I woke early this morning. I considered going back to bed. I didn’t end up making that choice; I made coffee, instead. Yoga. Meditation. Then I took my coffee into the studio with the intention of writing. I found myself staring out the window, watching the sun rise. As the morning turns to day, I see cats, here and there, in the tall meadow grass, watching and waiting. Crows walk awkwardly about in the playground on the meadow hilltop. It’s an ordinary sort of morning, preceding what is likely to be a very hot day. All the windows and doors are open to morning breezes.

A sunny summer day.

A day ahead, ready to enjoy.

I sip my coffee, and think over a conversation with a dear friend, last night. Anxiety is a major demon for both of us. I understand how bad it can get [for me] and he has my sympathy, my compassion, my affection… and my frustration. How do I effectively communicate that some things have really helped reduce my anxiety, generally, and also resulted in the bad moments I still have being notably less horrible? Is that truly possible, or are we such that we must truly walk our paths utterly alone? Do I have any cause to expect that what works for me will work for anyone else? How do I force the understanding into his brain, give him hope, encouragement, shake him free of his suffering? I can’t, actually, can I? We can share our ideas… but the verbs involved are our own. When it comes to growth, it’s not possible to “grab the mouse” and say “look, move over, I’ll just do that…” – and it wouldn’t work, if we did.

This one’s for you. Yes, you. Here are some things that help with my anxiety, and they might help you, if you practice them. (It does take practice.) (No, seriously, you have to actually do them.) (More than once.) (Maybe a lot.)

  1. Breathe! No kidding. I can’t tell you how often my anxiety affects my breathing, which stokes my anxiety, with causes my chest to feel tight, which affects my breathing, which… yeah. Stop. Just stop. Breathe deeply. Feel your breath.
  2. Anxiety is a liar, and thoughts have only as much substance as we give them. Stop “thinking it over”, get out of your head and into your body – walk, dance, run, bicycle, lift weights – whatever physical activity you can connect with, really get into, and just be in that moment, doing.
  3. Meditation – we become what we practice. When I practice calm, I am calmer. Not only that – a regular meditation practice has, over time, become lasting calm, generally, and lasting contentment. I have bad days, bad moments, sure – they are days. Only moments. Weather, rather than climate.
  4. Connect with someone, talk, share an experience, or have a profound conversation with a friend – or a stranger.
  5. Allow yourself – or even reach for – an engaging intellectual distraction. Learn something new. Read something that takes your thoughts a different direction entirely.

I’m not a neuroscientist, or a doctor, or a therapist – just a person. A person who has struggled – does struggle – with anxiety. I don’t tend to have to struggle so much, or with such painful intensity, or as often these days… something is working. I’m pretty sure it’s a verb. 🙂

As for that other matter… the issue of self-loathing, feeling unworthy… you are loved. I know some of the people who love you (specifically you… and maybe also you, over there…), and they’re awesome. Why do you doubt? I mean… besides being human, and the anxiety and whatnot. 🙂 No, we haven’t overlooked some invisible flaw only you can see; we love you as you are. You are uniquely you, and as far as I know, each of us who love you earnestly desire to be in your good company. I don’t know better words to say you matter to me, that you are loved… Maybe you haven’t been there for  yourself as often as you’ve been there for those of us who love you so? It’s okay to change that. It’s okay to look yourself right in the face, just you and the mirror, and see some of what we see in you, and share that joy. It’s a new day. You can begin again. You can join us – and love you.

I sip my coffee, and think of my friends… each so valued. Each so human. I have friends who struggle with depression. Friends who struggle with anger. Friends who struggle with jealousy. Friends who struggle with ennui. Friends who struggle with anxiety. Friends who struggle with feeling unworthy. Friends who struggle with feeling a fraud. Friends who struggle to be their authentic selves. I also have friends who don’t struggle so much, at all. We are each having our own experience. Growth requires a hearty helping of verbs, of practice, and the patience to observe incremental changes over time.

Today is a good day to ask a friend if they are okay. Today is a good day to be there for someone. Today is a good day to change the world. ❤