Stepford goes to Church

For about the last, oh I don’t know, maybe 5 years, Wonderful Husband and I have been saying we are going to find a church.

While we both had very different experiences growing up in the church, his being loving and stable and picturesque, mine being weird and rocky and ending when I was around 10, we both agreed that we didn’t want to let God disappear from our lives.

He was raised a Lutheran. I was raised a, well, I’m not real sure, we traveled a lot and went to many different churches. Some danced in the aisles and spoke in tongues. Some didn’t even approve of clapping during music. We never really found anywhere that we fit and finally stopped going in the mid 2000’s. So when it came time to pick a church, we could never really decide on what we wanted to be.

I was confused by lutheran-ism (is that a word? I’m not even sure that’s a word), they had their own book they taught from and the pastor wore weird clothes and they didn’t even want to let my dad give me away at my wedding (I won that argument, in case you were wondering). I wanted a fun church where we could be free to express our love of God, but I needed some structure because I had basically forgotten everything except basic bible stories. After a few debates about it, and realizing that in a ghetto crack town there are two options of churches- stuffy white people or crazy black people- we sort of let it slide.

When Little Darling came along I was determined that we would find a church. I called on a few local pastors. I drove past a few churches. I was reminded, again, that if we wanted anything with substance (not substance abuse) we would need to travel a ways. And at that point Wonderful Husband was traveling all the time, and the thought of entering a new place alone with a baby gave me anxiety, let alone keeping said baby quiet for an hour during a sermon. Nope. Couldn’t do it.

So, last year, I came to the decision that as soon as we were set up in West Virginia, we WOULD find a church. And we would attend said church. Regularly. We may even go to bible school. We needed a church family and a support system since we would be so far away from our own families. I didn’t care if we had to become Catholics, my kids would know God and bible stories, and have some friends who knew about such things too.

Then we moved to West Virginia and I got scared all over again and every Sunday would squeak by and I would make excuses. Wonderful Husband is away. Wonderful Husband is home, but has been away and we should enjoy our time. We shouldn’t pick a church until we know where we will be living permanently. We don’t even know the service times. We may not pick a good one. I don’t wanna go.

Last week, in the middle of the day, a little blue car pulled up my driveway and out popped a ridiculously cheerful lady. She introduced herself and explained that she, her mother, and her sister are all our neighbors! They had seen we were new to the area and wanted to introduce themselves, they brought me a little gift of homemade apple butter and a magnet from their church. They attend a Methodist church that is 3 miles down the road. She didn’t make a big fuss about it, just let me know that the service times were on the magnet and they’d love to have us.

Now, there are plenty of things in my life that I can’t take a hint about. When I ask if I should eat that last donut and my love handles jiggle back “for the love of God, please stop eating”, you better believe, I am gonna eat that donut. When I am pleasantly polluted and feeling fine and think- should I have another glass of wine before bed? I am gonna have another glass, even as WH is reminding me what happened last time I had one too many.

However, something about this random stranger dropping in to meet me, say hello, squeeze my babies cheeks, and drop a line about a church, rang with me. As if God was like “hey Bitch, get your ass to church and quit putting it off” (ok, maybe not in those words, but probably close because it has been YEARS of me saying I was going to go and then not doing it). So I stuck the magnet on the fridge, and kept the thought in the back of my head that if Wonderful Husband was home next Sunday, we just may take a trip down the road.

What do ya know. Wonderful Husband got today off. So I woke up early, made pancakes, and declared that we would be attending church this morning.

Service started at 11am, and at 10:42 we were sitting in the parking lot coming up with a game plan on how to escape if it all went to hell. The church looked ok on the outside, a small, old building with stained glass windows and a steeple. There were, however, two old men standing in the parking lot glaring at us.

We tentatively got out and started to walk up to the front door, one of the grumpy old men stopped us and said we could go in the basement, there were cookies and coffee. We politely declined and headed to the steps when an old lady slammed the door open with a boisterous “HELLO! Come on in! We have SNACKS!!” and we found ourselves being herded into a small, stuffy basement with about 15 old women who were about to pee themselves with excitement.

The conversations were hectic and overwhelming. They all pushed in at us clamoring about how great it was to have new comers, could they get us some coffee, can Little Darling have a cookie, how old is Little Littles, Oh They just LOVE Children.

We made our way to the back and collapsed into folding chairs. A lady brought Wonderful Husband a coffee, another lady brought Little Darling a baggie of goldfish, there was a little boy running around and Little Darling ditched the goldfish to make a new friend. They hurriedly explained that it’s not normally so calm and laid back, however, they always give their pastor the 5th Sunday of the month off, so he and his family were away and they were just going to do a short and easy service (in all honesty I do not believe there was going to be any service until we showed up). At 11am, we all herded upstairs to the tiny sanctuary with pews going in every direction to make them all fit in. With a congregation totaling no more than 25 and only 3 of those being men (including WH) We sang hymns, we took prayer requests, a lady from the congregation gave a short sermon, they laid hands on an older lady who was having health issues, we sang a closing song, we were done.

At every break in the service, after a song, after a prayer, at least one person in the congregation would turn around and tell us how happy they were to see us. The neighbors who had stopped down were over joyed, gave me their phone numbers, and told me I could call them if I ever needed anything. They exclaimed that they hoped they hadn’t scared us off being it was so laid back and informal. We were recognized from the pulpit that it was so great to have newcomers and they just loved having children in the congregation. We were invited to VBS in June, and bible school every Sunday at 9:30am, and reminded that on normal Sundays when Pastor is there they do a children’s message.

