Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lent Begins Tomorrow

I haven't always given things up for Lent.  In college and just after college the churches I attended were more "evangelical" (if that really means anything anymore) and didn't really celebrate Lent, per se.  I did give up chocolate one year in college.  That was rough.

My husband doesn't always give something up...he often adds something into his life for the season of Lent.  This year, I've combined the two into a plan that will certainly make me more dependent on the Lord, and hopefully instill some extra discipline into my life.  My current life-theme is Balance...and this plan helps with that, I think.

The first part of my plan doesn't really have anything to do with Lent, although it will likely cause me to pray, examine, and depend on Jesus more.  After talking with my doctor, I believe it is time for me to slowly wean myself off my long-term anti-anxiety medication.  I'll start by cutting my daily dose in half (which will be the dose I was actually on to start with).  Then, if that succeeds, I'll continue to taper the dose over the next 6 months or so...and see what happens.  If I start to have problems...then I will chat with my doc again, and we'll figure something out.  I'm not opposed to being on medication (I haven't really experienced any side-effects other than mild weight gain), but it is preventing me from taking some steps in my life that I feel are next for me.

I have to admit, since I started feeling so much better anxiety-wise (likely a combo of hormones re-balancing, medication, therapy, etc), I've gotten kind of lazy in taking natural steps to reduce my anxiety.  So, my Lenten disciplines this year will be things that are good/healthy for me in general, but especially helpful in managing and preventing anxiety.

Lenten discipline #1- Exercise every day of Lent

This one isn't especially difficult for me.  I was exercising practically every day last summer anyway.  And recently, I've still been exercising 3-5 days a week.  But exercise really is key to combating anxiety for me, so as I transition to less medication, I know I'll need to be more diligent that I have been about exercise.

Lenten discipline #2- Get up at 7 AM every day...even on the weekends

Those of you who know me well are laughing right now.  I am NOT a morning person.  I've gotten even worse lately...to the point that I don't shower every morning (mostly because I'll be showering after working out in the afternoon).  It's not a terrible thing, but arising later and feeling rushed in the morning doesn't start the day off well for me.  One thing that my counselor has suggested from day one is getting up early, going to the kitchen, and just sitting and drinking coffee.  And reading, writing, staring...whatever helps me slowly awaken and not feel rushed.  So I'm going to try this.  I hope I'm successful.  It will also mean being disciplined and going to bed earlier than I usually want to in order to get enough rest.  We'll see...

Lenten discipline #3- No alcohol

I love wine.  I really do.  Not for the buzz or the relaxation factor, but the taste.  And, ok...I like beer, too.  And the occasionally whiskey. But I do notice a difference in how I feel anxiety-wise the day after I've had any alcohol.  I've given up alcohol for Lent before.  It wasn't that difficult.  It may be more so this time.  But I believe it is another key to keeping myself balanced with less medication.

My husband is participating with me in all 3 of my Lenten disciplines.  I'm so thankful for him and his support.  He has been a rock for me over the past year of learning, and balancing, and adjusting. 

I slept in a bit this morning, have not exercised, and plan on having a glass of wine this evening.  So until tomorrow...laissez les bon temps roulez!

Monday, February 11, 2013

3 Months Later...

Wow.  Considering I used to blog weekly, I guess blogging is something that has gone by the wayside for me.  But that is ok...this is really just an outlet for me.  A way to get my thoughts out of my head, and on the screen.  And it is fun to read back and remember where I was a year, or two, or nine ago. :)

But I've been doing well!  Life-wise, health-wise, spirit-wise, anxiety-wise...I'm learning what balance looks like for me.  The balance between being in control and giving up control to God, being busy enough...but not too busy.  Taking care of my appearance, my home, and my marriage...but not letting those things become idols.  It's a lot, but I'm learning.  Baby steps are key.

I come up with lots of plans for controlling things...and then scrap them.  I'm learning how to be less critical of myself.  If I want to lie around and snuggle with the cats and watch TV instead of clean the house...that's ok.  Grace instead of the endless pursuit of unattainable perfection.

