Generally, when I'm overwhelmed and anxious, I have quite a bit of trouble sleeping. The best remedy I've found is to make progress on the cause of my anxiety, helping my heart rate go down and my brain to stop stumbling over itself long enough for me to fall asleep. In the middle of a semester, I'll lay awake for hours stressing about assignment deadlines, but as soon as I jump out of bed and do twenty minutes of work, I'm sleeping like a baby with no trouble. When it's time to pack up and move out of any one of the temporary residences I've inhabited for the past five years, I run through every item that needs packing while trying to get some shut eye, but can only achieve that blissful state after emptying my desk drawers into a movers box at two in the morning.
Well, there are no assignments due in the next few days, and all of the boxes that need packing are about sixty miles north of my current location, and although they are weighing on my mind a bit, they aren't the primary source of my anxiety at the moment. I've laid here for an hour, trying to figure out why I'm so unsettled, and it all boils down to my least favorite six-letter word: change.
This is my first summer not living at home. I've lived on campus at college and grad school for five years, but I've always been able to spend my summers in my hometown: spending days off with childhood best friends, carting my younger sister to and from daycamp and various other activities, shopping with mom on a lazy Saturday, enjoying my father's grilling experiments, sitting by the pool at a family party...all the comforts of home. It's not so much that I'm nervous about living away from family and friends, I know I can do that. But to upset something that has become so routine in my life reminds me that I am about to experience immense change, and I'm none too happy about it.
This summer, I will complete a summer unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. This is an accredited program that helps those in ministry learn more about pastoral care. I have a lot to learn on the subject, so part of me is excited about the learning experience. But CPE is also heavily focused on learning about yourself. According to those who have gone before me, this summer I will learn why I react to certain situations in certain ways, what unresolved issues I have in my life, and what I need to work on to be a more pastorally caring presence. Just putting it all out there...I am terrified of CPE. I think that what scares me the most is I have no idea why I'm so afraid, just that I am. I'm pretty sure it has to do with not knowing what to expect, so I'm hoping some of these fears will be eased shortly. But it is mostly because everyone says that you emerge a changed person after CPE, and like I said, change and I have a tumultuous relationship.
While CPE will be the big change in my life, there are a bunch of other changes happening, some bigger than others, that have me tossing and turning. My family is moving next month, and while I am excited for a brand new house with brand new doorknobs, light fixtures and appliances, I am saddened to think that this might be my very last night in the only permanent home I have known for 23 years. The people (and dachshund!) I love are going to the new house, but we are leaving behind the marks of door hinges that came down many, many years ago after breaking a fall, thus busting my chin; the worn carpet where I played "airplane" with my baby sister for hours (even after she spit up on me that one time); the kitchen floor where I spilled an entire bottle of sprinkles, much to the delight of the aforementioned baby sister; the backyard that holds a long-forgotten swing set and the under-appreciated grape arbor; and all of the other memories that I can't even remember, but will surely miss. There are things that I won't miss, like a basement that floods with too much rain, and the complete lack of counter space in the kitchen. But it will be difficult to be removed from the moving and settling process, only traveling through on weekends and holidays for the next year, and then for who knows how long after that. I'm afraid that settling in the new house will change my family, and I won't be there to be a part of it. It's a little irrational, as I'm incredibly close to my family, but it is undoubtedly going to bring about change.
Then there are the little changes, the ones that may be strange at first, but are ultimately for the best. Things like meeting roommates and learning how to live with someone new, even if only for a few months. Or having to wear professional attire every day instead of reliable old jeans and flats. Or a best friend getting married. Or saying goodbye to a beautiful, vibrant toddler who you watched once a week for the past nine months, as she and her parents move several states away to answer God's call.
These are the things that haven't allowed my mind to stop spinning or my eyes to remain closed, even though I have an incredibly busy weekend approaching quickly. I tried to think of something I could accomplish in half an hour's time to give me temporary closure and grant me enough sleep to be productive tomorrow. Letting it all out and making my fears known is part of it, but I've realized that I also need to issue myself a little reminder: "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" [philippians 4:6].
I've been missing those "prayer" and "thanksgiving" parts, forgetting to be thankful for the vast amount of stability and security I've been given throughout my life. Forgetting to pray for peace in the midst of change, all while be thankful for the opportunity to experience new things. And how often I overlook the compassion and grace of God when anxiety takes over, preferring to abate my fears rather than to pray for a peaceful spirit. So as my eyelids become increasingly heavy and my thoughts order themselves neatly in my mind, I think it might be time to try a new remedy for these sleepless nights.