On anxiety: There but for the grace of God go I.
Do you struggle with anxiety, like I do?
It’s my lifelong demon. I’m not sure I’d know what to do without it, though. I fear that without it, I wouldn’t be me. It’s my fuel, my food. Always lighting a fire under my butt to get stuff done, to try to get ahead. Staying one step ahead of my anxiety lets me not feel like I am drowning.
I have weapons to control it from getting out of hand. One of them is endorphins. There’s nothing like running for that. I don’t actually like running, I just like endorphins.
Years ago I wrote about staying in lower Manhattan for Thanksgiving and being the one to discover a dead body in the Hudson River. It wasn’t much of a Thanksgiving, for that guy. Usually, though, we stay very near Times Square so I can run, in a mile or less, to Central Park in the morning. What a fabulous oasis in possibly the dirtiest, loudest, most crowded city in the U.S.
Kudos to New Yorkers for protecting that amazing space all these years.
When I was a kid, I didn’t sleep at night. I lay there worrying about my grades, my upcoming piano recital, my brothers being sick, whether they would die of it, whether I’d catch it if I was breathing in the same room they were. Very frankly, I was in total anguish most of my childhood.
To survive, I have come up with strategies my whole life. One, of course, is a lot of green juice. I always feel better, happier even, the greener I eat. Sugar, especially corn syrup, is deadly. It’s a guarantee that the next morning, I’ll wake up having a panic attack.
Last month I was at BlogHer in New York City. I was chatting with my colleagues as we took a taxi into town. I had nothing to do with making the hotel reservations, so I hadn’t oriented myself to what part of town we were in. Consequently, I worked out in the hotel gym the next two mornings before spending all day at the conference.
By the third morning, my spirits had sunk a bit. It’s what happens when I’m trapped in a city of skyscrapers where the air smells like exhaust and I can’t see any trees.
The third morning, though, I went outside having no idea if we were anywhere near anything but concrete. Feeling a little desperate . . .
Imagine my surprise to see THIS! I was literally two blocks from Central Park. How did I not know this? How did I spend two stifling mornings running like a hamster on a conveyor belt? When there was THIS!
I was so excited to discover my proximity to freedom. To not have to leap over smelly sewer grates for blocks and blocks, with people flipping me off, on the long gauntlet that is life in New York City. Just two short blocks to where the air is clean and you can swing your legs without kicking someone.
It seems metaphorical for Life. Sometimes a change is so close. You think you’re trapped and you feel so claustrophobic, and then you just push outside the lines enough to discover that there’s as much oxygen as you can gulp in and fabulous trees and a lake just right around the corner.
It’s not just endorphins I get from running. It’s the unstructured time I have to practice gratitude. I don’t mean I just think of something I am grateful for. I mean I meditate my way into a deep, flowing place of ecstatic consciousness, mind-blown by all the good I see in the details around me. This, more than anything, takes me far from the fear and anxiety I’ve been running from since my earliest memory.
I see this guy and feel the pain of the humans on this planet who sleep in a park because they don’t have a home. And I feel grateful for a bed and central heat in the winter. There but for the grace of God go I.
I see this view and am blown away by the sudden natural beauty that exists in an urban space where 10,000 people sleep and work on every city block.
I look down and see my feet before I go back into the hotel. And I’m amazed they’ve been carrying me around, 10,000 steps a day, for the many years I’ve been trotting around the globe. My feet look amazing today, reminding me that they go EVERYWHERE. Thank you, feet—I rarely think about you unless you hurt. I’m going to change that, now.
Thank you, God.