calling, these days

This is something I’ve been pretty embarrassed to admit: for the last year, I’ve been dealing with low-level but fairly continuous anxiety. Too many days to count, I’ve worried, I’ve twitched, I’ve been hyperactive but exhausted, I’ve snapped at people close to me, I’ve lain awake at night. I wouldn’t say these are the life-ruining symptoms of a disorder, but the real and uncontrollable responses of my body and brain to the stress of applying for Ph.Ds, getting married, and moving across the country. I try to pray, but so often I’m just worrying at the sky.

For the last year, everything in me has been pulling toward the South, but I never imagined myself in Charleston. I didn’t think we’d be entirely friendless or nearly seasonless or clueless in a hypercompetitive real estate market. And so the worrying that I thought might stop post-move keeps dogging me, mocking me even. Eight days into our Charleston life, I feel this desperation to get everything perfectly in order. I spend hours researching how we can be happy here. I am short with my husband. Mental lists of things to do scroll on a loop in my head. I begin to think that I am losing it. I begin to think that I am a tiresome and gutless person, unable to handle life transitions and unacceptably poor in faith.

Sometimes it is a relief when the lies finally start screaming; you’re able to shine a light on them and in the process, you illuminate the half-truths you’d been accepting all along.

Here is a whole truth: even when I don’t believe much else, I believe that we were called here—to the South, and to the careers we’re making. There was a time when I thought being called was its own kind of contract, that it meant things had to go well for you in some sense or another. I don’t believe that anymore. I know now that God’s love takes on more and deeper forms than just handing us our preferred circumstances or emotional states or even “lessons” we can file neatly in drawers. Transformation is more than that and life would be a little boring if it were entirely comprehensible. “Calling” isn’t a comforting word to me anymore, but I do still think it exists. I believe that if I sit, friendless and clueless, on the seasonless porch of this characterless apartment every day forever, it’s because this is where I’m meant to learn to praise the Lord.

Because when I set down the computer and the classifieds for just a minute, when I get my controlling self to simmer down, I can feel the other parts of me unknotting already, leaning with a sigh into this less-familiar bit of the place I love. My body stretches into the steamy nights and my voice springs back into an easy smile when strangers smile and chat. It is still vegetable season and my family can visit on the weekends and yes, there are all the South’s problems, too, problems that feel like mine. And a voice calls again: breathe. 

I crack an egg into a batch of zucchini bread.
I settle into the good company of my husband.
I let the list of fears hang where I said them this morning.
To breathe is prayer enough.

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