“To be”, Alan Watts famously said, “is to deceive”. I suppose it is because to be human is to have anxiety. No matter how successful, competent, or mentally buoyant we are, anxiety is never far away. It comes with the consciousness package. Nobody asked for it, but it comes free with your purchase.
Why? Because we are essentially skin, bones, and insecurity. The intensity varies from XS to plus size, but the experience is not optional. We only get to decide how to wear it. Some days, it decides how to wear us.
Our instinct is to fix it, of course, either by Googling how to manage anxiety and how to lower stress, popping pills, or simply distracting ourselves with anything and everything just so our anxiety stays inside of our near-bursting closet.
But isn’t it that all these options reject the experience? Like dropping something we touch that is extremely hot?
This is not to suggest cuddling with it, keeping it close, especially if it hurts or causes an imbalance in our lives. Romanticizing, weaponizing, or succumbing to anxiety is dangerous business.
But what if we look at our experience right in the eye, without judgment – without guilt, without shame, without any opinion – and recognize anxiety as a normal part of our existence? Some days it is a little, some days it is a lot, and that is okay.
What if we allow ourselves to feel the depths of our inner turmoil without labeling it or mistaking anxiety for who we are? Sometimes we function despite the anxiety, sometimes all we can do is lay in bed and cry, and that is okay.
What if we do not panic once we recognize the fear, confusion, humiliation, or pain? We make mistakes or have bad days that roll into weeks, even months, and that is okay.
What if we are simply kinder, gentler, and more patient with ourselves when we have enormous waves of anxiety, and more importantly, not deflect, pass, or blame it on other people? There are just moments when we are not our best selves, despite of, in spite of, and sometimes even because of, our good intentions, and that is okay.
What if we accept our situation and let the rough waters calm down so clarity appears? Time, space, and breath can help us reflect, ask the right questions, and allow the real causes and emotions to surface so we can deal with it for real and not just putting a Band-Aid over a festering wound. It may take days, weeks, months, and years and years for healing to arrive, and that is okay.
What if we decide to live with our anxiety instead of avoiding it? We will still be anxious – awareness is no magic wand that can make life any better than it is – but we will not be as doomed or panicked. We have a better shot at becoming more relaxed as our worries ebbs and flows, be more gracious about it, no longer defeated but soldiering on, telling ourselves it will all be okay, because no matter how bad it is right now, we will be, eventually, okay.