Anti-Anxiety Meditation

This is what we opened our front door to when we arrived home after a family Christmas in Milan.

Our Christmas tree shoved to the floor, the window frame behind it ragged with crowbar marks, and every top drawer in the house pulled open. Our house, along with several others in the neighborhood, had been targeted by burglars while we were away.

After a panicky inventory, we were dumbfounded to discover that the thieves hadn’t taken a single thing from our home, not even Dan’s expensive work computer. (Let me tell you about gratefulness…) However, the post-home-invasion experience isn’t as much about what the intruders take as it is about what they leave: their invisible fingerprints on our underwear, their shadow-selves around each corner when the lights go out, and their harmful intentions toward us lingering in the air.

This is the first house that I’ve felt safe in, ever. I’ve lived in fifteen different homes to date, and this one—this gated, shuttered, dog-guarded, and triple-locked third story refuge—is the only one that never pricked at my fearful imagination. Until we got home from Christmas break, that is. Now, I am noticing the odd creaks and squeaks of our house as I have never noticed them before; the groan of a radiator is an intruder, the rattle of wind against the shutters is an intruder, even the spin cycle of our washing machine is an intruder (brandishing a weed whacker, perhaps?). Everything from our coat rack to my rocking chair catches my peripheral vision at night with an icy splash of fear, and even as I’m checking the locks for the fifth time before bed, I know they offer no assurances. Our safe place no longer promises safety.

My mother-in-law, who’s been through this herself, shared the comforting perspective that the burglars now know we don’t have what they’re after (gold, jewels, cash, anything that would look right on the set of Downton Abbey) and won’t be back. From a rational standpoint, we really don’t have anything to worry about. Yet anxiety doesn’t always see things from a rational standpoint. It sees things more from the standpoint of Oh God it’s dark outside and bad guys could be hiding below our balcony preparing their grappling hooks right now and we’ll probably all die in our beds tonight.

Anxiety is clearly not helping the situation. It offers no constructive advice, only helplessness and an unfocused panic, and I know that my task is not to indulge the anxiety by barricading our house or stocking up on defense weapons or living in suspicion but to counteract it—to refuse to hold onto the shadows and harmful intentions left by our intruders.

In light of this, the girls’ perspective is pretty awesome. I was worried how Natalie and Sophie would react to seeing evidence of thieves in their own bedroom. I’d braced myself for tearful bedtimes and nightmares and wondered how in the world I could assuage their fears when my own were so pronounced. However, I’d underestimated their generous little hearts. “If the thieves come back,” announced Natalie, “we’ll just invite them to stay for breakfast.” “And then give them two euros!” piped up Sophie. Not a trace of fear. In fact, I think they’re sort of hoping the thieves come back.

While I do not share that particular hope, my girls’ idea of repaying harm with kindness is straight out of Jesus’s teaching. I told them that yesterday, and Sophie grinned. “I love Jesus,” she said. “Me too,” I grinned back, getting the first hint of an inkling how perfect love really might be able to cast out fear.

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  1. How awful! I am someone who, as a single mom, finds myself startled by the least noise and often sleep with all the lights in the house on. I can’t even imagine . . . oh wait, I can imagine – that’s the problem. Big hugs to you! Thank goodness for those sweet girls of yours – nothing like a little kid perspective. Peace and Love. xoxo

  2. Sophie and Natalie’s words… beautiful.

  3. GAH. Having been through a break-in in our house WHILE WE WERE IN IT, I sympathize mightily with your PTSD. Urgh. I’m really glad they didn’t take anything, though!

  4. This confirms an already growing love for your girls in my heart. And it just so happens that I love their mama too. <3

  5. Oh dear Bethany, I am so sorry. XO Although I haven’t been invaded like this, I did have a stalker and I know that terrible, crippling fear. I’m so glad your girls are handling it so beautifully. 🙂 They crack me up. 🙂 Wishing you peace, dear one, and perfect love. XO

  6. When we moved into our house we had an intruder when we were upstairs in bed. Nobody woke up (not even our dog) but the sliding glass door was open about 6 inches when we woke up in the morning and there were footprints in the snow from the street to our door. It sucked. They didn’t take one thing (nothing here to take) EXCEPT our sense of safety. I don’t even know if they actually came IN our house, but the fact that they poked their heads in is enough.

    That was almost 7 years ago. It didn’t take long to go back to feeling safe. Although I always make sure the hockey stick is in the door now, that is about the extent of the fear.

    I am so sorry that happened. And the fact that they went through your stuff…ew. I can imagine how dirty that feels. I think your MIL is absolutely right on, and I love your girl’s solution as well! 🙂

    I am just glad you are all safe! xo

  7. Allison – I get a little taste of the single-parenting hyperawareness when Daniel’s on business trips, and it’s no fun. Hugs to you and your precious girls as well!

    Stephanie – Agreed. I want to be like them when I grow up.

    Liz – While you were IN IT? Freaking out mightily on your behalf right now. I think I would have had to move immediately. (Did you??)

    Erika – Anyone who loves my girls has a special place in my heart too (as if you didn’t already).

    Krista – I remember reading about your stalker ordeal, and I can’t imagine how terrifying it must have been to know you were personally targeted. We at least have the solace of knowing our break-in was an impersonal neighborhood sweep! So glad you’re safe now. <3

    Megsie – Yikes x 1000000. You and Liz, with the intruders while you were at home… I'm feeling all kinds of violated on your behalf. It's encouraging to know the unsafe after-feelings didn't last long though. If you can recover from THAT, then I'm sure I will be back to my normal, only-mildly-suspicious self in no time. 🙂

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