Saturday, February 18, 2012

I took my anxiety to the park

I took my anxiety to the park today. Surprisingly it didn't put up that much of a fight, although I didn't fuss at all when we had gone to the store earlier. And even before that, it actually enjoyed the 10 minutes of sitting in the coffee shop by ourselves after Branden left to go back to work. The park was lovely though. We haven't had sun in a while, so with my hair billowing behind me in the wind, I told my anxiety how nice it would be to sit on a bench by the duck pond and soak in some of the rays. It was so relaxing, and I'm thinking that maybe my anxiety fell asleep. It didn't say a word and I had my thoughts to myself. It was nice to have my thoughts to myself as it never used to happen often. I thought about where I was:

Ireland. Am I really in Ireland? The lush green grass tells me so, and so does the old steeple on the hill across the river. 

The gulls swirled around my head as something caused them to leave the pond suddenly. Their shrill cries had no accent to tell me of the country I was in. People were too distant to catch their dialect through their far off murmurs.

I know I'm here. I've been here for almost a year, but it still seems like a dream. One of these days I will pinch myself and I will no longer be in Ireland, Branden will not be real, and my anxiety will be my close companion again. Has this really been my life? This is more of a gift than a life. Maybe that's how life is supposed to be, a gift. 

Dark clouds loomed over the hill across the river. The hill with the old steeple. The hill with the 19th century jail and roads so narrow, cars pull onto sidewalks to allow oncoming traffic to pass. The hill dotted with cottages gated by wrought iron fences, all painted black and views of a city surrounded by rolling green hills made up of patchwork fields and hedgerows.

I'm in Ireland and I'm married to a man that I couldn't even come close to dreaming up. Thank you Lord for this gift. There is nowhere else I would rather be and no one else I would rather be here with.

I walked home with God. The conversation was sweet and peaceful. It wasn't until I got home that I realized I may have left my anxiety asleep on the park bench. Oh well. It knows where to find me, but today I'm just enjoying the time apart.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Simply Me

There is a novelty in meeting the man of your dreams and being told that he is planning on living abroad for the rest of his life. Thoughts of experiencing a different way of life, seeing beautiful lands with deep historical roots, and knowing that you will raise your children around such rich culture are exactly what fairy tales are made of. Being whisked away with my knight in shining armor was all I could have dreamed of but of course I didn't think of everything. He had a plan, knew exactly what he was doing and where he was going to do it, but where did I fit in? What would my place in this new world be?

Ireland was always the goal. It is the place Branden has felt called to since he was a young teen. His drive and determination to be a University Professor could be a relatively fast reality if he finishes his PhD in two and half years when he's the ripe young age of 27...where I am now. 

I've had a slow story. When I was very young I used to tell my mom that I was going to go to Africa and feed all the starving babies. I couldn't stand to see suffering and such need. As I got older, I realized that I would have to have ridiculous amounts of money to feed all the starving babies, so then I thought maybe I could be an actress. They made lots of money so it seemed perfect. As I got even older, I acknowledged my stage fright and social anxiety, so an acting career was out of the question. I volunteered in the church my family attended. Typically I worked with children, anywhere from babies up to teens; despite that I was a teen myself. My place still didn't feel right. After working in the church from the age of 13 up until I was about 22, I burned out.

I wondered if I made a hint of difference in my small, barely there town, let alone my giant world that I longed to be in. When I finally met Branden when I was 24, I was ripe and ready to get out and take the world by storm. Getting married just over a year later and then moving to Edinburgh, Scotland 2 months after our wedding, we prepared for a different life but not one we could get settled into as home. It wasn't Ireland, so we couldn't get cozy so to speak.

My social anxiety took a turn for the worse when we moved. Moving to a country 4,500 miles away from the only home I had ever known, living in a city one hundred times the size of my tiny town, and having a completely different culture was the most shocking thing I probably could have done to my anxiety. My only plan for living in Scotland while Branden went to University was to work, but with days when I couldn't even get out of bed from depression, I didn't even apply for a job until we'd been in Edinburgh for 6 months. It was a dark time, but luckily I married a man who was determined to get me through it...even if he considered sending me back to the States a few times.

My first job in Scotland was through a temp agency. I received a call asking if I'd be interested in working at a medical office with 'sensitive clients'. My mind thought, "Mentally disabled? Physically disabled? Elderly?". I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I agreed and then felt excited over maybe getting to make a difference to someone. I arrived the next day to discover it was a clinic for drug users, prostitutes, HIV patients, and some homeless people. My job was to be the front receptionist, so I got to meet most all of the clients. "Protected" behind my plexiglas window, I heard stories, met family members, and got to see a group of people that were generally considered the scum of the city. A lot of them begged on the street, and I soon learned where their regular spots were and made sure they never saw me. We met as equals in the office, so I never wanted them to feel below me by having me see them as they begged.

There were hard days. Days when I cried over the situations I knew they were in and days when we had scares with particularly violent clients. For the most part though, I came home feeling refreshed. I told my friends and family back home that if Jesus would have been on the Earth today, these are the people he would be with. As he told the Pharisees in Mark 2:17,
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
I'm not taking this to call anyone a sinner but I found reason in my excitement for working with those who are typically looked down on society. I became burned out working at my church because I think in my heart, I felt as if I was the doctor healing the healthy. It doesn't mean that churches don't need volunteers because they definitely do, but I now knew that my work was outside. It's not everyone's passion but it is my passion.

I worked at the drug clinic for 4 months and I was sad to go, but a fire had been lit within me and I wasn't sure what to do with it. Branden and I got new jobs that took away any available time I could have put into volunteering. Soon things changed again and we found ourselves moving to Ireland years before we ever thought possible. Moving to Cork was exciting but scary all at the same time. We didn't know if I was even going to be allowed to work but it was a risk we had to take for Branden's continuing education. When we discovered that I wouldn't be allowed to work, a small part inside of me smiled at the thought of finally being able to put time into volunteering. I had a couple of opportunities to volunteer but they were a bit far off and public transportation was too expensive for a couple with no income. So I waited. Finally after 7 months, I caught a break. I met a woman at church who plugged me into all sorts of avenues and my life has been changing and growing ever since. I'm so excited for all of the opportunities I have and for all of the people I have met.

This blog is my place to note my experiences, to share my growth, and to hopefully encourage others to see what they can do in their communities. I don't have money, I don't have a lot of stuff, but I do have time. Time is the most precious thing we have on this earth. Without it, we would be non existent. I spent too much of it focused on myself and what made me happy. Now that it's the only thing I can give, I am learning that it's much better spent on others because then I don't become happy, I receive joy.