You strengthened me deep within my soul, and breathed fresh courage into me.~Psalm 138:3 (The Passion Translation)
There are things that take all we have. Things that we take part in because we know that ultimately they are the things that make us better, that pull us up and out of complacency and make our lives more excellent. In the next weeks, I have the opportunity to engage with another culture and exit my American comfort zone. I am not fully prepared. I am not fluent in the language, though I have been practicing and studying the beautiful Italian words. In past trips to my husband's homeland, I have often surrendered to feelings of anxiety and negative thought patterns that paralyze me. This time, I have decided not to allow this kind of self-sabotage.
Here is my plan:
Create positive, powerful images: I picture myself sitting at an outside table, my face turned toward the sun, drinking cappuccino and looking out over lavender-tinged hillsides dotted with russet-colored homes. I speak Italian more and more, increasing my skill.
Notice feelings of anxiety and walk away from them. identifying affirming messages along the way: When I am of aware of sweating palms, a racing heart and demeaning thoughts, I will breathe deeply and tell myself that I can stay in the moment and take care of myself. I can ask for help when I don't understand something, or when someone is speaking too rapidly. "Walk toward peace," I can tell my mind. "Tranquility feels different. Allow your heart to slow, respect yourself and your willingness to tolerate what you don't know. You can remain loving and polite. It is okay to be vulnerable. Ask open-ended questions. Show interest in others. Reject self-consciousness. You are learning to be bi-cultural, and practice is helpful to that process."
Remember self-care: I will rest when I am tired and need a break. I will plan regular, short times to regroup. I will get enough sleep and eat healthily, limiting sugar and carbs. I will take walks. I will trust that God strengthens me each day deep within my soul, breathing fresh courage into me each day.
On a previous excursion to Italy, I walked down a narrow street and happened to look up into a window. Partially opened shutters revealed a cat. For a split second, the cat and I made eye contact. I observed its eyes glinted emerald, and for that instant felt better. The cat's gaze seemed to lighten my mood, take the edge off the anxiety I felt in a new place. This trip, I can remember the lovely cat, its quiet presence on a window ledge.
And you, faithful reader? What "thing" takes all you have? As I'm away from the page these next weeks, I pray you God's fresh courage, His strength woven deep within your soul.