Friday, May 09, 2008

Just When I Thought It Was Safe...

They came back. What came back, you ask? The ants. Fortunately, they are not inside my house - yet. But I saw a bajillion of them outside the house, crawling up the wall adjacent to our garage door. The good news is that I didn't panic or throw up. I stood still and watched them, curiously, inquisitively. Where have they come from? Where are they going? What are they after? Why haven't I seen them inside yet?

Calmly, I came inside, went to my stash of Terro Ant Baits, grabbed a box, and went back outside - where I opened and emptied six of the baits into the crack where our garage meets the driveway. There is an all out ant-fest going on out there now. Apparently all the ants I saw earlier have informed their aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews - and they have all arrived for the feast. Eat up, my dear little home invaders, eat up. Tell all your friends to come and eat with you.

(In deference to my peace-living, "do no harm" friends, I apologize. I love peace and prefer to do no harm also, but I have battled with ants in my house for years, and Terro is the only thing that seems to keep them at bay. I have no problem with them making hills and valleys, condos and developments anywhere they want - as long as they stay outside and off of our home.)

Now comes the tough part: waiting for the baits to take effect. For the stream of ants to slow down and then stop. But I have faith; I have seen the effect of these baits inside my house for over 9 months now. Other than three ants that were brought inside in the mail (yup, they like our mailbox too) and one that wandered in our bathroom window two weeks ago, I haven't seen any in the house since last fall. Thanks be to God - and the makers of Terro.

As I stood outside a few minutes ago watching those diligent little critters stream up and down the side of my much-loved abode, I began to think about other little critters that are streaming up and down the inside of my head of late. Fear of job loss and the rising cost of living. Fear of illness and accidents. Fear of the drought worsening and fear of floods too. Fear that people I know and love will fall ill and even die without me having a chance to tell them how I feel about them. Fear in general. At times I am an equal opportunity worrier: no worry too small or too large for me.

Then there is the invasion of negative thinking: of comparisons based on age, body size and type, race, political persuasion, religious convictions or lack thereof, intellectual capacity, and social position. The comparisons that plant me on top of the heap as well as the ones that leave me stranded on the bottom of them pile.

Lately, I find myself getting angry about many of the things being bantered about with regard to politics and the presidential campaign. Comments overheard at church, at the voting place, and in the market. Commentary broadcast on the news. Criticism and belittling of and between candidates. Fear and mistrust. Ignorance and racism. Sexism and ageism. All the "isms" are at play this year, aren't they? And as a nation, we are taking this bait, hook, line, and sinker, aren't we?

Just when I think I am safe from mental and spiritual attack (why ever would I think that?!?), these and many other little things invade my thoughts. They keep me from sitting still in the morning to pray and meditate on The Word. Keep me from being fully present to conversations and activities with my husband, my children, and others I care deeply for. Keep me from knowing peace and contentment in my daily activities, moment by moment.

Instead of listening lovingly and attentively to the people I love, I allow my mind, my thoughts to wander to things that are not true. To things that do not honor God or the people around me. I allow those negative thoughts to turn into attitudes and resentments and statements and actions that, in the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, "no longer resemble me."

So I set out baits: I remind myself to take every thought captive. I apologize when I am mean-spirited and impatient. I try to stop that train of negative thought from plowing into the broadside of my marriage and my mothering. Rather I remind myself to allow those thoughts to simply pass through the station of my mind, but they cannot stop here and hang out. Quietly, I invite those fearful, inadequate, shame-based thoughts to feast on gratitude and contentment, on peace and joy, on the wonder of family and friendships - and I encourage them to take those newfound treats back to the nest from which they came.

Fears will come - and I can let them go.
Anger will surface - and I can let it pass.
Feelings of superiority and inferiority will increase
- and they will decrease as well.

I remind myself to sit still with patience and wonder. To watch the process of healing and restoration take place in my mind and in my heart. I pray and sit and wait. And the fears subside. The resentment recedes. The insecurity diminishes. The laughter, strength, confidence, and trust return.

