I head outside for a walk while the sun sinks lower and the temperature with it.
Within a few seconds the cold is scratching at my legs.
My jacket reaches my knees but below that my calves start to burn as I pick up my pace.
I feel a sense of urgency, like I’m racing the sunset to my favorite view, hoping to catch the last few rays of light over the lake.
But I’m also racing against something else.
An unseen something, that I meant to leave at home but it’s followed me out here . I can’t find a minutes peace even if I want to.
The wind burns my forehead as I walk faster.
The world’s on fire:
The news breaks my heart and then fills it with lead, a foreboding sense of helplessness.
Every day it’s a new tragedy, and even if I want to hide I can’t.
I need to feel it.
I need to do something.
I can’t keep up.
There’s a to do list longer than the hours in the day and even when I go-go-go all day long I feel behind when my head hits the pillow two hours later then it should.
My kids need me, my marriage needs me, the laundry needs me.
I need to do more:
I’m not enough. I want to build a legacy, change the world, love better, be better, do better.
And be holier and happier while I do it all.
I regularly feel the suffocating pressure that I’m somehow missing the mark in my own life.
I need to be more:
I haven’t been outside even ten minute but my legs are burning and the sun is dipping lower while I try to unscramble my thoughts.
I need to fix myself in these ten minutes, and then return to my beautiful family refreshed and ready to do and be everything.
I’m annoyed at my lack of inner peace, my frantic search for calm.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll be better.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll be different.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll be evergreen.
I wrote this poem in my last season of deep anxiety, 2 months before I start anti-anxiety medication for PMDD. I had so many hard days in a row, and my anxiety was winning at this point. I felt so deficient and totally unable to fulfill all the things I needed to be and do in a day. On top of that, I felt a deep sense of helplessness at the things I was reading in the news and online. There was so much pain in the world, that I couldn’t do anything about. I felt like a hibernating tree in the winter, anxious for spring.
We’re in the dead of winter now, with blustering cold days and so much snow, and I still feel some of those things. The weather is horrible, winter is dragging on, and there are things in my world and the World that I can’t understand or fix. My to do list is longer every day, and my life is still full of many demands that I can’t always balance.
I don’t feel helpless. I don’t feel angry with myself. I don’t feel “annoyed at my lack of inner peace, my frantic search for calm”. I don’t feel like I’m “missing the mark in my own life”. I don’t feel hopeless.
Since beginning medication in January, and leaving social media around the same time, I feel a deeper sense of rootedness in my own life – maybe for the first time ever? I know that what I can accomplish today, is enough for today. I know that the mistakes I make with my kids today, will be forgotten tomorrow. I know that the pain I feel today, will heal and go out like the tide, maybe tomorrow. Maybe the day after.
I am not hopeless.
I am not at war with myself.
I am not at the mercy of my anxiety.
One of the greatest skills I’ve learnt from CBT and mindfulness meditation is to learn to sit with a feeling. Whether it’s anxiety, grief, or joy, I now know how to sit with an emotion and watch it swell and fade, without feeling like I need to control it. Anxiety makes you feel like you need to change and fix and do everything NOW, or else you will die. It’s such a primal fight or flight feeling, that sitting with it mindfully feels impossible. Medication has helped me tap back into that tool, so that when the hard moments come (and even with medication, they still come) I am able to sit with them.
Things I can’t understand, things I can’t fix, pain I can’t heal on my own, tasks I feel I’ll never have time for – I sit with them, I acknowledge them, because that is all I can really do. Control is an illusion, and if I can remember to return to my breath and rely on the one who gave it to me, I will always be evergreen.
Dedicated to my dear friend Lauren. Thank you for journeying through anxiety and motherhood with me, and for encouraging me to let go of my fear of medication. I am always here to sit with you, and to ride the wave of any emotion, as you’ve sat with me ❤️