I’m incredibly anxious lately.
After the Pumpkinman Half Ironman a few weeks ago, my coach and I decided that it was time for me to take a rest. A long rest. Mind you, a rest from training, not from life. Life continues. Hence my anxiety. I don’t think of myself as an anxious person. But right now, it seems that I am. Once again I’m learning to hold a space for my emotions whether I want to or not.
I woke at about 2:00 a.m. this Monday — the start of my second week of rest — in a sweat with my heart racing. At first I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I felt horrible. I couldn’t breathe. My stomach was in knots and I felt like I was suffocating. I wanted to run from the bed as if it was on fire and curl up into a ball at the same time. Paralyzed. Finally it dawned on me, “I’m anxious!” “Shit. Fuck. Crap. NO! This is crazy intense. What is this about?!” More than anything, I didn’t really care what it was about; I just wanted it to stop and I wanted to sleep.
But Anxiety wouldn’t rest and I couldn’t sleep. Instead, I lay there in a panic. Anxious because I was anxious and the feeling wouldn’t go away. How ironic. I was in bed with nowhere to run. Just me and Anxiety battling in my mind. Eventually, I had to accept what I was feeling. “Fine! Okay. I’m anxious. I’m freaking anxious!” I screamed in my mind. Kicking my feet and giving my rested legs a killer calf-cramp. Swell. “What in the hell do I do with that?”
I knew what the answer was but I didn’t want to admit it. I had to accept that I was anxious. I had to hold a space for Anxiety and just sit with it. (Or in my case lie with it.) I wanted to run from it, but there’s no hiding from feelings. Eventually, if ignored for too long, our feelings bite us in the ass one way or another. So I lay there accepting Anxiety with all of its bells and whistles. When I stopped fighting Anxiety and just let it wash over me like a tsunami, I realized that I was anxious about time. Craving time like an addict craving their poison. I couldn’t get enough of it. With my training break, I finally had some time, and I wanted more. Way more.
I have an opportunity to fill my extra time with things that I really need to get done. Projects, tasks, work, writing … you name it. Things that have been festering for way too long. My dilemma is that there isn’t enough time to get everything done. (Is there ever?) I feel like I’m constantly chasing the clock and clawing to hold on to every moment of life. But more than that, when I dig even deeper into the storm of Anxiety, I think what it’s really about is my need for external control. My thinking being — if I can plow through every corner of my outside world and organize it, declutter it, cleanse it — I’ll be able to cope better when the fatigue from training starts again and I have less time. I will have created a buffer from stress and anxiety. I will have more control.
I want my outside world to be a well-oiled machine allowing me to sail through my days with as little stress as possible. If I can do that, then I won’t have to deal with Anxiety at all. If I can create order, I will have outwitted the mighty storm, Anxiety. Beating him to the punch. If I can control my outside world I’ll be able to cope better with Rob’s chronic health issues. I’ll be able to feel like I have some say in how life goes.
But life doesn’t work like that. We have speed bumps and glitches and nothing ever goes as we expect it to. If I think I’m ever going to make sense of — or create order in — life, I am delusional. Life just doesn’t work like that. I know this. And yet I’m trying like hell to lasso time, bury Anxiety into a ditch in the farthest corner of my yard and gain control over my world. Good luck to me. It’s not going to happen. I know this. I do.
But you know what? If I’m honest, I have to admit that I’m going to try like hell regardless. I’ll probably exhaust myself trying. And the lesson is — as it always is — find the middle ground. Find the balance. Accept that I can’t control much. I cannot prepare for a natural disaster. I cannot make Rob’s health better. I can only continue to work on myself and my responses to all that life throws my way. That’s about all I can control — my inner-life. The best way for me to do this is by continuing to build a relationship with my authentic-self while holding a space for all of my feelings that accompany daily living.