To me, anxiety feels like a fire in my sternum, a round flash of heat that rotates inside me. I experienced that flush this week during a phone call. It reminded me of the time that I raised my hand in my sixth grade homeroom to ask my teacher, “Do we really have to go through every single problem?” She sent me to the principle’s office, or maybe it was the counselor. I can’t remember, but I was in Big Trouble.
I do remember the mortification, though, of being viewed as a rabblerouser, when all I really wanted was to be teacher’s pet and to get a perfect grade. I never once in my whole life wanted to rebel. Ever.
That incident marked the end of my willingness to participate wholeheartedly in a classroom setting. I learned to keep my opinion to myself. I learned to keep my arms and legs tucked inside the ride, no wild flinging of life or limbs.
Except sometimes. Except last week in a vastly different setting, in a situation that I cannot disclose in any detail here. However, as a result of my actions and a misunderstanding, I felt the heavy weight of disapproval. It was just like being sent to the principal’s office and as a result, I melted into a puddle of teenage angst and thought how much better the world would be if I were banished to a deserted island–or, for that matter, to a dessert island where I would drown my sorrows in hot fudge and creamy banana pies, and roll around in beds of marshmallows and creme puffs.
Really, for two days, I thought seriously that staying in bed, under the covers, would be the best possible solution to the conflict I cannot talk about. I stared at my gloomy reflection in the mirror and considered what a great failure I had become at life. But I cannot talk about it.
But it is not my marriage, nor my family, nor anything that happened in my community or my church. It happened in another realm, but an important one–and I hate it, as you do, when bloggers or writers won’t just spit out the details, but I can’t.
I do consider myself to be a decent human being. When others see me as a deficient human being, one prone to errors more than not, a person who needs to be reprimanded for the mistakes she’s made–well, I take that hard. Very hard. Ridiculously hard and I want to run away, far, far away. But I can’t. Because I am a grown-up. The luxury of collapse is not mine to be had.
On that very same day which was crowded with my own self-loathing, my husband visited a widow in our church and brought home an armful of neckties. I contrasted my distress with true heartbreak and loss and still could not snap out of it. I saw news footage of a Chinese mother looking in the rubble of an earthquake for her missing six-year old son and yet the despair of my own little tragedy clung to me like stubborn fog.
I even recognized what I had done–this downward spiraling negative talk, this personal cyclone of disaster that I’d spun out of a mistake and a misjudgment–yet I couldn’t seem to steady myself, to turn my frown upside down.
I’m too old, though, to wallow for long. So I literally told myself, out loud, “Let it go. Just let it go.” I cannot control circumstances beyond me, nor minds independent of my own. I have to just release situations that spin outside of my orbit in the first place. Do my best and trust the rest will sort themselves out.
Save the freaking out for situations which deserve it. Grow up. Get a grip. Move on.