I am a big, pulsating ball of anxiety this week.
I hate anxiety. It feels like a living creature that invades my body, stiffens all my muscles, then tricks me into thinking I can think my way out of it. It’s like a game of chicken in which I am beckoned closer and closer until, inevitably, I get smacked.
I got a break from it for a number of months thanks to a low dose of anti-depressants, which, for me, was a game-changer. I had no idea that most people don’t have to work so hard to maintain a baseline of “okay.” In my world, there was either high, low, or mad with anxiety. I have come to treasure that smooth plateau in the middle, neither high nor low, but calm and peaceful.
But now, the anxiety is back. Naturally, I engaged with it as soon as it crept in. Is it the meds? Do I need to adjust my dose? Is it money? (It’s always money.) The kids? The future? What do I do to get OUT OF THIS?!? In swept my right brain to start problem solving: maybe I should get a professional certificate or ditch the book tour for a full-time gig writing brochures for a health insurance company. Maybe I should work out or meditate more. Maybe I should sign the kids to up for more extracurriculars. Maybe I should, should, should…
Sounds exhausting, no?
I came across a class the other day given by Rabbi Laibl Wolf, a Jewish mystic and spiritual teacher, in which he spoke about mindful living. He said that a student once asked the Kotzker Rebbe what the most important thing is. The Rebbe’s reply: “Whatever you’re doing right now.”
That one’s been tumbling round and round in my mental dryer for the past few days, as I’ve tried to force myself to be more mindful and bypass the anxiety. (Oy. The irony.) But I came upon something as I was talking about it with my friend, Heather, and realized I was beginning every sentence with, “I’m trying to figure out…”
Suddenly, I stopped. I had tripped into an epiphany: I was trying to figure it out – and the only outcome was that I was feeding my own anxiety.
The Kotzker’s sage advice clicked into focus. “Whatever you’re doing right now” means to be in right now, not to skip the moment (even if the moment is sucky) for a future when I feel better. If I’m anxious, then I can just let the anxiety be there for as long as it needs to be, without tangling with it – sort of like an annoying old friend that stops by on their way to a wedding. You paste on a smile, throw them some crackers and a little small talk, keeping in mind that in an hour, they’ll be gone. It’s uncomfortable, for sure, but I’ve had two babies at home. I can do uncomfortable.
Ahhh. I feel better just writing that.
My anxiety and I wish you a wonderful day. No, better – a wonderful right now.