I've gained 10 pounds since I started taking anti-anixety meds.  It's probably a combination of increased appetite from the meds, the holidays, the fact that I'm drinking wine again (in moderation, of course), and the fact that I feel 1000% better than I did this summer and have my appetite back.  My first instinct was to beat myself up about it.  I lost and gained back the same 10 pounds in a year.  Bad Page.  But you know what?  I'm learning to give myself grace about that, too.  I eat relatively healthily and I exercise 3-5 times a week.  Most of my clothes still fit.  I'm healthy, and my husband is still quite attracted to me.  Aren't those the important things anyway?  I'm going to be slowly cutting back my medication soon with my doctor's guidance (more on that later, perhaps), so we'll see if that makes a difference.  If not, I'll keep plugging away eating healthier and exercising more, and we'll see.  Again, I'm learning.

So that's my update for my 2 readers.  I may be back to write more later...maybe not.  But either way, I'll do my best to avoid beating myself up about not writing!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Grow Where You are Planted"

As I began to explore some of the environmental reasons for my anxiety, I began to realize that since I've been married, I haven't really felt like my home is my home.  Sure, J and I own a house...yes, I clean it...yes I spend lots of time in it (not as much as I'd like)...but my house and my city (Baltimore) didn't feel like home.  They were places that I spent some time and slept, but not where I felt I could relax.  I noticed this most when I would spend time at my old home in Annapolis and feel completely relaxed.  So I started praying and thinking about how I could make my home feel more like, well, my Home.

As I began to think and pray about this, the phrase that kept being pressed on my mind and heart was "Grow where you are planted".  When J and I were married, I quickly uprooted my "home life" and moved it to Baltimore.  But I still spent a lot of my free time in Annapolis.  Chorus, church, social life...all based in Annapolis.  And then I would drive home at night to sleep.  Baltimore is a tough city for running errands, so I even often did my grocery shopping in Annapolis.  If I think about my plant analogy, it's like I pulled up my deep roots from Annapolis and never replanted them in Baltimore.  I just kept transplanting myself on a daily or weekly basis, without giving myself the opportunity to put down roots and grow where I've been planted.

I really love Baltimore (you can read about my initial thoughts on the city here), so I don't think that is the issue.  We just don't know each other very well yet.  I know how to get to and from my house in the city...to and from J's workplace...to and from a few friend's houses...but that is about it.  I can go to the grocery store, and get downtown to the movie theater.  So I want to do some exploring in the city this winter...learn about new neighborhoods, and just spend time getting to know Baltimore more intimately.

I also want to be a part of seeing the city transformed.  Baltimore has a reputation as a gritty, violent city (just watch the Wire...some parts of it are pretty darn accurate), but for all of that there are some wonderful people and places here.  As I was thinking and praying about making the City feel more like my home, I had the opportunity to attend a Ravens Game (you can read my recap here).  I was meeting friends at the game, so I rode the light rail down to the stadium by myself.  As I was getting ready to purchase a ticket, a young-ish guy handed me his all-day pass and said, "Don't buy a ticket..this is one is good for the rest of the day!".  I wondered if there was some catch or he was playing a joke on me (isn't it sad that in our day and time that is the first thing we think at the sign of kindness from a stranger?).  Then, I sat next to an older man on the light rail and we chatted about the city and the game and football.  While we were on the crowded train, I saw a young man in a Ravens jersey jump up to give his seat to two older ladies who got on.  Then, at the game, I was overwhelmed with the spirit of community that a city can feel because of its sports teams.  I think we are all longing for a sense of community, and Baltimore has the potential for a great one.  These glimpses really began to soften my heart towards the city...all while I was praying and pondering about growing where I am planted.

As I began to explore opportunities in my neighborhood to get involved in community development, I had to laugh at God's timing and sense of humor.  One of the main community gathering spots in my "transitional" neighborhood is a resident-run community farm.  This space was a vacant lot on one of the druggi-er streets in the neighborhood that some residents decided to turn into a community garden.  It started about the time we moved into our house, and has become a full on farm with a hoop house and even a CSA.  Because of my busy schedule I haven't really had a chance to visit or volunteer yet, but I want to make it a priority as my schedule slows down for the winter. Growing where I am planted, indeed!

