Have you heard of the “thundershirt” for pets with anxiety issues?
I’ve heard it helps calm them during storms, but I still haven’t spent the money to buy one for Lulu, my 4 ½ lb Chihuahua. Instead, I put her in one of her many coats or tight dresses to see if it helps her. It doesn’t... She just seems to sweat a lot and develop a bad odor, worse than her norm.
Maybe it isn’t the rain that scares her. Rain is good, right? It waters the earth, helping to sustain life. Or in the case of the plants I just potted on my patio, it dramatically floods them causing them to drown in their own earth. Frustrating...
Rain is OK. But lighting? ...thunder? They’re a little different. I don’t feel afraid of the lightning and thunder unless I’m outside in an open field, which I never actually have been during a storm, so I can’t say I know what it’s like.
But Lulu hates storms. In the dead of night, while others are peacefully sleeping through the wonderful sounds of rain dashing on the roof, we are oftentimes awakened by the terrified crying of Lulu as she very vocally protests the thunderstorm and pleads for a magic thundershirt!
Josh usually goes out to her and lays down on the couch near her basket so she’ll stop crying. This sounds really sweet, right? Not so much… The reason he goes out is because we know Lulu rather emphatically dislikes Josh. I would use the word hate, but Josh doesn’t like me to use that word.
Lulu always gets quiet when he’s around. I would go out, but my presence would make her even louder ‘til I would give in and take her off her leash. She would then roam the house breathing heavily, peeing and pooping on the tile. Thank God it’s tile!
There are fears I wish I had the courage to face: where I would have this deep strength inside me that would rise up, leaving me shocked I stood my ground and didn’t run.
So unfortunately, it isn’t comfort that shuts Lulu up but rather a fear of something worse than the storm: the Man. Because, well… Lulu fears pretty much everything. You would too if you were 4 ½ lbs!
The storm and Lulu’s terror cause me to examine some of my own fears: storms I fear coming in my life. I wish there were a magic jacket of comfort I could put on that would shield me from experiencing them. There are fears I wish I had the courage to face: where I would have this deep strength inside me that would rise up, leaving me shocked I stood my ground and didn’t run.
So much of fear is based on the “what ifs.” This fear of the unknown can shut you down and keep you quiet, immobilized in the corner. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of allowing fear - no matter how “real” - to grow into self-induced panic! I’m tired of letting it tell me how to live my life. I’m tired of being afraid to step out.
If you’re like me, maybe you think through every possible bad scenario that could happen to prepare yourself for the worse. We all have coping mechanisms, right? Well, if that’s the case, the “what if” probably isn’t any worse than what you’ve already imagined!
So much of fear is based on the “what ifs.”
I’ve heard it said, “The battle is in the mind.” And yes, rising up out of fear starts in the mind, but to get really sure-footed in freedom, the battle has to be fought with more than your thoughts; it has to be fought with your actions.
When I was a young 20-something, still living at home, I felt stuck in life because I hadn’t chosen the normal college route that others were taking. I wanted to be an Actress and a Dancer! I had a rather profound moment of bravery for me, and I packed my car and left home, traveling from Oregon to Pennsylvania where I ended up working in a theater.
Before I decided to take the job, I was talking to a friend because I wasn’t sure if I should stay or go back home. It was all a little overwhelming for me. That’s when he said “I think you just need to do the thing that scares you the most.” So I did. There were a ton of unknowns but I grew through it and the rest of the story... is a very long story!
The battle has to be fought with more than your thoughts; it has to be fought with your actions.
But that statement I heard 20 years ago has never left me: “Do the thing that scares you the most.”
I won’t guarantee this is always the best approach for every situation, but it’s something I revisit often when I’m struggling with doing new things or facing situations or dealing with people - that scare me.
Doing the things that scare you means you’re willing to face uncertainty because you have the courage to believe either way the outcome goes, you will be better for it. You will be stronger, and you will know more than you did when you started. Maybe that’s how we grow wiser - by doing what scares us.
Let me warn you, though: you may not “win” when you face your fears. You may face them and realize they really are as big as you thought they were. You may fail.
Failing is probably one of my greatest fears. It’s what shuts me down and keeps me obsessing over the “what if” instead of facing it. The goal, then, can’t be about success or failure. The goal needs to simply be seeing it through: to make a decision to act, and then actually doing it regardless of the fear. Just do something! That’s the real win.
Maybe that’s how we grow wiser - by doing what scares us.
What Lulu probably doesn’t realize when she’s cowering during the storm is the truth that her world really isn’t ending. The storm won’t last forever. The thunder and lightning will cease; the sun will rise again for another day; and the land will grow. You can grow too.
Psalm 30, verse 5 puts it like this: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”