer. A tall order for someone who loves sleep, but perhaps that is why she is remembered hundreds of years after her short life.

I ask, what might I accomplish if I were to sleep two hours and spend the extra time in prayer or contemplation or service to God and mankind?