• easpenner

Foreboding Joy

Updated: Jul 27

I started a book at the beginning of this month. As part of my personal February goals. And within the first chapter, I was beyond ready to set it aside. Just seemed too technical and psychology-like for my taste. But with the -30-degree-wind-chill weather we have had lately, I found it staring at me, day-after-day. So, I gave it a second chance. And so glad I did. Because it definitely struck a nerve. I discovered a phrase that I wish I had learned about y.e.a.r.s. ago.

Foreboding joy.

Oh friends. This described me to a “t”. For years-and-years-and-years. The “this-is-too-good-to-be-true; when-is-the-other-shoe-going-to-drop?” mentality. The author, Brene Brown, shares the story of one woman, and I got chills. This was me. Through-and-through. Her words: “I used to take every good thing and imagine the worst possible disaster. I would literally picture the worst-case scenario and try to control all of the outcomes.” (Sigh.) Brown goes on to add the tagline,dress-rehearsing tragedy“. Ouch. Yes. Guilty.


This was (and sometimes still is) the epitome of my anxiety. Something horrible (worst-case scenario) happening to someone I love; that is completely out of my control.

And I. h.a.t.e.d. it. It caused me a never-ending feeling of helplessness that I just could. not. shake. That overcame my existence. And stole my joy. My happiness. Those “lose-myself” in those sweet, meaningful life moments. Causing me to retreat. Into my shell. And pull away. From anything that “might” in some farfetched way, shape or form…cause harm to those I held most dear.

This is it, beautiful souls. The complete-and-total essence of my innermost vulnerability. Sharing my deepest anxiety. Right here. Right now. I just never knew it had a name. And to me, if it has a name, it has to be something that other people experience as well. And that is more than refreshing.


My ultimate foreboding joy moment? I can never forget. Clear. as. day. in. my. mind. One of my lowest-feeling points of my life…

Our oldest daughter was three months old. I decided to stop nursing. We were adjusting. She was very restless for hours-upon-end in the late night/early morning hours. I was exhausted. (Understatement.) I had one more month left of my maternity leave before returning to work full-time, as an elementary teacher (which, to be honest, is beyond full-time), and it was all hitting me at once. How. in. the. world. was. I. going. to. balance. it. all? My husband is incredible, helping more than most “Daddy’s” would ever dream of helping. but even as a family unit, I was incredibly nervous about this transition.

I will never for get, one early-December morning, over at my parents’ house, picking up our oldest daughter, following a doctor appointment, telling my mom, “I just feel like I can’t be happy. Like when something good finally comes around, something bad follows. I don’t ever feel like I can get a break from one worry to the next.” I didn’t let many people into this lowly period for me, but I had hit a point of battling some serious postpartum anxiety, which quickly turned into depression, and those closest to me knew I couldn’t do it alone anymore. And I had finally realized it too. As hard as it was for me to admit I needed the help.


So, now what? Oh, friends, I let my struggle go on far longer than I should have. Now? I am in a m.u.c.h. better place. But, I never feel totally “safe”. Those anxious feelings find themselves creeping back into each-and-every vulnerable crevice in my life. And the worrying comes flooding back in. Sometimes, without any warning. But throughout any challenges and suffering, I have actually discovered some very promising and effective tools in combating my incessant worrying…

~practicing gratitude…daily, purposeful gratitude…writing down my “favorite” moment or interaction from each-and-every day

~realizing that the “worst-case-scenario” does not often play out…but, if it does? I have One might protector on my side. Who also blessed us with an incredible support system, amazing beyond words

~writing…sharing my thoughts with others, in hopes of inspiring others to share their stories too

For me, it’s a matter of breaking a cycle. Between what I experienced as a child and what “could possibly” happen as an adult, with my own family. Two completely different paths. As a youth, I experienced a lot of heartache. Losing a brother at four. Watching my mom battle breast cancer at eight. Suffering an extended-family loss of a close cousin, at twelve. Attending more funerals by high school than most people do in a lifetime (very large family). But, that was then. The tragedies and life lessons that unfolded were in God’s blueprints for those years. Those moments in time. And watching those events unfold ultimately left me guarding myself with a defense mechanism I never knew enough about…

Until now.

Yes, we may experience heartbreak. Tragedy. Something that steals the air form our lungs and leaves us wondering how are we going to continue on. But the thing is, I can’t sit around and wait for those devastating life moments to show up at our doorstep. Because when I do, I am missing out on each-and-every joyous, heart-filling, take-my-breath-away moments that will color our lives with more happiness than we could ever imagine.


What I have come to realize more than a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. in the world…

Only once I am finally able to totally and completely relinquish the need to control any-and-every situation and to disregard the need to build every bridge imaginable for those “just-in-case” situations; when I am willing to put those on the back-burner and at last, find myself whole-heartedly ready to hand the reigns back over to the One Who is willing to hold our hands through those times of trial….

…then, and only then… will I finally be able to truly enjoy the entire picture of life around me. Not just a snapshot. But e.v.e.r.y. single messy, beautiful, heart-on-my-sleeve experience that He has planned for me to revel in and experience.


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