We got out to the car and breathed a sigh of relief. We did it. We survived. And not only was it not painful, it was enjoyable! The entire time we were there, I felt at home. I didn’t feel like anyone was judging me, I didn’t feel like I was a stranger in someone else’s church. I felt comfortable, like I had just spent an hour with 15 of my closest grandmas.

I have already decided that we will go again. I’d like to see what it’s like when the pastor is there and does a sermon. I may even like to see what bible school is all about. I don’t feel any anxiety about returning if Wonderful Husband is away working.

I feel like we are on to something, even if we go a few times and decide this isn’t the place for us. We have passed that hurtle of making ourselves go and putting ourselves out there. We are on back on the path, and it feels good.

Socially Awkward Stepford

I have never been an exceptionally social person. When I was I growing up, besides my brother, there weren’t many constants when it came to friends or acquaintances. We were home schooled for a few years in elementary school so I lost my friends from Kindergarten. Then in middle school my best friend up and moved to Texas. When I got a boyfriend, I pretty much ditched all my girlfriends to be with him. My parents held a very strict one night out a week rule and I stupidly wasted every week on him. When we broke up, I had almost no one.

By the time my senior year rolled around, I had a small group of very close girlfriends and a much older boyfriend in college. I thought that when I graduated and went to college it would be my opportunity to reinvent myself. No one would know me, I could be exactly who I wanted to be and act how I wanted to act. I would be the fun outgoing girl that everyone would want to hang out with. I would attend parties, maybe even fraternity parties, and drink alcohol and stay out past 11pm.

I had big plans.

Then the first day of class I experienced my first panic attack. At the time, I had no idea what it was, all I knew was that walking across campus made me feel like I was dying. My heart was pounding, I couldn’t see straight. My breath was ragged and short, and I was having trouble staying upright. I became convinced I had contracted meningitis and would obviously drop dead before the day was over. When I didn’t die, I shrugged it off that I must have been hot, or something.

College progressed and I came out with exactly 2 friends. Every day was sheer horror, I would enter class silently, sit in the front row and stare straight ahead at the board the entire time. Then as the clock ticked closer to the end, I would begin to get panicky and terrified. I don’t even know what I was terrified about, I would have my books packed and ready at 5 til and the minute the professor said “see you tomorrow” I bolted for the door. The only reason I ended up with the two friends I got was because one lived next door to me and I had to sheepishly ask for help when I couldn’t hook up my tv, and the other one was in two of my classes and inserted herself into my life by talking to me every day.

I couldn’t imagine doing things on my own, I never had done anything on my own. I spent most days with my peers at school and then came home with my brother and spent the evening with him and my parents. Even when I got my license, I went to work and home. I never stepped outside of my comfort zone. When college came around and I was free to roam I was confused and scared. I once went two weeks washing my hair with bar soap because I was too scared to walk to Rite Aid by myself for shampoo (my friend next door finally went with me). I couldn’t walk into the cafeteria on campus because I became consumed by the thought that everyone inside would be staring at me and judging every food I put on my plate. What if I chewed weird? What if I got something stuck in my teeth? What if I had to sit alone? What if other people wanted to sit with me?

My life became a series of questions and concerns that I couldn’t bring myself to answer. I decided that if I never tried anything new, then I would never fail. Problem solved. I got a job, I went to class, that was that.

As a Psychology major, it wasn’t long before I self diagnosed myself as anxious and went off to a doctor to get checked out. Anxiety issues do tend to run in my family and I matched every bullet point for the disease. The doctor put me on Xanax and told me to take one any time I began to feel anxious. The next two years were just weird. I would take the Xanax anytime I was forced into something that made me feel anxious, but I still didn’t feel comfortable putting myself into new situations. I skirted along the edge of life. Graduated college, got an office job, my own cubicle, and a small close circle of friends.

It wasn’t under Wonderful Husband came around that he really opened my eyes to how much I was missing. He was a huge party boy at college and boasted about his fun weekends, staying up until dawn, meeting new people, and doing all sorts of things that sounded fun. He encouraged me to get out and experience life, I balked, He poked and prodded and made fun of me until I finally came out of my shell a little. He got me off the Xanax, and helped me understand that anxiety is a natural part of life, but you don’t have to let it consume you. Most of the time, when you think someone is judging you, they are, but it doesn’t really matter. You have to be comfortable with who are you and realize that, within reason, what other people think of you doesn’t matter.

I still have a hard time in social situations. I tend to over take the entire conversation, not letting anyone else get a word in. I still can’t walk into a new place by myself, and I can’t initiate a get together. I have a hard time with confrontation, I hate to make people upset or sad, I get sick to my stomach before almost every public outing. I talk very fast, and very loud, and need reminded to calm down.

I can however: go to the grocery store alone, walk into a new place where someone is waiting for me, go get a hair cut, initiate a phone call, and take criticism without feeling like my world has ended. I can “deep breathe” my way through almost any anxiety attack, and have gotten much better at telling people what is happening instead of just leaving. I can also go through a buffet line and take whatever food I want to eat.

I think extra anxiety will always be a part of my life, but I refuse to let it own me. My child is watching, and I want her to learn to experience life. For the most part, I try to convert my nervous energy into constructive things, like house projects or reaching out to old friends, instead of sitting on the couch wallowing in self misery. I spent some of the best years of my life hiding in the shadows, I don’t want to do that anymore. I may be socially awkward and have a hard time in group situations, but I promise I am a normal human being once you get to know me.

Hopefully this post has touched a few of you. However, I am not a doctor, or a licenses psychologist and cannot diagnosis any diseases. If you feel that you may have anxiety or panic attacks, I encourage you to reach out to your doctor for help.