Combatting Worry-Creep

After a gift of gorgeous Spring days, Saturday morning and the weekend promises to be a little gloomy with only a dim haze of light where yesterday sparkled. I still mark weekends because I still have a job. Yes, our bookstores in the tristate area are closed but because I work primarily with educators and companies, I’m still in operation – my days safely at home on computer and phone doing business and sharing pep talks. Sometimes I am hit by worry-creep. I catch myself not breathing, my chest tightens until I remember things I am grateful for. Like for now I’m employed.

During my years of life in perpetual crisis-mode, I learned that focusing on gratitude calmed me. My heart goes out to all who are currently living with their own addiction or addict. Liquor stores in Connecticut remain open – considered essential and us social drinkers get to laugh appreciatively because who doesn’t need cocktail hour now? But there’s no such chuckle from someone who is seriously hooked. Recalling the recklessness I witnessed from my late partners, I am grateful not to be contending with an active addict in my life now. Strength and love to you if you are.

Back to things that calm the heart…

Having Molly here with me definitely tops the list. She was so ready to step away from her mom and out of this state where she’s spent her life. If her plan to land a job in NYC by February had worked out, well – it wouldn’t have been great right now. So yes, she’s not employed yet but she’s safe and healthy. We make each other laugh and bonus: she’s an amazing cook. Even if she were 6 and I was homeschooling her, corralling her away from friends and having to explain our current insanity – she would be my first delight and inspiration. But I won’t lie: I’m SO grateful to be living with this incredible adult version instead.

We love our home – although neither of us would win awards for best housekeeper and almost everything is shabby but not chic – we delight in this space. I look forward to getting my hands in the dirt, meanwhile adoring the cheery daffodils in our yard. We are lucky to have this home that I’ve managed to hang onto through all these years. The mortgage is almost down to what it originally was 24 years ago when I first bought it. – yes the bank will probably always own it. But thanks to refinancing (I have a great guy for this if you need one!) and my steady employment with blessed Barnes & Noble, we’ve weathered tough years in-place. We hope to continue to do that. I am very grateful to be quarantined in this sweet home – with a porch.

The list can go on. I’m sure you’ve got one too. Keep it handy. Of course I get anxious about this terrible illness disrupting our current grace-filled lives. I dread the thought of either of us, any loved one, any of you — losing our precious breath. But then — I breathe because I CAN — so deeply, filling my healthy lungs, expanding them as far as they will go and it feels positively joyful. I do this at night as I look at the stars – inhaling the cold night air while Rufus wanders the patchy lawn. I do it when I wake – stretching into the morning and gratefully taking a very deep, delicious breath.

How are you doing?

Clearing the Way

Christmas Eve I cleaned my gutters. At least the ones I could reach from my rickety wooden painter’s ladder or by climbing up on our flat roof garage. I’m pretty sure I didn’t do this last year thus the great layer of sludge that, if I were that kind of efficient, organized person, would become perfect compost for my garden. Instead, I scooped and tossed the rich goop down below with a splat, trusting the coming rain and snow will wash it all away.

Reaching the gutters around the garage and breezeway entailed scooching along the edge of the roof – not exactly treacherous but some bone certainly would have cracked if I’d taken the 7 foot fall.

At first I was fearful wondering what the hell I was doing up there on Christmas Eve when I should have been baking cookies. But I moved carefully and stayed focused and in less than 5 minutes felt at ease.

Every year I try to do some pre-New Year’s cleaning and my gutters seemed a good one — a perfect symbol for my clogged psyche, heavy with sediment. While sitting on the edge of the roof, I pushed through some of it – including a good dose of fear and anxiety.

Earlier in the day I heard an inspiring interview on On Being interview with David Steindl-Rast – this wonderful sounding 90 year Austrian monk who has to be a good guy because he was pals with Thomas Merton. If you have time, read through or listen to the whole interview – you might find it inspiring too.

This bit resonated with me and I thought about it again while crouching on the shingles: “… anxiety has a way of paralyzing us… But what really paralyzes us is fear. It’s not the anxiety, it’s the fear, because it resists. The moment we give up this resistance — everything hinges on this trust in life. Trust. And with this trust, with this faith, we can go into that anxiety and say, it’s terrible, it feels awful. But it may — I trust that it is just another birth into a greater fullness.

That’s where I’m headed: a greater fullness. From my roof I took it slow, payed close attention and managed to enjoy the view.

What a Difference a Day Makes…

March 8
March 8

Yesterday morning I shuffled out of the house to walk Tetley, simultaneously grouchy about and awestruck by the beauty of the snow that had fallen overnight. My neighborhood looked like a black-and-white movie

Twenty-four little hours later, I pulled into the driveway after work and caught a glimpse of color in the corner of the garden. I stepped across the now soggy brown lawn and found these. A promise of spring.

March 9
March 9

That’s March, isn’t it?  A crazy month of winds, rains, dramatic light changes, time changes.  The calendar tells us it’s Spring even as we still shiver and our breath lingers like a cloud in the frosty air. Still, we made it through winter – the proof is in the brave croci. We are in for wonderful changes – right? Notice, I hesitate. That’s the way I’ve been recently.

Lately, my old enemy – anxiety – has been lurking around ready to pounce on me at anytime, grabbing my throat and giving me a gut punch. My daughter is a senior in high school and we are waiting for college decisions, financial aid offers. Where will she be accepted? What will I be able to afford? You get the picture.

The uncertainty of major changes, so much being up in the air like this, makes me hold my breath, my chest gets tight. Like any parent, I want my daughter’s life to be perfect – for her to get what she wants – or at the very least, what she needs. And in this case, there is very little I can do to control that. So I have become a worrying, anxious mess. I hate myself like this and my daughter, the picture of calm and acceptance, thinks I’m crazy.

These 24 hours in nature (as always, my favorite teacher) reminds me how fast things can change and how most of the time, there’s not a damn thing you can do about any of it. Depending on how you look at it, this fact can be a comfort or, if you are me, a terror. That’s the key: it’s how you look at it. Any of us who have lived on the planet for any time certainly have experienced both the joys and sorrows of change and how fast things can happen.

Within 24 hours you may meet – or lose – the love of your life, win the lottery – (I’m waiting…) or lose your fortune, be diagnosed with cancer or given the all-clear. Shit happens and much of it is beyond our control. Better to not get in a tizzy, right? Better to wait and see what life will bring and meanwhile, try to live in the present. Seize the joy of  a blossom or just relax and delight in the peace of a snowy morning  as sick as I may be, of winter. Breathing is so much easier without the vice-grip of anxiety around my throat. And besides, this morning, it smells like spring.