Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Activity Without Anxiety

Anxiety is a big part of my life - even if it doesn't look like that to most people.  I'm pretty good at hiding it from the world.  But those closet to me - my husband and dear friends - they know.  They know about the pains in my chest when the anxiety mounts too high.  They know about my unfortunate tendency to always see the worst possible outcome, and allow that to affect my daily life.  Granted, I deal with the anxiety fairly well most of the time - which is probably why most people would be surprised to hear that I deal with so much of it.

Introvert - Sensing - Thinking - Judgment
I'm a type-A person with an ISTJ personality - which means that I want to fulfill my duty to EVERYONE and that work comes before pleasure and that ALL things must be done well or else I have failed.  And most other people look at that and go "It's JUST the cupboard.  It doesn't have to be meticulous."  Or "We're only a few minutes late - it's no big deal."  For me, being late is a HUGE deal.  I feel anxiety over being late because I hate walking in and having EVERYONE know you're late (even if they're not actually looking).  And I also feel like it's incredibly rude to show up late to something, especially mass.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, this personality of mine means that I tend to be more of a Martha than a Mary.  There are very few times that I'll sit down and just relax . . . and most times, that's only AFTER all the chores are done.  I'm typically busy doing ALL the things - laundry; dishes; cooking; shopping; work; planning; organizing; cleaning; etc. . . . you get the picture.  And more often than not, I don't really take the time I need.  I don't feel like I deserve time to myself.  Time where I can just sit and drink tea and read a book without worrying about who else is around or what else I should be doing.  Time to relax and recuperate and rejuvenate myself so that I can keep on being the duty-fulfiller.  Nine times out of ten I will choose to fulfill a duty rather than meet my own needs . . . and that tenth time?  That only happens with support from my husband and closest friends and an active fight against my ISTJ.  But I know it's necessary.  Otherwise I won't be able to fulfill my duties because I'll be a burnt-out, overly-extroverted witch.

A major source of anxiety for me is NOT being able to control all aspects of my life.  I've gotten a LOT better at being able to just let go and go with the flow . . . people in my life can largely thank my husband for that growth development.  When I was younger, my mother stopped telling me the plans because if they changed just the slightest, I'd basically have a meltdown.  When I grew up, I was meticulous about being on time and controlling my life.  That worked out well enough when I was in college since it was just me.  Not so well once I started working for people who have rather last-minute schedules and a lackadaisical approach to life.  So I had to learn how to go with the flow.  I'm nowhere near close to perfect, but I deal a lot better with last minute changes now than I did a few years ago.  Even now, our plans for the next week are completely up in the air, and I'm pretty much ok with it.

I know that life is messy, and that I can't control everything and everyone in it.  All I can control is myself, what affects me, and how I respond to people and situations.  Granted, I'm still struggling with getting rid of the anxiety - although thankfully it's only gotten really bad a few times.

Which leads me to the reason for this post.  Again, it's a quote from The Divine Intimacy.  

Jesus chided Martha, not because she gave herself to activity, but because she was too anxious about it. . . . As soon as a soul perceives that it is beginning to lose its interior calm, it should interrupt its work, if possible, at least for an instant, and retire into its interior with God. 
 21. Seeking God in Activity, The Divine Intimacy

This passage spoke so clearly to me - as I struggle this week with anxiety.  I need to go about my activity as best I can, but give all the anxiety to God.  Trust Him to handle it.  To take away the hurt and to protect me.  I know it's not easy to remember to turn to God, especially if we are not in the habit.  And believe you me, it's not been easy for myself either (still working on this one).  But the thought that even a moment's prayer to God, retiring to my interior calm with Him, can help the anxiety is comforting.  Help me, Lord, to stop and turn to You in moments of anxiety - to stop and place my worries and anxiety and frustration in Your hands and in perspective.

To all of you who may have anxiety normally, or who just get it around the holidays, pray and stay strong and faithful in the knowledge that God is watching out for you.  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Long Time Coming

We don't always know (make that most times) what God has in store for us or where His path is leading us.  And that's ok.  As long as we're listening for His direction, and aren't too stubborn about taking it, we'll be fine.

As some of you may know, my path to and through law school was not exactly typical.  Never in my life did I think I wanted to be an attorney.  I know my vocation is as a wife and eventually a mother.  I never would have considered law school if it weren't for my father, who continually told me throughout my last years of college that I would make a great attorney - something about having the right type of brain for it.  And still I disagreed.  

But he persisted.  Finally, I agreed to take the LSAT, with the stipulation that if God gave me a good grade on the test, I'd APPLY to law school.  Three weeks of "studying" (read: went through the Princeton Review book once), and I sat for the LSAT.  It was a novel experience . . . being practically the only person there who literally did not care how the test results came out.  It was quite refreshing, actually, to be able to just take the test, do my best, and leave the rest up to God.  A few weeks later, I got my results . . . pretty high score.  So I begrudgingly applied to law school, this time with the stipulation that if God wanted me in law school, He was going to have to figure out how to pay for it.  Looking back, it seems pretty arrogant of me to make those stipulations.

I applied to four law schools, including Ave Maria School of Law (AMSL), and within three weeks, I'd received my acceptance into AMSL along with a full academic scholarship and a stipend for the first year's expenses.  As I read the email acceptance, I got an overwhelming sense that THIS was my next step.  So I packed my bags and moved to FL.

