I get anxious, as I might have mentioned.
While I don’t think it’s anything requiring medication, fortunately. I became aware at middle-age that I have always had a sort of “hum” of anxiety going on in the background. I usually only notice it when it stops — like when the refrigerator has been running nonstop and you only notice when it falls silent.
Anxiety has not always been my enemy. I am almost never late. I never miss a deadline. I lie in bed and obsess about everything I’ve written to everyone so I don’t make a lot of careless mistakes. None of this is especially bad.
I suspect my anxiety was pretty darned useful when my ancestors were living on the savanna, watching out for saber-toothed tigers. My ancestor would have been that hyper-vigilant one, sitting on the edge of the campfire, thinking to herself, “Is that a tiger or just a shadow?”
It would obviously be a shadow, but my ancestor would have to check three times before satisfying herself that her family was not about to be devoured.
This is not a bad thing.
The trouble comes when my anxiety has not a single thing to attach itself to. There are no tigers, no marauders, my health is good, my husband is kind, there is not a tornado in sight, and still I feel the presence of anxiety desperately searching for something to attach itself to.
“What did you forget?!” it asks me.
“Nothing. I didn’t forget anything.”
“You’re only saying that because you forgot!!”
“That’s crazy. If I forgot something, I’d remember it.”
“That’s crazy! You see? You have forgotten something!!’
Yes, I really do have these conversations in my head.
But, even worse, is when I have positively fantastic news and anxiety gets involved.
Next year, I plan to do a touring show featuring my columns and material from my book. Plans were already underway when I had this crazy idea that the show should have music — great music — played and sung and, unfortunately, I do not play an instrument and try to confine my singing to the shower.
Yesterday, I met an amazing musician who both plays an instrument and sings like an angel and he is not just willing, but excited to do this show with me. I am so thrilled. I feel like a six-year-old. And so, of course right after my meeting with him, Anxiety (who I have decided deserves a proper name) came to visit.
“What if he changes his mind? What if nobody books the show?”
“You are crazy. Go away.”
“What if… what if…”
Anxiety was stumped, but kept gnawing away at nothing.
And then it hit me.
Anxiety was like my pet. Maybe it wasn’t a great pet, but owners love their pets even when they are not exactly great. Anxiety, was sort of mangy and dropped hair everywhere and jumped up on me all the time — no matter how hard I’d tried to train it not to. It piddled on the kitchen floor and whined and chewed up my shoes. Anxiety was annoying, but not dangerous.
And, Anxiety was mine.
I looked at my Anxiety, quivering and trembling and upset over nothing at all.
“It’s okay,” I said. “I know you’re just trying to protect me.”
“Of course, things will go wrong along the way,” I told it. “There will be disappointments.” Anxiety looked up at me with big, worried eyes.
“But I plan to have fun along the way. I plan to have fun and take my Anxiety with me.” Anxiety sighed.