I’m Going On An Adventure!

So … I’m going to France this fall.

If you’re reading that and staring at the screen like this 😮 you’re not alone; I’m pretty shocked, too.

My family has always traveled for Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles. It’s an 8-day festival and there are groups meeting to celebrate it all over the world, so that’s a perfect time to travel. This year, though, my parents are meeting with a local group and my sister suggested we take off with our brother for a more distant location than usual.

Considering the farthest from home I’ve been up until this point is Rapid City, South Dakota the Mediterranean coast of France is quite a bit more adventurous. Both my siblings will have visited Europe before by the time we leave for France, but this will be my first trip overseas and only my second trip in an airplane.

I'm Going On An Adventure! | LikeAnAnchor.comOn a side note, I now want to re-read The Hobbit after picking Bilbo’s words for the title of this post title. Not planning on facing any dragons while in France, but a girl can always dream.

I’m really excited about this trip. Truly I am. I’m fascinated by European history and French is one of the very few languages I’ve put any effort into learning. We’ll get to do things like visit a museum housed in a 12-century church and go horseback riding along the Mediterranean coast. It’s a dream come true! Several, in fact.

But I’m also experiencing some mild panic. It’s not the most prudent financial decision I’ve ever made. I don’t like committing to things this far in advance, even though I do like to plan ahead. And the wide variety of first experiences and unknowns provide plenty of fuel to power my anxious imagination.

So one of my main goals in prepping for this trip over the next several months is to not panic. There’s no reason my imagination has to get stuck on all the terrifying “what if?” questions. I’ve used my mind to come up with whole fantasy worlds and people who exist nowhere else but my imagination the printed page. Surely I can use it to imagine all the good things that can (and will) happen on a trip to France with my brother and sister.

Do any of my readers who deal with anxiety have travel tips you’d like to share?

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Are You Ready To Find Your Weirdness?

What makes you weird?

Last week, I listened to a JP Sears podcast titled “You’re Weirder Than You Can Think,” which is all about discovering and expressing your weirdness. Now, maybe you think your weirdness is a bad/scary thing that you need to hide from others. Or maybe you think you’re normal and not weird at all. Why on earth would you want to discover and express your weirdness?

JP defines “weirdness” as the things that make you uniquely you. In other words, “weirdness” is the traits of your authentic self. It’s your personality, your quirks, your passions, your defining features, the things you love to talk about, and so much more. What makes you “weird” is what makes you “you,” and figuring out what that is can be a great step in your personal growth journey. With that framework, he challenged everyone to do a 4-step exercise:

  1. Write down three things that make you weird.
  2. Thank each of these things for making you uniquely you.
  3. Find a way to express each of those weird traits in your life today.
  4. Check-in at the end of the day to assess how you did on completing Step 3.

And then you do that each day for seven days in a row.

Journeying Into My Weirdness

I’m sharing this post on the last day of my weirdness journey. I thought for sure I’d have no problem coming up with 21 examples of my weirdness, but it was actually more challenging than I’d anticipated.

It’s not that I don’t have unique traits or perspectives. Rather, I was getting hung-up on Step 3 before I wrote anything down for Step 1. I didn’t want to write something in the first step that would end up being hard, uncomfortable, or impossible to express that day.

Of course, avoiding an aspect of my weirdness because I find it uncomfortable probably misses the point of this whole exercise. Read more

Encourage Your Hopes, Not Your Fears

I’m not really big on New Year’s resolutions, but people talk about them enough that the idea is something I think about. And so January has become a time for thinking about what happened last year, what I’d like to change in this next year, and how I plan to “show up” for my life.

Part of this focus in the new year comes along with participating in 30 days of yoga. I’ve been doing this Yoga With Adrienne program every January since 2015 and it’s a wonderful way to check in with yourself, get healthy, and focus on becoming a person who can serve others wholeheartedly. In addition to this, I happened upon an interesting blog post titled “Intentions Not Resolutions.” 

“I no longer make New Year’s resolutions – they’re too easy to give up on after week one and only become a source of guilt. … Instead, a few years ago, I began starting my New Years by choosing a word to inspire the kind of intentional living I wanted to focus on for the year.” — Jen of E.C.B.C

I’d sort of tried this last year when I discovered a site called My Intent that makes bracelets with a custom word on them. I couldn’t pick one word, though, and ended up with a bracelet that says “Balance” and “Connect.” I rarely wear it any more, though those two concepts still resonate deeply.