Then, I decided to attend a church in my neighborhood that has sent us fliers in the past.  It seems like a really solid church and is very involved in the community.  While I'm not sure that I can tear up the roots I've planted at my current church in Annapolis, I enjoyed the service and I'd love to get involved in their work in the community.  Maybe I will eventually switch churches...but as I've learned with my anxiety, it's best to not make lots of changes at once!  The name of this church...The Garden!  Yes, Lord...I'm getting the point!  Grow where I am planted!

I often think that getting married and moving to a new city would have been much easier had I moved somewhere further away....where I couldn't be involved in my previous social life, church, chorus, etc.  To have uprooted myself and had to immediately put down new roots.  But I don't think that was God's plan for me, as I've learned much about myself, my husband, my friends, and my God through this process.  I'm not through all of the hard parts yet, but I'm hoping that by forcing my roots to grow deeper in Baltimore and feeding my spiritual, mental, and physical being that the city and my home there will continue to feel more and more like my Home on this earth.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Implications of a Schedule

Last week, I was in my Google Calendar account creating a shared calendar for one of my singing groups.  There are only about 10 of us, so having 2 or even 1 person absent from rehearsal makes a big difference.  We all have busy lives, so a Google Calendar seemed the way to go to be sure we can schedule rehearsals at times that work for everyone.  J and I both share our Google calendars with each other...and looking at this week (which is actually a "light" week), made my head spin a bit. We even have a "Quality Time" calendar that we share to make sure that we don't fill up any "free" time that we both have with something that isn't together.  We have to get pretty detailed on the Quality Time calendar...for example last Sunday had "Quality Time" blocked off for "Crock Pot Roast and Football".  I mean, does anyone else have to schedule their unstructured time?  I imagine most couples just have time at home together on the weekends naturally.  It's a bit ridiculous...yet it is the life I've chosen.

I thought back to a time not so long ago when I desperately wanted a busier schedule.  In my early to mid-twenties, I thought a busy schedule indicated a good, happy, and fulfilled life.  I would pull out my paper planner and color code my scheduled activities in my planner (work=red, singing=blue, and so on).  Having activities 2 nights a week besides going home, eating a frozen pizza and watching TV seemed like the greatest thing!

I have to be completely honest and say part of me longs for those days.  Life seemed simpler...and I was oh-so-organized.  Some of that time also coincided with my 2 years living by myself in a one bedroom apartment in Annapolis.  I would spend weekends color coding the clothes in my closet.  My apartment was always neat as a pin...everything had a place, and everything was virtually always in its place.  And if it wasn't...I put it away before I went to bed.  My music was organized with color coded and labeled tabs.  I filed everything neatly away in my file box.  But while I had all kinds of time to organize and "control" my life...I was really lonely.  I longed for a companion...ultimately a husband...but mostly a friend...someone to eat dinner with, and cook with, and sit and be quiet with.

I got that companion...not in the form of a husband...but a friend and roommate.  And with that, my schedule got busier.  Mostly with social engagements, but other commitments, too.  I had to give up some control of my environment, and that was okay.  Instead of coming home on Friday nights and barely leaving until Monday morning, I was barely home to do more than sleep!

Now that I am married and own a house, the responsibilities are much greater.  3200 square feet with 3 animals and a husband requires much more upkeep than an 800 square foot apartment!  Things get cluttered very quickly.  Dog hair tumbleweeds roll down the hallways.  I do try to do some de-cluttering and organizing, but things are definitely far from neat-as-a-pin.

But...while I miss the feeling of things being ordered and organized...I wouldn't trade my life now for my life then!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Attend an NFL Football Game...Check!

14. Attend an NFL football game

It's been awhile since I checked off one of the items on my "Life List" over there on the right hand side of this blog.  But last Thursday night, I finally attended an NFL football game!  Some friends of mine have season tickets to the Baltimore Ravens.  They were out of town for Thursday night's game...so I got their tickets!  The seats were great...upper deck of the stadium, on the 50 yard line.  We could see the plays forming, but didn't feel too far away from the field.

