When I laid down on my pillow, I felt dizzy. It was worse on my left side, so I switched to my right. Better. But still, unsettling.
If I can ignore the dizziness and force myself to fall asleep quickly, it won't matter anymore because I'll be sleeping and the dizziness will be gone when I wake up.
Of course, trying to force myself to fall asleep quickly is a recipe for anxiety.
I closed my eyes and attempted to sleep. My head swam. I tried to ignore it.
Why am I dizzy? What if something's wrong with me? What if it's carbon monoxide? I never replaced our detector. I feel anxious. What if my anxiety gets worse? And I'm stuck here. I'm stuck in this house. We committed to staying home. But what if I freak out? What if I get anxious and can't stay? What if I need to go somewhere? But now, everything is closed. There's nowhere to go.
I sat bolt upright in bed.
"Baby, what's wrong?" I have rarely felt anxious after my post-partum anxiety passed, but my husband is quick to notice the beast when it arrives.
"I can't sleep. I'm anxious and scared that I'll get more anxious, and I just want to go somewhere, but everywhere is closed."
"You leave the house every day to go on a run."
"I know, but I feel trapped. Even outside. The whole world feels like a trap right now."
"Anxiety makes you feel afraid of things that aren't scary."
"And what if it gets worse? What if I can't do this?"
"You can. It will pass."
I took a few deep breaths and tried to focus on sleeping in a calmer, less frantic way. Trying to race the anxiety has never worked for me.
I prayed out loud, all the worries and fears I've felt. I think I had refused to speak my fears to avoid giving them a reality I didn't want them to have. A thought can be ignored; words carry weight. But speaking them out felt good. It was a release.
Suddenly, I felt like God was in this with me. A lot of my fear had been in the "what ifs," not the present moment. They had built up gradually. I would have told you I felt more fascinated by Covid-19 than afraid, but my surprising moment of anxiety revealed that the fascination had turned sour in my stomach. In asking God for grace for this moment, I remembered that He's always given me the strength I need for the present moment. I reminded myself that if all the worst things I can imagine really happened, God would give me the grace I needed in those moments. I know this is true because I've lived through circumstances that were much worse than I had ever imagined before they happened. I asked God to give me wisdom for myself and my family. (A prayer God always says yes to for me.) I asked God to help me sleep and to let me sleep a full 8 hours. (A prayer that doesn't always work, but I am faithful to ask anyway when I need it.)
I woke up eight and a half hours later. And the words on my heart were, "This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it." I hesitated to own the words.
God made this day? The day we will spend in isolation? The day with people around the world suffering and dying? But also the day of people cooperating, of people agreeing to work together to slow down the transmission rates. A day of people looking for ways to help and rallying together in acts of compassion.
I prayed the words back to God. "This is the day that you have made. Help me to be glad and rejoice in it." And then God reminded me how He had asked me several months ago to read my bible first thing in the morning. (Not a standard practice for me, but God had shown me that choosing to read the bible before doing anything else each morning would be me honoring him with the first fruits of my attention for the day.) I had done this daily for a couple of months with only a few skipped days, a pretty good record for me, frankly. But, the practice had slipped away. Lately, I wake up and check my favorite live-blog on the Corona virus. Then I switch to Apple News and read the national headlines. I've never been one to follow the news, except for what NPR happens to be playing when I'm driving my kids places. But now, I check the news hourly, fascinated by how the world is responding to the most significant global crisis of my generation.
I felt God urge me to go back to reading the bible first. It seemed like the whole practice had been taught to me by the spirit for this season - the one where my fascination with a bizarre virus would slowly shift to an anxiety I didn't anticipate and couldn't control. It felt like wisdom to choose God first and make him my priority, even though I can't see myself avoiding the news of how the world is handling everything.
So this morning, I chose God before the update on the count of Corona virus cases in my state. I chose God before the news of closures and restrictions. I chose God before the news of pay-outs and economic stimulus packages.
And I was surprised how much it helped. I want to know what's happening. I won't quit looking at the news, but I want to look at all the chaos around me through the filter of God's love and concern for all of us. So, "bible first" will be my way of establishing my priorities for now. I'd urge you to center yourself in God, even more than you usually do. These disruptions to our routine and the crashing waves of news updates have a way of gradually unsettling us and revealing the weakness of our foundations.
Amy Noel Green is a Ted Speaker, author, and video game designer. She received international press attention for her work on the video game "That Dragon, Cancer." The video game tells the story of her son Joel who died from cancer at the age of five.
She is the author of the upcoming book, "Dear God, How Could You?" (When Joel died of cancer after years of miracles, Amy questioned God. She shouted her betrayed, angry questions at the God she no longer understood. She buried many miracles with Joel. She buried her relationship with God too, but God’s love for her refused to stay in the grave.) Subscribe for updates on the bottom of her about page, to be notified when her book is published.