The last two years has been a pile-on of difficult, trying, desperately sad, and draining circumstances.
About a year ago, I began searching for a healthy escape, an outlet, that was not going to be dangerous to my health, my spiritual growth, or my family. Sometime in the Spring, I saw an announcement on Facebook calling for auditions for a Chick-Fil-A promotion called the Herd of Cows. This marketing team needed more people to serve as Chick-Fil-A Cows (in full costume) at birthday parties, sporting events, and community gatherings. Beyond my need for an outlet, I was instantly intrigued. One of my secret ambitions has been to be a professional sports mascot. Sometimes at games, I almost spend more time watching the mascot as I do the actual action on the field. This was my chance to fulfill a dream and to do something a little crazy and maybe let off some steam and frustration.
The audition turned out to be more a training than a rigorous assessment of my mascot chops. I was in and was ready to attend my first event. But there was one big problem.
When I put on the cow head for the first time, I panicked. I didn’t expect to not be able to see, to not be able to breathe very well, and for the tight, trap like quarters that giant head would present. Even writing this description gives me a slight sense of dread and unease bordering on panic. The claustrophobia was real and I had the base desire just to tell everyone thanks for the chance to do this but no thanks on the actual costume and that I had made a poor choice. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. Still, I wasn’t going to give up that easily.
It would be a month before I had a chance to participate in my first event, so I had time to work on my anxiety and develop some kind of strategy to overcome this. I was determined. I wasn’t going to let this tiny thing ruin something I knew I would enjoy and if I could overcome this, I would have a testimony about not being defeated by fear and anxiety.
My anti-anxiety regiment leading up to my first event included listening to inspirational podcasts, exercise, hot baths, and visualization. Yes, I went all in on this thing, as I am prone to do. But the single most effective means of overcoming my claustrophobia was something I had already been doing and had done in previous high stress situations – meditation and the Jesus Prayer. On the day of my first event, I laid down, closed my eyes, began breathing slowly and reciting the Jesus Prayer:
Lord, Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
Have mercy on me,
I would say the first two lines on my inhale and the last two on my exhale and just repeat for the time allotted. I don’t believe in magic formula prayers or some kind of repetitive number of prayers that will bring a resolution to a problem but in my base fear and human anxiety I needed something short, easily repeatable, soul-stirring, and rhythmic.
The meditation session was helpful and I was relaxed and ready to give this a go. And the beauty of this prayer is that I could repeat it very easily in the midst of putting on the costume and doing the thing. So throughout the lead up to the event and as it began to be showtime, I just kept saying the prayer and it remind me that God is with me, that I am perfectly safe in his hands.
The time came to put on the head and the rush of panic started but I kept breathing, began intentionally noticing the things around me to get my bearings, and praying. The last thing I remembered as the doors opened and I had to perform was the thought, “Lord Jesus Christ…I am a cow.” As soon as my “hoofs” hit the ground there was no anxiety, no panic, and I was in the moment and having a great time.
I danced, I played tag with the kids, I pretended to want to eat all of the birthday cake, and tried to swing in a tire swing in my giant costume. I did it and it was tremendous fun and a big achievement for me. I did not let anxiety overcome me, I trusted God down to the second and let him answer my prayers, all for the chance to be a cartoonish cow for 30 minutes. It all was ludicrous yet glorious at the same time. I learned that God desires our good and wants to help us, even in the most silly of costumes.