I was amazed at how different a professional game feels from a college game.  And I've been to some serious college games (Williams-Brice Stadium anyone?  Death Valley, you say?).  But the fans at pro games are INTENSE!  Everyone was totally into the game...very little socializing going on at all.  Also, the players are soo much more athletic than college players.  The time outs are also a lot "slicker".  Meaning the videos were put together well; and the fan chants were a bit more polished.

I really enjoyed it!  Here are few pictures to document this milestone in my life!

The Ravens even have a Marching Band!

Player introductions

View of the stadium from our seats

Happy Page who could use some Make-up!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I'm Still Here...

Lest you think that after "outing" myself daily on my blog about anxiety, I succumbed to a week and a half of hiding in bed with the covers pulled up over my head...I'm back briefly to update you on the BUSY past week and a half I've had!  And please forgive the bullet point format.  I think today it is going to be the easiest way to communicate my jumbled thoughts in a somewhat timely fashion!
  • I talked about singing at a friend's wedding in my last post.  It was as lovely as I'd hoped (both the wedding and the music).  My romantic husband got a bit teary hearing our wedding music again live...while I was doing my best to sing the right notes at the right time!
  • Last week was one of the busiest I've had in a long time.  I was onstage in a show with my chorus and had rehearsal every evening.  Oh, and my parents came to visit for a week.  And did I mention that my husband had 2 opera performances to perform in...and 2 opera performances to run.  Eek.  Oh, and don't forget the football game before my performance on Saturday... Yeah.  You get the point.  It was fun, but I think I'm still recovering!
  • The interesting thing for me about business and anxiety is that I feel GREAT when I'm busy.  Very little anxiety at all...mostly because I'm very focused on what is keeping me busy.  When things slow down is when the anxiety hits for me.  I think all performers experience some form of post-show depression...and even though I was a essentially a live prop in this production, it is normal to feel a little down when the high of performing and going going going is over.  I'm not good at transitioning out of super-busy times into more relaxed times.  But I'm learning to expect that the Sunday/Monday after a performance weekend will be hard for me.  And in expecting it, it's much easier to deal with it.
  • If all goes as planned, tomorrow night I will get to cross another item off my list to the right!  I'll keep it a bit of a secret for now (it's not all that exciting...but still).  Hopefully I'll be back on Friday to share!
Whew.  I think that is my brief update for now.  Hope my 2 readers feel back in the loop...

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Power of Singing with a Group

Today, I'm taking a break from the serious anxiety-related posts to talk about something very dear to my heart.  Music.

This weekend, I have the honor of singing with 10 other ladies at a good friend's wedding.  Incidentally, these are the same ladies who sang so beautifully at my wedding!  I am so happy to return the favor for my friend, and even happier that she chose the same music as J and I had.  I think she did it mainly for the ease of our singing group, but I am very excited to be singing this music.  Obviously, I picked it because I love it!  I was so blessed to have such dedicated friends who rehearsed many times for our wedding...but it was hard for me that they were rehearsing without me and for me not to get to sing the music.  It is not the easiest music to learn, but I've had fun learning it and singing it with my friends.

There is something otherworldly and supernatural about singing beautiful music with a group of like-minded people.  Of course, singing in general always calms my heart and is fulfilling for me, but I much prefer singing in a group.  In our women's group, we are working to created a blended, uniform sound.  It is certainly a challenge to contribute sound to the group, but not stick out.  It requires listening, singing, and feeling the music in your spirit.  I know that sounds cheesy, but it is true!

In a sense, it is a bit like being part of the Body of Christ.  Each person has to contribute their own time and talent to maintain the balance, but no one person or voice should be heard above another.  The goal of the group is to present something beautiful, with no one person receiving glory and praise above another.  When the goal is for the group to blend, each individual singer has to "die to themselves" (in this case, their own voice and wanting to be heard/praised), and sing for the good of the group.

In any case, I am very much looking forward to this weekend...seeing a friend get married, and honoring her and the Lord by singing beautiful music with my friends.  I can't ask for much more than that! :)