I got anxious again today.
I think I am getting better at leaving anxiety behind, and then anxiety says, “Not so fast! We have more work to do.”
Usually, this has to do with my writing: “Is it good enough? Does she hate it?” But not always. Sometimes I will post something on Facebook, and someone will take offense. Since I make an effort to never post anything controversial or unkind, this always shocks me and makes me wonder if I have any idea how I sound when I write. Since writing is pretty much all I do, this concern starts to bang around in my brain like a kitten knocking things off the shelf.
“What was I thinking?” I wonder. But I don’t actually remember thinking anything at all. I will make comments I imagine are helpful or clarifying, and end up offending someone and wondering why I did not just remain silent.
The best thing to do at this point is to take a walk.
On my walk, I usually encounter a few homeless people. The Catholic Church nearby feeds them and provides other services, so there are usually a handful of folks, who have some kind of problem that I have never had to deal with, waiting in the summer heat or the winter cold for the doors to open so they can get the help they need. I talk to these folks as I walk by. Some of them ignore me. Most of them smile and return the greeting.
But occasionally, I meet someone who just stares at me, like, “What is her story?”
And the funny thing about this is that they assume I have one.
“It’s going to be cooler tomorrow!” I announced yesterday to a gentleman sitting on the steps. Only as I got closer did I notice he had his head under his T-shirt. He pulled it out when he heard me.
“It’s going to be really cool,” I repeated to the confused-looking fellow. “Much cooler than normal!”
He stared at me as if I was speaking in code. I could tell that – whatever he thought of me – he assumed I knew what I was talking about. He thought I had it together. He had no way of knowing how many days I wondered if hiding under my own T-shirt might not be the best strategy.
I realized by then that he had some cognitive problem, but I felt I needed to wrap up the conversation anyway – just for the sake of politeness.
“So, you take care, OK?”
I waved and headed off, realizing I had just embarrassed myself in front of a man who was hiding under his own T-shirt.
We are all making up stories for one another without knowing what the real story is.
The story I make up for myself when I am anxious is that I am failing – somehow, somewhere – and no one has told me how or why. But I have no idea why that man was hiding under his T-shirt, and I’m betting his reasons were a lot better than mine.
By now I know that my anxiety is a mood, that it will pass. As uncomfortable and demanding as it is in the moment, it is almost impossible to remember after the fact. Walking helps. And talking to people – even folks who seem a little confused – helps as well.
It is cooler today – just as I promised the fellow on the steps it would be. I am going to put on my shoes right now and talk to some strangers.
Till next time,