On dreams, healing and anticipation of a perfectly ordinary 2015
by Todd Foley
I started this blog with big dreams and high hopes. My words would garner followers who would grow interested in what I had to say. My novel would then be received with eager anticipation. My dreams of entering the publishing world would be realized.
Want to know the crazy thing? It actually happened. Kind of.
2012 saw the publication and distribution of my first indie novel. Near the end of the year, I had begun writing another book with two other bloggers [none of whom I have met in person]. We published our collection of essays in the summer of August 2013, right at the time I landed a role in the publishing world. It would be purely based on commission, but with a gradual transition away from my salaried position at another company, I knew it all was meant to be.
Until it wasn’t.
Two months into the new role, I realized that pay-off from the new role wouldn’t come to fruition for quite some time. I found myself crippled by the stress of uncertainty, the lack of security, the fact that I was already training my replacement and the forthcoming arrival of my daughter – with no promise of [financial] support. I put that word in brackets because, in my anxiety-plagued mind, there was no other form of support that would keep my family afloat. With a secured role now forfeited and the new role so ambiguous to me, I was stuck. I became unwell. I broke down emotionally and physically. Time kept flowing, though, so I had no choice other than to react.
With a heavy heart, I walked away from the publishing role as my personal health was being affected too greatly. I put my resume out to countless positions. I got called to an interview, which lasted nearly two hours. Weeks later, I was offered a permanent position, which began the day after my salaried position ended. Perfect timing – only I didn’t dare let anyone know. I had been making my dreams a reality, after all. As far as my colleagues knew, all was well.
Fast forward to early 2014. My wife and I welcomed our beautiful daughter into our lives, and I was making progress in my new marketing position. This truly was a magical moment for our newly expanded family, and we were head over heels in love with our little girl (even with the incredible exhaustion and challenges that accompany a newborn).
But when the dust of parenthood and two drastic career changes started to settle, the adrenaline began to wear off. That’s when I realized I hadn’t dealt with what transpired. Chasing a dream only to see it wither. Maintaining a facade that the dream was still alive. Navigating so many changes with barely a moment to breathe.
Why did the dream fall apart?
Why did it all seem so meant-to-be?
How do I handle all of this newness?
What other catastrophe is just around the corner?
These are but a small sample of the questions relentlessly coursing through my mind for months on end. As a person of faith, I believed that I could pray away the constant anxiety, that God’s peace was out there somewhere and that I just needed to earnestly seek it out every minute of every day. I held fast to my faith, but I didn’t know how to answer these questions.
I started meeting with a counsellor.
After multiple sessions of talk therapy and completing my assigned cognitive behaviour exercises, I learned that anxiety, in its proper frame, helps us escape danger and survive; trouble was, I no longer knew how to separate the fear of failure and the subsequent shame from this survival mentality. Over the course of several months, I gradually learned to slow down the catastrophic thinking and to separate fear from fact. I rely on these tools every day, and I thank God for the counselling profession.
So what does all of this mean? It means a lot. Much of which I’m still figuring out each day.
The first half of 2014 saw me navigating change and fearing the possible changes that might still come.
The second half saw me getting acquainted with several truths.
That dreams don’t always equate to what’s best.
That pursuits can end poorly.
That shame, fear and anxiety are prejudice to no one.
That newness and change are inevitable yet integral parts of the human condition.
That God doesn’t always respond the way I want Him to, and His voice is often a barely audible whisper.
That counselling and therapy are invaluable tools for individuals suffering from anxiety and depression – circumstantial and/or chronic – and that seeking help outside of yourself is not a sign of weakness.
That, with the help of others and much personal inventory, the pieces can slowly be put together again.
That peace doesn’t have to be this far-off-in-the-distance idea, and that I can make a decision to enter that peace each day.
That I am loved, and that the bond with my life companion is a beautiful mystery I get to keep discovering for the rest of our lives together.
That the arrival of my daughter opened my heart to love in ways I never knew I was capable of loving.
That I can look up instead of continuously turning back or straining to see what dangers could possibly be up ahead.
That I can embrace every moment with my precious family.
That I can celebrate what’s set on the table before me instead of chasing after a different setting.
That His mercies are new every morning, and His faithfulness is great.
That I am sincerely looking forward to a year of beautiful, ordinary living in 2015.
“Nothing is greater or more noble in the kingdom of God than to be content in the very midst of the most ordinary calling.”
The Desert Fathers
*Note: I have had these thoughts in my head for several months and have debated back and forth whether or not to translate them into words. Since this blog is my place to do such translations, I decided to cave. Thank you for your readership this year and every day forward.