And I hated law school.  Occasionally, I enjoyed one or two of the classes.  But by and large, I hated it.  I don't have a high tolerance threshold for stupid people making stupid mistakes and winding up in case books. I was going to quit after the first semester.  Especially because I was miserable, bored, and lonely . . . I did all the homework in 1/3 of the time it took everyone else . . . and watched a LOT of Netflix.  

My friends and parents convinced me to at least finish out the year, and I got to work at the library my second semester.  That job is the main reason I finished law school.  That job got me through the days and weeks of boring cases and painful studying.  And I learned a lot in law school.  I'm an introvert at heart, and I've never been comfortable around groups of people or with public speaking.  The Socratic method in class and my job at the library changed that . . . for the better.  I've definitely grown as a person on this path.  And I met my husband at AMSL, so that was a HUGE bonus to law school.  :)

After law school comes the bar exam.  And for the vast majority of law school, I was adamant that I was NOT taking the exam.  Even while in law school, I knew I wasn't going to practice law, so the thought of torturing myself with months of intensive study and saddling myself with thousands more dollars of expenses just to take a test I wasn't ever going to use seemed futile.  Eventually, however, I cracked.  The pressure from practically everyone in my life to take it and really finish the law school experience got to be too much, so I broke down, signed up, studied hard, and took the ridiculously difficult exam.

Three exhausting months later, we got our results.  In Florida, you need a 136 scaled score to pass, which means they take your score on the Florida portion and your score on the Multi-State portion and average them out.  Me?  I got a 136 on Florida and a 135 on the MBE . . . scaling down to a 135.5.  I failed the exam by 1/2 a point.  Everyone I know was shocked, especially since I did so well in school.  I had the scores rechecked, but the same result.  And I was so grateful.  I took that score as a sign from God that I didn't HAVE to be a lawyer.  That I didn't HAVE to practice law or continue down that path.  And it was a giant relief.  

Now, over a year later, I'm signed up to retake the MBE.  I didn't want to at first.  At first, when everyone was asking if I was going to retake it, the very thought of opening an outline or working on multiple choice questions made me nauseous.  And I couldn't afford it.  And I wasn't planning on practicing.  And I didn't need the license.  I had completed the law school experience, thank you very much, and now it was time for everyone to back off and leave me alone.  It's insanely difficult to convince your professors and your boss that you just don't want to retake the exam.  Thankfully, my family and closest friends and my husband (then boyfriend/fiance) didn't pressure me.  For which I am eternally grateful.  It's hard to work in a law school where you're surrounded by people continually asking you why you're not retaking the exam.  I knew I was smart enough.  I just didn't want to.  And the reason I failed?  (A) I read too fast and skipped words in the questions.  (B) My heart wasn't in it.

As the months passed, however, I grew to despise the thought less and less.  I found out that I only had to retake the MBE since I passed the FL portion.  And I made the decision to retake the MBE because I wanted to . . . not because I was guilted into it.  Because I wanted to have the license in case I needed to help my husband with his practice, or my family with something.  Or who knows.  I don't know what God has in store for me now.  But my life has settled down enough now that I'm married that I can take the time to study without stressing myself out.  And I can go in with the attitude that I did with the LSAT . . . I'm going to give it my honest best, but the results are up to God.

If you made it this far, you're probably wondering what the point of this post is.  Honestly, I don't know.  Maybe a means of justifying myself to my peers.  Maybe making sure that I know and remember how God has led me this far.  Maybe reaffirming my decision to retake the MBE.  All I know for certain is that God's done a good job with my life so far, and I know He'll lead me where He wants me to go.  All I have to do is make sure I'm ready . . . so wherever He sends me next, I'll be prepared.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pursuing Sanctity

A dear friend of mine recommended that I attempt the Divine Intimacy this year, a fitting resolution that began on the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new year for the Church.  My friend and I are tackling this journey together, giving each other moral support and motivation to keep going.  And we're tracking our thoughts, meditations, and reflections on each day's reading so as to gain more knowledge and understanding from the work.  I'm sure many of my future posts will incorporate aspects of this journey as I continue throughout the year.

He who does not possess charity, does not possess sanctifying grace either, because they are absolutely inseparable.  ~ The Divine Intimacy, 4. Charity the Essence of Sanctity
If God is love, and sanctity stems from that, it surely follows that we must practice love like God's to achieve sanctity.  And not just the lovey-dovey, mushy feeling of love.  I'm talking about the love that sacrifices for the good of the other.  The love that does what is best for the other, even if the other doesn't want quite what they get.  Love is keeping a person from burning themselves even if they want to run into the fire.

Desire and love are not necessarily the same thing.  And love can be distorted.  We pursue that which we think good.  We love that which we think good.  But our perception of the good can become distorted by the world around us and by the Evil One's attempts to ruin our souls for himself.  This is why we have to follow God's example of love, for He IS love itself.  If we take Him for our guide, how can we fail to pursue that which is truly good and to express that which is truly love? 

As we move speedily through this Advent season, I challenge you to take time each day in meditation and devotion with our Lord.  He dwells within each of us, waiting for us to listen to His voice.  We have only to seek Him faithfully.