The box in which the ant baits are sold says that they need to be replaced every three months in order to keep the ants away. I used to be the kind of person who questioned that kind of advice; I saw it as nothing more than a ploy to keep the consumer going back to the store. Truthfully, I still feel that way about a lot of products that advise frequent replacement. But because of the rapid and complete success of the first round of ant traps in eliminating ants from my kitchen last summer, I have been dutifully rotating them ever since. If it works, keep doing it.

The same is true for my spiritual and emotional life. I cannot rely on last week's prayer and quietness to suffice for today. I cannot expect that one round of journaling accompanied by solitude and silence is enough to keep me strong forever. All of those remedies work for me; it simply have to apply them regularly. Daily.

After rereading it a little while later, I realized that my post from this past Wednesday has a mistake in it. While I cannot create the food that my soul needs to thrive on, I am the one who has to feed myself. Others have written books - and The Book - that feed my soul. Others have written prayers that I can read, say, and meditate on. Others lead and facilitate meetings, services, and retreats where I can find spiritual sustenance. But in every case, I must make the move to take and eat. I must carve out time to sit and be still. I must open my heart, my mind, and my eyes to receive all that is needed for life and godliness. Everything has already been provided, but I have to intentionally and consciously extend my hand and my heart to receive it.

Just when I thought I was safe, they came back again.
Therefore it is time for me to fight back again.
And then wait while the remedy takes effect again.

Now I wait.


Lori said...

Hate those critter too Gail, thanks for the analogies of the different feeling that we let crawl in our life. Never really quite thought it that way before.

Amy said...

I've been having some long talks with myself about my own fears.

Regarding those ants, I hear Borax works wonders.

Lisa said...

Holy Cow! You need some down time! (Or maybe a trip to Ohio :-)) Switch off that brain of yours and give it a rest, dear Gail!

My Rx for you:

1) Keep up whatever you have to do to banish those ants. All the while, speak to them, give thanks to God for them, tell them you honor them, but *really* request they make their home some place else. (And Google "Ant medicine" to find out some interesting perspectives about why these little critters may be visiting you!)

2) Study some Buddhist philosophy. No grasping, no resisting...non-attachment. This means to feelings, opinions, news, thoughts, etc...yours and other people's. Just *let*them*go*by.

3) Turn off your TV, radio, newspaper, computer news! Life is sooooo much more peaceful and soooo much less worrisome since I've done this. Ultimately, none of it matters. You can go about your daily existence with your lovely family and rest in the Knowledge (capital K) that you will be okay.

4) I'm hearing you recite the Bible passages and listening to your talk of journaling and praying and meditating and going to church....and yet what is that doing to calm your heart and mind? The answer is within you, my dear. Not anywhere else. Put down your daily practices and get rid of the NOISE (yes, even "good" stuff - church-y stuff - can be NOISE) and simply listen to your heart, the birds, the squirrels, the trees, and the quiet, still, amazing voice of the spirit inside of you. The spirit that was made before you were born by the Creator of the Universe; whose Power you have inside of you - not a roar, but a mighty, true, everlasting, unchanging whisper.

Listen. Be still and know. Let the rest go.

Lisa said...

Okay, I just re-read this post and have another thought. Sorry.

Safety is an illusion. We take measures and pretend like we're in control. When truly we're not. There is no "safe" place.

Being okay with the not-safe-ness of it all is the key to peace.

Debra Simons said...

Dear Gail,

You and I are passionate women, driven by justice and love for our Father. Ants, termites, and other critters are ugly, but yet they have their place in this world. I'm just trying to find out much like you what that place is.

I too get upset with the political antics and have to remind myself each day, "These are career politician". Too bad, isn't it. Our country is run by special interest groups, not a single figure head. All are guilty of greed. However, much like you, I am comforted by knowing that God is always in control and that we will someday be in a better place.

I love you Gail. I love your transparency. Keep writing and journaling. And, may God bless you.

Debra Simons

Smell Goods Lady said...

There baaaack! Yikes! The bait will kick in, I am sure by now they have. I hope.