Encourage Your Hopes, Not Your Fears | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: MarrCreative via Lightstock

I’ve been thinking for a while now that if I made a new bracelet it would say “fearless.” What with working through my breakup and (finally) getting counseling for the anxiety I’ve been living with for 15+ years, 2018 was a year that I realized that 1) I have a lot of fears, and 2) I don’t have to let them control me.

There’s another bracelet that I picked up last year at an art festival that says, “Encourage your hopes, not your fears.” I’ve been wearing that one a lot. It’s the perfect message to combat my anxiety, which generally pushes hopes aside behind all the things that could go wrong because of all the things that I’m sure are wrong with me. But if I spend all my time turned inward thinking about my fears, then I’m just encouraging my anxiety to take over.

If, on the other hand, I encourage my hopes it changes things. And if I can learn to do that more consistently it might drastically change things. I hope I can keep growing this blog to reach and encourage more people. I hope that I’ll stop sabotaging myself because I’m scared of dealing with everything that might come with being a successful blogger and author. I hope I can climb out of my own head more often and connect with others (including God) in a deeper way.

My intention for 2019 isn’t just one word, but I do have one. I’m going to encourage my hopes, not my fears.

What about you? Did you set any intentions or resolutions for the New Year?

A Time To Move On

Sometimes reminders to grow come as a gentle nudge. Other times they smack you upside the head.

It’s sort of the same way that God sometimes speaks to you in a still small voice and other times He uses a trumpet blast.

This past weekend the Rabbi in my Messianic church gave a message about keeping your eyes on the end goal; on what the “song-writer” of your life has planned for you. The part of this message that really stood out to me is what he said about moving on from grief. He started by reading this verse:

Yahweh said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided a king for myself among his sons.” (1 Sam. 16:1, WEB)

Because of Saul’s disobedience and pride, God rejected him and moved on to the next step in His plan. He gave the prophet Samuel time to grieve Saul, since there is “a time to mourn” (Ecc. 3:4), but now God expected him to move on. Similarly, in our lives, there is a season to mourn when something bad happens. However, we’re not meant to stay there.

I was already thinking about my breakup that happened 4 months ago when the rabbi started talking about this subject, and then he specifically used a relationship ending as an example. So when he said, “There are a few people here who really need to hear this message” I felt like I was definitely one of them.

How long will you keep grieving over something that is past and can’t be fixed or recovered? he asked. We need to look to the end, trusting God has better plans and a new season waiting for us. There are times when our situations have to come to a point where things look dead before God can raise up something else that will produce fruit. And all of this ties-in to my own blog post from Saturday, “Are You Growing Or Shrinking?”

I’m starting to feel like God’s trying to get my attention. Read more

Anxiety Kitty: The Not-So-Surprising Way Pets Improve Mental Health

Remember that nervous cat I adopted a few months ago who spent all his time hiding under couches and beds or in closets? (click here to read “Lessons From My Nervous Cat”). My plan was to pour as much patience, love, and understanding into his life as I want people to show me when I’m scared. I wanted to show him that he had a safe home now.

Well, it’s working. Flynn is turning into quite the friendly cat, especially with me but also with the rest of the people he sees every day. And he’s even getting better around non-family members. We had several people over for dinner last night for a total of 14 humans around. Flynn hid when they were all in the house together, but after we sat down to dinner (some outside and some in the dining room) he actually wandered around out in the open and let people he didn’t know pet him.

After doing some research, I learned that clicker training is the one thing people have found that helps anxious cats settle down and feel safe. No one knows why teaching a cat to do simple tricks on command combats anxiety, but it does. My theory is that when the cat gets positive reinforcement for certain actions the additional structure helps make them feel secure. Whatever the reason, it’s adorable. It’s mostly about teaching him to do things he was already doing on command (touch my fingers, come when called, jump on and off chairs, and stand on his hind legs). The “stand” command is everyone’s favorite. He’s just so cute!

Anxiety Kitty | marissabaker.wordpress.com

As I’ve helped Flynn with his anxiety, he’s been helping me with mine. Before a lunch date a few weeks ago (the first since my breakup), he spent the whole morning following me around and checking in on me. Every few minutes while I was working at my desk he’d hop out of the window and walk over to “talk” with me and have his head rubbed. And when I walked into a different room he followed. Since then, he’s kept that pattern up most of the days my anxiety has spiked.

