I found a lump on Hunter (my dog’s) chest. Thankfully, he was already scheduled for his annual check-up, and as I waited in the Vet’s office for test results, my stress levels began to sky-rocket. My chest tightened, my heart raced, and my stomach twisted into a knot, as my brain envisioned every worst-case scenario.
The Vet’s office that day was a trigger for an anxiety attack. This was last August, a few months after my other beloved dog, Scout, had died. I was afraid, and my nervous system was freaking out.
We hear the word “trigger” used often, but what is it? I’d describe it as a moment when you’re reminded of a past experience, that was in some range of difficult to devastating, and your body literally is remembering that pain and discomfort, and usually starts trying to take action to protect you. That’s what was happening in the Vet’s office. The experience of Scout’s death was so terrible – and my body was reminding me of it, and warning me to flee the danger.
Triggers can be an annoyance to overwhelming. As someone who struggles with anxiety and PTSD, they’ve been a major source of struggle over the years – yet also an opportunity for growth. I use to fear and do everything I could to avoid triggers, which is especially hard when betrayal trauma is part of your story – how can you avoid such major chunks of time from your past? You can’t, so you grow through them.
That’s where “glimmers” come in. I recently read about the term glimmer – to describe a moment opposite of a trigger. It’s when you experience something that is peaceful and calming and good, so that the body experiences joy and safety.
They are “this is good” moments.
As I’ve been recovering from “a lot of hard stuff,” let’s say, in more recent years, I started to notice moments where I didn’t feel like everything was chaotic. I felt peace, or I could notice something good happening. I wanted to soak in those moments – and also offer gratitude to God, so I started this practice of a simple “breath prayer” in those moments of either thinking or even audibly whispering, “this is good.” this wasn’t necessarily a revelation on my own, but formation from good teaching, mentors, spiritual growth, and even a some reading on neurobiology and how the brain is able to build new neural pathways for thought patterns.
“This is good” became something I could pray to bless the good moments that I was starting to notice more and more, and the more frequent moments my nervous system experienced peace.
A family of ducks float by me in a peaceful setting – “this is good.”
An evening walk reflecting on a new job that I was enjoying – “this is good.“
Making special memories with my family and nieces – “this is good.”
A gorgeous spring hike with my sister – “this is good.”
Engaging conversation with a friend – “this is good.”
A stunning sunset – “this is good.”
The pause and reflection with the breath prayer in those good – or glimmer moments – I think, was helping me to really let those moments sink in. And here’s a helpful explanation of what this is physiologically:
“Triggers are cues—accurate or not—that move the body into those fight-or-flight or freeze states. Glimmers are also cues—but they are cues that move the body into that feeling of safety and connection and into the ventral vagal state, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system (also known as rest-and-digest) and puts the body in homeostasis.” (A good article from VeryWellMind to read more.)
A lot of my “glimmers” have come from nature. (And there’s also more and more research how nature contributes to nervous system regulation that’s really cool!). Where or how have you experienced glimmers? I’d love to hear in the comments.
Sometimes glimmers can blind us, they’re so wonderfully obvious, a perfect moment to whisper a blessing prayer of “this is good.”
Other times, we have to look a bit more closely, or differently, that is.
From the naked eye, the light through the trees is beautiful – but with the lens of my camera, I can pick up these incredible, glittering glimmers. It takes patience, an adjustment of settings, and stillness.
Sometimes we need a fresh new lens on life to see things. To see the glimmers through the triggers. To see the good through the hard. To fight for our bodies to feel peace.
With autumn ahead, when the light starts to lean low and play in fanciful ways through the changing leaves – my heart hopes that we can all see more glimmers as the newness of the year fades, and the darker seasons are upon us.
“even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.”
Oh and Hunter? He was just fine – they were benign, fatty deposits, not unusual for a dog going into old age. I breathed in deeply as our Vet relayed the news, and I hugged Hunter’s neck a little tighter. His non-stop grin made me smile, and even reminded me of sweet memories of my Scout, and I breathed in, “this is good.”
May you find lots of glimmers and know the hope of “this is good” moments this fall.