The Day My Anxiety Became My Friend
Sitting on the runway at Newark, it happened.
I started to enjoy my Anxiety.
I mark it with a capital A because it’s a person to me. It’s a part of me. It is its own entity. Forever in the background but sometimes in the forefront.
Sometimes she is quiet while other times she is loud and boisterous. Kind of like a Cajun auntie or insecure cheerleader from high school.
Miss A has always been with me. At least since the age of nine when I discovered the world could be a difficult and scary place.
And I used to always try to hush her. Ignore her. Subdue her. Suppress her. Do anything and everything to quiet her. But she is loud. Very loud and domineering. And usually, she would win.
She would dominate my thoughts. My fears would rise up and take over all rational feelings and obscure my reality.
But something changed sitting on that runway.
See, I had just spent four days in NYC. Four days of absolute bliss with my best friend and a dear friend from high school. We laughed, we ate, we slept, we drank, we explored, we lived and loved without fear.
And it was magical.
We got a bit drunk in the gardens. We made friends with a woman we would have never met if not for that day. It led us to find a stranger in the city that was possibly related to our girlfriend. So many things we experienced because we were brave enough to demand time for ourselves. Brave enough to talk to a stranger. Brave enough to venture onto the subway for the ‘first’ time alone. Brave enough to get on an airplane. Brave enough.
See, I don’t like flying, so when I was waiting at the airport and my flight became delayed once, twice, three times…Miss A began to make herself heard. She was screaming ‘Be Afraid!!!’ ‘Fear the unknown!’ ‘Fear death and destruction and suffering!’ ‘Fear not being in control!’…
And you know what, she was winning. Her voice was being heard loud and clear. Her voice was drowning out all the good. Her voice of fear was drowning out the love.
Because what is the opposite of love? It isn’t hate, like some would believe…it’s fear. And when people act, they either act out of fear or love.
So, what did I do?
I ordered myself a Long Island Iced Tea…because my breathing techniques weren’t working and I was dying for some relief from Miss A. She seriously can be such a bitch and unrelenting.
If you have never met her, you won’t understand, but if you have met her…well, you will understand completely.
So I drank that Long Island. And I wanted to cry because she was winning, again.
I hate Miss A. And when I say hate, I really mean fear her. I fear the feelings she brings up; the heart palpitations, the high blood pressure, the racing thoughts, the sweaty palms, and the emergent need to rush to the bathroom.
When I finally got onto the plane, I was fed up. Tired, exhausted and burnt out dealing with Miss A.
She can be like the friend that just doesn’t know when to quit. Never shuts up. Never. Stops.
When I sat down, I opened up my book, Bossypants, a tale of female perseverance and I turned on the song Oceans by Hillsong, hoping these would make me brave and fierce. And I prayed as I always do when I get on a flight…
Now, nothing magical happened. There was no big hallelujah where Miss A disappeared or became some comforting mother figure. No movie-worthy moment of becoming a fierce warrior that saves the day. Nope, sorry but that didn’t happen.
But I did realize something. Something that shifted my perspective of Miss A.
I began to think of all the fun I had on this trip. How I really LIVED for a few days. Soaked up each minute and wasn’t anxious about who thought what, what was going to happen, or anything at all.
I left behind all notions of to-do lists, emails, the strife and strain of everyday life, of sickness and of the unknown.
During the trip, I literally got tipsy and sat (ok fell) in a flower garden, doing yoga, while wearing white pants and laughed until I had to pee!
(Obviously, I would never recommend getting drunk or doing anything detrimental to anyone)
But I lived without abandon.
And as I sat there on the tarmac, waiting, I realized how it feels to be alive. To experience those big emotions. Emotions of joy and bliss and carefree laughing, and I had those! I was able to sit in those blissful emotions in full force.
And now, here I sat with Miss A in full force and I realized how amazing it was to be alive.
Experiencing her meant I was alive. Alive and able to feel ALL the feels.
And that made me smile.
I am so scared to die and lose control because I love living so much!
I love the feelings of joy and bliss. And now I know that you can’t forsake the bad and hope to only feel the good.
So, as we taxied down the runway and took off and my heart raced, I thanked Miss A. Thanked her for showing me I want to live. And not just merely survive. But live a life worth living. A life that inspires my daughter. A life full of joy and bliss and meaning. A life filled with emotions so big they are scary. Scary and dark and bright and the whole spectrum in-between.
Thank you, Miss A, for allowing me to be alive. To feel tingles in my fingers and toes. To feel my heart beating faster.
To feel the heightened sense of frailty.
Because without those feelings, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the pure unadulterated bliss the way I have.
To be clear, I still don’t want to be good friends with Miss A. I don’t want her at my cookouts or with me while I teach but, you know, if she shows up when I’m flying or when I’m about to make a big life decision, I’ll let her join me. I’ll invite her to sit down next to me. I’ll even invite her to stay for a minute, as a reminder that life is great and full and complex. And I’ll gently but firmly remind her I don’t want to be her best friend, and she isn’t welcome to stay for long.
Because I want to be more.
I want to be free.