Like many of you, I am a creature of habit. I enjoy a version of the same lunch every day, follow the same workout video five days a week and constantly find myself binging TV shows Iíve seen a hundred times already. Consistency is comforting. Itís safe.
Over the past couple of years, Gideon and I have experienced all kinds of change †Ė often the type of change that doesnít feel safe at all. No, itís more like diving into an underground cave with a rough idea of how to emerge on the other side. Even happy change can feel that way. For years, we sunk into our daily routines. Gideon made bean soup on Sunday night and we ate it until it was gone. Some weeks, we made that bean soup last until Thursday. We had movie nights at home instead of going out. Most of our quality time didnít cost a thing.
We became so comfortable living below our means that the thought of buying a new car or even a small appliance seemed far out of reach. When Gideon started teaching at Eureka Springs Middle School last year, our income suddenly doubled. I wish I could say I adjusted to that situation seamlessly, but nothing has every felt seamless to me. Anxiety makes it difficult to see the objectively positive aspects of most anything.
Instead of celebrating our good fortune, all I could do was worry. I worried that we would start spending way above our means and undo all the progress we had worked so hard for. I worried that Gideon would start dictating how we spent money since his income eclipsed mine for the first time in our relationship. I worried about so many things that hadnít happened before, despite knowing these fears were unfounded.
Gideon and I talk everything to death to ensure we are on the same page. We must have talked about our plan to save all his extra money 20 times. (I know that sounds like a boring conversation, but I could talk about budgeting philosophies all day long.) Why did I think he would change his mind because he was bringing in more money?
A month later, we bought a new car †Ė something we had been planning for nearly three years. We had talked repeatedly about selling one of our cars and replacing it with a new vehicle, so why wasnít I excited about going to the dealership, picking it out and driving it home?
Once again, worry overcame me. Could we afford the new monthly payment? Would our car insurance go up? What if the car broke down right after we bought it? Shouldnít we just keep everything as it was? We were long overdue for a new vehicle, but I couldnít stop thinking of everything that could go wrong.
Sure enough, I drove over a screwdriver the first week we had the car and had to get the tire patched. Then a month later, a snake crawled into the air conditioning fan and died. Both repairs were unexpected and cost more money than I wanted to spend, but it wasnít the end of the world. We could handle it.
Thatís something I wish I could get through to my brain during those moments when a big change feels impossible. All of you with anxiety know what Iím talking about. You spend so much time worrying about all the scary stuff, and then you take the plunge and find itís not so scary after all. You just have to be brave for a short period of time.
Iím not saying that isnít difficult. Being intentionally brave is tough. Some people are born brave and others like me have to fight tooth and nail every step of the way toward change. Hereís a tried and true coping mechanism for those moments when you feel paralyzed by fear: Remember a scary situation you have worked through in the past. Ask yourself: Was it as scary as you expected? Is anything ever as scary as you expect?
Even when you feel like you canít do something, I encourage you to push through. Change is scary, but itís also exciting and joyful. Youíll miss the joy if you only focus on the fear. This week, I hope you will join me in seeing the joy, taking a plunge and embracing change.