If you focus on the worst case scenario and it happens, you’ve lived it twice.— Michael J. Fox
The issue with pain is I want it to go away. I want to avoid the fear, confusion, and anxieties attached to not knowing what happens next.
The thing is, life happens. I’ve thickened my skin enough, and done enough work, that I’m fairly indifferent to certain things. I know whatever I feel in the moment will pass and so feel confident about going about my life regardless of C or anyone else. The opinion of haters and contemptful is none of my business.
This of course doesn’t stop anxiety from hijacking the moment, and knowing this I’ve been studying how my body responds to anxiety.
For example, this is the reading from the rough landing in Minneapolis last weekend. My Garmin said I had a resting heart rate of around 60 bpm but after a hard landing, big bounce, and heavy breaking my heart rate jumped to 137 bpm. It took about six minutes for my heart rate to come back down to normal.
Lots of anxiety.
This past weekend I visited a beautiful sculpture park outside of the Twin Cities. As I was minding my business, I noticed the beautiful hair, summer dress, and knobby knees of the woman walking along the path thirty yards away.
The thought of C fluttered by my mind’s eye like a surprise butterfly.
It took me a moment to realize it was C.
I figured she didn’t see me as I turned my attention away and focused on the tasks at hand. As I glanced up one last time, I saw her fiance turn and give me the stink eye.
She saw me.
Here is the part that matters.
When I recognized C, my heart rate spiked three times from an active heart rate of 70 bpm to 103 to 124 to 90. Each of those peaks, and the associated valleys, happened over a seven minute period.
The first spike was “Oh, fuck!” and a shot of adrenaline turning on the anxiety making machine. The 124 bpm peak was another hormone charge, “Bitch!” as my anxiety and fear turned onto anger.
The third peak came as she was leaving and the acute heartache struck, and I once again was confronted with the grief of knowing I still care about her but cannot care for her.
One, I’m getting better at not letting anxiety run me.
Two, the anxiety created at the thought of crashing in an airplane is only slightly more than the anxiety involved in crashing in a relationship.
The lesson is some things are more survivable than others.
Frankly, I find how my body and mind instinctually respond fascinating.
A year ago, I would have taken each one of those peaks as an arrow to the heart and imagined meaning, prolonging suffering for days or weeks. I would have taken each spike and spun it into more anxiety. I would have taken each hormone charge and as my body and mind conspired to push me to fight, flee, or freeze I would have reacted.
Now I simply turned to a friend and said, “This is fascinating! Look what my body did!”
As I said to my Twitter friend, “I am far more curious about my reaction than about C.” Once I recognize what my mind and body are doing the sooner I can detach from the anxiety and fears prodding me. The sooner I can detach from the thinking and feeling the sooner I can see their is nothing to run from and nothing to fight. As Tara Brach writes, “The mind secretes thoughts like the body secretes enzymes.” The body and mind do what the body and mind are designed to do. My job is just to show up.
Given time and intention what, and who, C does becomes less and less meaningful. Her responses and actions are not my concern. This is the life she wants. By focusing on my reactions I have discovered and developed tools, options, and power I didn’t have before. I know I did what I could, and I won’t chase or pursue her or anyone else. I will simply love her from a distance.
The thing is until I know myself well enough to ask the question about what is happening to me I am forever running from feeling to thought to feeling to thought. Nothing changes until I stop running and ask myself why I am doing this thing or that. Until then everything will appear to be an arrow or a burning bush. For example, the body reacts to sexual arousal and the flu in similar ways. As such, if I don’t stop long enough to greet my emotional and physical sensations with curiosity, I will get fucked twice.
I have lived with anxieties and for entirely too long they have interfered in my ability to live in the moment. However, today, at this moment, anxiety is still here but it isn’t running me.
Today, I’m excited about the moment. I’m excited about seeing what the future brings.
Exist In The Moment
I am slowly learning to train my brain on the present instead of spending my time trying to predict the future. Worrying is not preparing me for the worst case scenario the way I have been telling myself. It has only been making me more paranoid. It has only increased my stress levels…Click here to read more.