I have gained very little in my life from my in-born propensity for pessimism, from my habit of focusing on the negative. And though I have tried to wrench myself toward optimism, toward a more positive outlook, it's never stuck.
And I wonder why I'm so often crippled by anxiety (I don't wonder, actually...).
Do you know what it is? Why I can't seem to shift my outlook? Because it feels fake. Because it feels like, if I hope for and believe in the best, that I'll be constantly disappointed, and my fear is that that disappointment will lead to worse anxiety, eventually spiraling into depression.
Ha! This is obviously NOT the inner monologue of an optimist.
But anyway, here's my plan. I'm going to try one more time. Even if it feels like I'm faking it. Even if there's no feeling of belief or conviction behind it, I'm going to try to shift to the positive. Every time my brain launches a negative attack, a worst-case-scenario, I'm going to counter it with something positive, with be...
Here's what I've forgotten: to trust my mind to stillness. Instead, I've been fighting like mad under the tempting assumption that to let the mind still would mean that there's nothing to stop the avalanche of dread, worry, anxiety, and worst-case-scenarios from coming toppling down from where they've been shoved and shoved again.
But that, doves, is the crux of the illness--this belief that it takes all of our brute strength to ward off the messy onslaught of our minds. And the ridiculously unfair and cruel thing about worry, about anxiety is that the more we struggle, the more it manifests. Think of it this way: a glass of water on your desk, when left alone, will not rush up and topple the glass, soaking everything in its path. Of course not--that's not the nature of water. It takes a force--the wind, the moon, the tides, gravity--to inspire movement, gentle or violent.
We are our own act of god--we provide our own force by struggling to hold everything back. But her...
I'd like to think our profound, seemingly infinite, capacity for fear is a misplaced inheritance for storytelling. Perhaps this is all it is: our brain, trying to connect dots in the most creative way possible. After all, we all know how well disaster sells...
And maybe there's no way to stop the relentless story line, but if we could just see it for what it is--mostly fiction, then perhaps we'd breathe easier through our hard days.
I have a few superpowers. One is canceling plans (sorry). Another is overthinking. I have a strong feeling I'm not alone on the latter (and maybe not on the former, either... #introvertsunite). And while I'm not bothered by the first, I'm trying to wean myself off of the second.
Because it *is* an addiction, isn't it? Overthinking? It becomes a way to procrastinate, a way to focus on ego (because anxiety is, at its heart and by its nature, the most egocentric of emotions), and a way to keep us stuck in our comfortably uncomfortable patterns.
Despite evidence to the contrary, I'm always convinced that *this* time, my anxiety isn't playing me, that *this time* it's got my best interests at heart, that *this time* its warnings and alarm bells are harbingers of something real, that *this time* is the time to listen.
But when that's *every* time, you have to wonder. You have to wonder if you'll ever learn. But I suppose, just writing this *is* learning. Awareness *is* progress. Well, I'...
You do have to wonder, when you're awake in the middle of the night worrying about something as mundane and supposedly joyful as gardening, if you've really lost it and fallen between the cracks of nightmare and habitual anxiety. And you have to slap yourself out of it, saying aloud, 'Um, excuse me, but what the hell are you doing with your precious and impressive brain?'
And, more often than not, come morning, it all seems so silly, so you chalk it up to restless dreams, but I wonder if there's a lesson in that--that surrendering to it in the moment (the anxiety, the worry, the nightmare) will free us from the fear of recurrence. That maybe if we learn to sit with the anxiety--silly or not--we'll develop a tolerance. We'll vaccinate ourselves against our own sabotage.
There is nothing so certain as change, which is as frustrating and terrifying as it is reassuring. So, I guess the problem here isn't the change, but our reaction to (and anticipation of) it. Easily said, but so hard to live--how to stop reacting? How to stop anticipating? I don't know. Some of us are so finely tuned that any disruption sends us to static. Perhaps we need a stronger signal--more time with our bare feet in the earth might help.
I've been frozen for so long, I doubt I'd notice if my feet became unstuck. I suspect that there are too many of us held in this same kind of suspension, unaware that we could move even if we got up the courage to try.
It can feel shameful, this fear, as we watch others carrying on, seemingly unaffected. But I think we have to talk about it, and we have to talk about it in a way that doesn't belittle us, that doesn't make us ashamed for how we were made in this world, and--finally--in a way that makes us proud to have a voice we're *not afraid* to use in the first place.
It's so hard to show up, to be present, when you're unsure, self-conscious, anxious because there are a million things going on in your private life over which you have no control, but still--STILL! You have to show up and smile and be competent and social and it's so very hard, petals. I know it's so very hard.
And I wish I had an answer--for me, for all of us--but I don't. So, instead, together, we'll keep breathing. We'll keep carrying our talismans in our pockets and hope and will and believe that one day soon--this year; why not?--we'll wake up without needing the pep talk, without needing the talisman, without the overwhelming desire to stay hidden and safe and secret. Soon we'll see progress.
Ever since I was a little kid, I always remember thinking I was missing out, that I was making the wrong decision. Or, more accurately, no matter *what* choice I were to make, the other would have been better/smarter/happier. Maybe it's because I don't know myself as well as I think? Or perhaps it's because I have no faith in my own endurance, ability, or capacity for newness.
And perhaps that distrust of self is at the root of all anxiety, all misery, and every sleepless night.
It's a dubious gift, sensitivity, and the longer I wander through this world, the more I wonder if the trade-off is worth it. Not that we have much choice--we are as we were made, and all we can do is shield and adjust and accept. But does anyone else find that constant shielding, adjusting, and adapting exhausting? I think at that point--that point of exhaustion--is when the fear sets in.
Unfortunately for us, this is an undiscriminating fear--it can take any shape, any form and, armed with such versatility, can jump out at us where and when least expected. We get to a point where we can no longer voice or react to such triggers for fear (!!) of being thought hopeless, helpless, alarmist, or just plain pitiful. High-strung. Anxiety-prone. **Sensitive.**
Well, as all too often is the case, I have no answer. It's not a satisfying solution, but I suppose I'll keep walking, armed (shielded) to the hilt with my stones and crystals, spells and layers and hope for easy passage.