Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Anxiety, Personally

Anxiety erodes. It sneaks up and o'erwhelms one. It takes precedence over the carefully laid plans and undermines patience, forbearance, and sensibility. Something may go wrong! How can one be reassured? What if...? And so on and on. The chatter of anxiety is no chirping bird on one's shoulder; it is the perseverance of a rattle-snake's warning, not so subtly disturbing.

Too many of us suffer from it. Too many thoughts wobble with it. Which of us is not affected? It is more insidious than negative self chatter; it is the perpetual ricochet of self-doubt. Somehow, surely, something is amiss. And whatever prayers we may send, whatever wishes we may feel, there still shall be some fault betwixt one's actual action and whomever it is intended for, or else why suffer from anxiety at all?? (Whoever doesn’t?) If only we did not take things so personally!

"We cannot but help ourselves," a close friend admitted, "our house needs be a show-home if guests are to visit." The admission hurts. It belies peace and comfort and ease. It reveals just how uneasy we can be within the propensity of fears we inculcate over the possibility of others' judgments. Is the pantry tidy? Is there a spot on the bathroom floor? What if they look in this cupboard? What if they lose and search for a coin between the couch-cushions? What if they look under the bed???

Experience can make things worse! About two years ago a very good friend we housed for a weekend in our guest suite (since each apartment had-had the right to reserve it when we lived there,) found someone else's pair of dirty socks under the bed when she tidied up! I can still feel regretful when I think of it! She'd slept on that guest room bed and I myself had not sufficiently checked the tidiness of the room! After all, we do pay the housekeeper! (Still, the mistake will never be made again. One checks!)

But it is not just housecleaning that drives anxiety. It can be road-traffic and financial statements and the things one writes or says. It can be the inability to forgive oneself for the past. It can be the fear one feels at being disliked when yet again about to be in the presence of someone one has wronged. It can be about having to forgive the hurt to the self that others once upon a time instigated. Even as a child. It can be about the trembling wait for the prizes to be announced; it can be the insecurity of being held in abeyance while waiting to be admitted into a given society, until their self-standards are deemed sufficiently to be sufficed.

A frisson of fear attends anxiety. It is like words we do not recognize, slightly irritating, making us feel insufficient. Ignorant. It is the mistakes we make. It is the inadequacy, repeated, over and over. It is the imbalance and the stumble and the fumble and the bruise we are sure to get from our own incompleteness. How to become whole? How to be at peace? How to be resolute in the face of the roiling possibilities of upset and interference and probabilities of chance and circumstance all coinciding to trip one up! Anxiety is terrible. If only we did not take things so personally!

To let it go! To give up our limiting beliefs; our clinging to the past; our need to control the future; our own natter of negativity; our reliance on impressions; our sense of complaint; our needs to be right; our own resistance to change; our easily laying blame; and especially our need for others' approval; that's the thing! Thing is, anxiety is a fluid medium on which our passions and even our thinking voyages, and so to set sail with as much sensitivity to the prevailing winds, to the surging tides of the sea, and to the directions of one's own compass becomes all a part of the acceptance of ‘All’. Or what price is there else to pay for one's own peace? How else to swim among those sea-snakes of fear in one’s thoughts? (Or are there just as many land-based rattle-snakes?) How to accept and integrate the fear; to take out all those over-emotional and personalized reactions; to think it through; and to be as fully human as we can be? You, or me.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Natter of Negativity?

It is insidious. Like a snake in one's pantry, negativity lies hissing at disturbances. One needs sustenance; we reach into our storage rooms that we've stocked over the years, and instead of savour and succour, the snake raises its sinister eyes, and lashes out with its forked tongue. We easily fall victim to the negativity. Our peace is disturbed; often severely; sometimes, it seems, fatally. We easily can see "every setback as the end of the world."

'Tuesday's with Morrie' tunes down that snake. Despite the imminence of certain death, Morrie stays positive in a world of angst. "Are you at peace with yourself?" his question resonates. It is a theme that drives the show. That, and the phrase, "Yes, but you are the same person, wherever you go." And when so very much of one's life can be a natter of negativity, it is worth examining the thoughts that so pervade our sensibilities. “We are what we think.” And since our thinking evolves into our speech, into our habits, and even into our actions, to be "at peace with oneself" is a hard-won concept, indeed.

Negativity is like a great seething pond over which one hovers on temporary Lilly-pads. We can feel so very good, for but a while. Generally, there's this morass of moments waiting to suck us in. There's the kitchen to be cleaned, the bed to be made, the clothes to be ironed, the dog to walk, the plants to feed. There's the mouse the cat brought in. It is the phone call; the problem with scheduling; the parking spot that someone else took. It is the price of eggs. It's the concert that is sold out! It is the desire to be anywhere but here. It is the uncomfortable conversation. It is the disaffection and the distancing and the uncertainty. It is the snake that hisses up at me. It is my thoughts and feelings and insecurities and the wishes that I might have done otherwise, especially in the past. "You only have regrets if you've lived your life the wrong way, chasing after the wrong things," Morrie says. And so that snake sidles on in the psyche, saturating the senses.

Being at peace with oneself is a time-worn practice. We can but do what we do. How else to forgive the self? How else to forgive others? "I was too young when I was needed most," Morrie tells his former student, Mitch, "And you were too young too. We did what we were able to do!"
Yes, we can forgive ourselves, and more importantly, forgive others if we have compassion for the fact that at each step of our journey, on the perfect moments of our own imbalance on those insecure Lilly-pads (of our progress over the slew of possibilities,) we chose to move on to the next; and after that, the next one too! We make decisions in the moment, based on who we are at the time, not on who we are now. For, "…inside me I'm every age I've ever been." And one needs be at peace with that. And one needs be at peace with ‘now’ too. Or when might one otherwise be? "If you're waiting for that perfect moment to say the wise and wonderful things you want to say to someone at the end," Morrie intones, "you better have great timing! The wise and wonderful things you want to say to people at the end, are the kind of things you should say, all your life."

Yes, being at peace with oneself is a perpetual practice. (Even maneuvering from Lilly-pad to Lilly-pad is an exercise of getting one's feet wet.) We cannot but be distracted by the daily dictums of living, "the accidental journeys; the unexpected questions." We needs indeed have that "little bird on your shoulder that asks, am I ready, am I being the person I want to be?"

Or does one give in, give up, "withdraw from the world", and allow for the insidious natter of one's own negative feelings and talk pervasively to hiss up from the very recesses of one's own being, let alone from the perpetual assaults of the daily diurnal of dissolutions that seems so easily to sink one into despair? No! Acceptance is all. And doing almost anything that we do, with grace and gratitude, helps, indeed. Yes? (Now then, to get up and clean those windows!)