I’m honestly shocked how in-tune he is with my emotional state. A few days ago I was working on a guest post sharing my testimony about anxiety (I’ll share a link here when it goes live) and I hit a point in my writings where I just burst into tears sitting at my desk. I went for a walk outside and when I came back Flynn walked around my feet crying until I responded to him. He actually let me pick him up and hold him for a good 30 seconds (he hates being cuddled and usually wiggles as soon as you pick him up). Then a little while later when I was journaling and crying he spotted me, ran into the room, jumped up on the bed with me and stayed there purring until someone else came home. The only other times he sits on my bed with me is late at night, so this was really outside his normal behavior.

We’ve also discovered another shared love: old books. I collect Grosset & Dunlap series books (like Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Rick Brant, and others). I found two bags full of books I needed for my collection at a book sale on Friday and they’re in really good shape. Flynn acted like the bags were full of catnip. He dove into the Hardy Boys bag head first and rolled around on the books until I pulled him out and tied the bag shut so he wouldn’t damage them. Then he climbed into the bag that I’d had Rick Brant books in earlier. He looked almost as happy with the books as I am.

Anxiety Kitty | marissabaker.wordpress.com

There’s just something comforting about sharing my home with a fluffy critter. Cats are my choice, but I’m sure other pet owners can relate whether they love dogs, rabbits, gerbils, or even non-fluffy pets. People are happier and healthier around animals. In fact, one survey found that 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says, “pets and therapy animals can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation.” That’s so true for me. Adopting Flynn and starting counseling are the two biggest things that have helped me deal with my anxiety this year, as well as my post-breakup grief. I know pet ownership isn’t for everyone, and would never tell you to get a pet if you’re not sure you could take care of it. But for those of us who can have pets, they can be a huge help when you’re going through something.

You don’t need to have a mental health issue to benefit from caring for an animal. For example, I suggested in my post on developing Sensing as an INFJ or INTJ that pets can help ground these personality types in the real world. INxJ types are normally a bit out-of-touch with the physical world and there’s nothing like knowing some other life form needs you in order to stay alive and happy to get you out of your own head for a while. Whatever your personality type, pets can be a huge blessing.

What about you? Do you have an animal friend who helps you when you’re struggling with something?

Why There Isn’t A Blog Post

It’s been hard for me to come up with Monday posts lately. I’ve actually skipped several weeks in the past few months. I have a few ideas saved, but Sunday (when I usually write Monday’s posts) rolls around and I have zero energy to write them. I can’t focus on “Avoiding ‘Us vs. Them’ Mentality When Studying Personality Types” right now. And I’m not yet at the point where I can write “Tips For INFJs Going Through Heartbreak.” But I didn’t really want to share what’s going on with me either. So I just let the posting schedule slip.

I guess I’m going to share it now, though. My boyfriend and I broke up a little over a month ago. The cat I wrote about two weeks ago ran away the last day of March. And if you rank anxiety on a 0-10 scale (0 being none and 10 being a panic attack), mine last week was hovering at 3-4 and jumped up to a 9 one morning.  I feel like my life is unraveling and my mind keeps swirling through weird thought patterns.

  • Update: I wrote this Sunday evening and Monday morning before the blog post went live my cat came home! He was there when I woke up, hungry for food and attention. Praise the Lord, for He is good and answers prayers even about missing kitties!

If I take a mental step back, it’s clear my life isn’t really spiraling out of control. The breakup was emotional, but we both decided we didn’t really see a future in the relationship so we agreed to end it and stay friendly. I feel terrible that I still haven’t been able to find my poor little kitty, but there wasn’t much I could do about it (wind rattled open two locked doors leading out through the garage — what are the odds?!). And I am seeing a counselor to work through my anxiety, so for the first time since my inaugural panic attack over 10 years ago I’m getting help.

But knowing that breaking up was the right thing to do, that I can’t control whether or not my cat comes home, and that I’m working toward healing and coping doesn’t really help me feel like writing. At least not writing anything to share on this blog, other than typing up my weekly Bible studies. So that’s why there isn’t a real post today. And there wasn’t one three weeks ago.

I almost just skipped this Monday again, too. But sometimes I think it’s good to let people know things aren’t really okay. If we all just go through life keeping up this “I’m fine, how are you?” facade, then no one gets the chance to be authentic or to experience authenticity in other people. And if we believe that everyone else is “fine,” then we can feel guilty for the times when we’re not at all fine. So it’s okay to share when you’re not fine. To stop hiding and invite people to share in your tears as well as your triumphs. Because it’s okay if I’m struggling. And it’s okay if you’re struggling, too. We’ll get through this together.