The Anxiety Elevator Breaks Down
Last summer, we took a family vacation to San Diego. In addition to the practical preparations of packing for a family of four, my husband and I went through our mental preparations, which couldn’t have been more different from each other. My husband is in that quirky species of people called ‘positive thinkers’. His thought process looked like this:
We will travel through the desert with no complications. Our vehicle will climb the mountains effortlessly and traffic will be light. We will arrive safely and will find that we packed everything we need. Our trip will be filled with joy and we will create memories that will last a lifetime.
My mental preparation went more like this:
If we crash and both kids are trapped, I won’t try to remove them from their car seats. I’ll just unlatch them and remove them still attached to their seats. I’ll have enough snacks and water to last days in case we drive off the side of a cliff and can’t be rescued right away. I’ll pee on jellyfish stings and bring the necessary supplies to perform minor surgical procedures. I’ll take enough pictures in case I can’t stay present. That way, I’ll have proof that we had fun.
These kinds of thoughts have always come naturally to me. While I don’t write them on a checklist, they play in the background like muzak on the anxiety elevator. These thoughts have been the soundtrack of my life for as long as I’ve thought out loud.
I’ve been working with Lisa Neumann at Sober Identity since the end of July and she’s coaching me through the childhood issues I mentioned in my 2 year soberversary post. She’s my Trusted Professional, a person whose experience and compassion are guiding me through some of the toughest work of my life. I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of progress and what it would look like, but I had a really good moment this weekend.
I work from home and I had a meeting with a company on Friday to see about doing some work for them. The meeting went great and while I still need to submit a proposal, it looks like we’re going to do business together. I came home feeling fantastic. There was something about this joyful feeling that felt different for me but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. When I woke up Saturday morning, I put some thought into the proposal and then filed it away, knowing that I won’t have any real time to dedicate to it until mid-week.
Then, it hit me. There was something missing in this joyful contentment that I was feeling. Where was the anxiety? There’s supposed to be an underlying sense of doom here, something to caution me against getting my hopes up. Where are the thoughts preparing me for the worst? I hadn’t had one imaginary conversation in my mind where I had to defend myself or my qualifications. I like to think of myself as a hopeful person but my hope has always been tempered by a sense of foreboding.
For people like my husband, people for whom positive thinking either comes naturally or has been cultivated, this flash of understanding may not seem momentous. For me, it’s a God-given glimpse into what healing looks like, feels like and is. It’s a sign that I don’t have to be ruled by old habits or held captive by illusions that no longer serve me. Without my finger on the alarm button, hope can simply be hope. Joy can be joy.
I don’t feel “cured” and I know that maintaining this sense of ease is going to take mindful practice. But, for right now, I’m going to rejoice in it because it feels damn good.