Anxiety: A Continuum

I don’t know what the experts say for sure, but I believe anxiety, like a lot of feelings exist on a continuum.

Maybe all feelings are like this? Probably so.

In this way then, part of coping with anxiety is realizing this common trait exists, and then you can identify some lessons that might be useful.

Anger, Happiness, Frustration, Excitement, Fear, Calm, Anxiety. These are some of the feelings that come to mind; powerful indeed, feelings that can drive us forward, slow us down to “smell the roses”, or stop us cold, frozen in our tracks.

It comes to mind for me that the different feelings, the different emotions have varying affect on us; perhaps it’s more the negative feelings — or those generally thought of as negative — are the ones that stall us out, freeze us…and then the thought follows…

Why do we let the “negative” feelings affect us differently…? Why not just recognize it for what it is, process it, and then move on?

Why indeed…easier said than done. But it’s worth a try, right? It’s worth a try to NOT let the anxiety and the fear and the self-doubt get the better of you. I am filled with those negative feelings at times, seemingly to the very brim, and it’s up to ME to change how I deal with it.

These negative feelings, they are on the continuum with all the other emotions. And if you’re like me, for some reason, we give them more power over us…but we don’t have to.

So let’s try that simple strategy, and master lesson of how to cope with the anxiety and the fear and the doubt: Recognize, Acknowledge, and Go Forward.

GO. FORWARD.

Anxiety: Awash

It starts with the feeling. That’s just it, at its core.

It’s a feeling or series of feelings that can wash over you, immobilize you, cloud your mind to the point that there’s no room for anything else.

“Awash” is the idea, the concept that comes to mind. Something like, you become awash with powerful, sometimes debilitating, suffocating feelings of uncertainty, doubt, panic. If you’ve ever been knocked over or otherwise under an ocean wave in the surf, you can imagine it. You feel, and might very well be, helpless, at least in the moment.

As I shared in the intro post, I’ve felt these feelings since I was seven years old. I haven’t always had the same symptoms and haven’t always described it the same way, but it’s been there under the surface, nearly my whole life.

Big picture, it’s become something I simply have to cope with as part of who I am. The feelings are typically strongest in the early morning, just as I wake up. It feels like uncertainty, and inability to respond to the things that lie ahead.

That’s a big part of it: UNCERTAINTY AND FEELING UNABLE TO RESPOND TO THE TASKS AHEAD.

Looking back, I’d say it centers around that idea, that idea of not feeling like I’m good enough: for the job, the project, the relationship, the whatever it is. And at it’s worst, it’s crushing, like being completely The Object (not The Subject), not in control of my own destiny of the day, the week, the month, the year, the whatever time period you like.

And the flip side?

If and when I’m confident, there is practically no issue at all. I can barrel into the day with the exact opposite: uncertainty becomes certainty; inability to respond becomes certainty that I am able to do so.

It’s just weird. Or maybe it’s not so weird. Maybe it’s just life. My life, anyway.

I’ve gotten better over the last several decades in responding to these feelings; at least, sometimes it seems I’ve gotten better at it.

Prayer helps often times; expressing gratitude, taking responsibility for my faults, my mistakes, praying for others, so many others in far worse circumstance.

And then other times, even prayer and gratitude don’t immediately help much. Instead, I feel like I’m getting churned by wave after wave after way every day. I can’t find “up”; it’s all I can do to take the next step, the next breath, it feels like.

But it’s a continuum too, at least for me. I’ve not gone off the rails completely. Most people who know me might not guess what lies beneath the surface of my smile and humor and desire to help others, boost others…

they might not guess that I’m going through my second divorce (“Am I good enough to stay married?”),

that the learning curve I face at work seems considerable (“I’ve not done this job before, and I think I can do it, and then I’m getting better, getter better, and then, ‘Mistake Mistake Mistake’ — or so it seems”).

And when I write those two big challenges down, and take a few deep breaths,

I pretty well immediately feel more capable of seeing through these difficulties, to a better, brighter, future. It’s sort of like I remember that I CAN swim, in the midst of being rolled by wave after wave after wave…

And I get to the surface again, and I’m able to stabilize, and I take a few deep breaths…and I get to the calmer water, and I gradually make my way forward, again.

Still awash…but I’m able to cope, with a few deep breaths, and a few more, and a few more. Forward.

Just Live

Sometimes so hard, just live, just live.

Chores and tasks and obligations and duties and demands,

All demand your time, your attention, your Right Now!, moments, hours, days,

It feels so anyway, feels anyway, all the more to me,

To my mind, mixed up in it all, mixed up by it all, all mixed up in a big pile of now creates,

Anxiety, sometimes inertia, sure you should be ready and able to cope, maybe you are, maybe you do,

But to you maybe it feels like you don’t so well sometimes.

And so taking the time ever so often, take the time ever so often to just live, for you, for the kids, with the kids,

For honey, with your honey, honey or kids or not, take the time, make the time to,

Just Live.

Let the pressure and demands and the obligations and the pulls on your time pause, take pause to just live, so important, life and death important,

Just Live.

Groove

Find it, it’s a magical thing. Sometimes called The Zone, if you prefer. But I prefer the groove.

Sitting in the rocker, feet up, evening time, lights low, music playing softly in the background. Jazz playing, older genre, World War II era maybe.

Trying to find the groove, feeling it’s there, but fleeting, difficult to hold on to; wish it would stick to me, soak in a little deeper. Want to stay in that space, that mindset, feeling of peace and harmony and belonging, somehow.

Funny thing — I feel like I belong most of the time; but when I’m in the groove, all the more.

Get there. Find your path. Then go down that path frequently. Find your way. To that space. That place.

Satisfying. Nurturing. Soul-full. Good for the soul, being in the groove.

GROOVE.

It’s All About Connections

I might have guessed this was true. Then I heard this interview with journalist Amanda Mull, from The Atlantic, who’s documented the effects of this Pandemic Time on the social fabric of our lives. Weak Ties. They matter.

Beyond our “main” connections and core, closest family and friends, it’s the people maybe one or two rings outside that add considerable quality of life and varied experience.

It’s the random, social connections and temporary intimacies that add much depth and breadth to our human experience. And much of this has been thwarted by the pandemic.

Let’s not let it have the last word. Let’s reconnect, people, RECONNECT! Let’s add those “weak ties” back into our day-to-day.

What awaits? As Amanda Hull put it, “a sense of grounding, of community, belonging to the bigger world outside of our selves”, that’s what is on the other side.

And here’s the piece if you’d like to hear it. Quite worth while for sure.

one.npr.org/i/962946851:962946852

Spontaneous Reflection: COVID

So much has changed since COVID came to us, so much, in so many ways, so many ways, yet the challenge, the tragedy, maybe more fundamental.

How many people infected, millions upon millions upon millions more. So many millions we really can’t comprehend.

And the deaths, in this American country alone, three hundred and fifty thousand —- 350,000 —- and climbing still, more and more and more. Current trend has north of three thousand —- +3,000 —- dying, EVERY DAY, more each and every day. It was + 3,000 that died on 9/11, and we were outraged, OUTRAGED, and we’ve been at war ever since,

But with COVID, are we outraged at the response, the failed response of our federal government to help us, so fewer people suffer? So fewer people die,,,? Where is the outrage?

A fundamental debate in this country is “more government” versus “less government”. This COVID time, overwhelming our people, killing our people, this is the sort of circumstance where we need government to help and to lead. It’s like a war. It’s like an invader has come to our shores and threatens our very existence as a society. We would not respond separately. We would have to respond together to overcome the foe.

COVID is such a foe.

But it will not win. We won’t let it win. We cannot let it win.