The gift of generalized anxiety

Photo Credits: Alex Castillo Photography

Photo Credits: Alex Castillo Photography

A more somber post than usual, I’m afraid.

I had news of someone’s unexpected death today. He was someone who, while not very close to me personally, was close to many of my loved ones, and who left his family and friends much sooner than they were prepared for (as is always the case when just about anyone makes their departure, I suppose). He was a very good man and many people will miss him. I’m really sorry for his loss.

I’ve been hearing a lot about people’s passing recently. Enough to really catch my attention. At work, among my friends, on Facebook…. even in yoga this morning our instructor was telling us about the death of her dear friend who’d finally lost a valiant battle to cancer, leaving behind two nearly grown children who will no doubt miss their mother even as they move on with their lives.

Today’s events have led people around me to reach out (to me, to each other), conscious of the fact that life is short and that living in the moment is the only way to make time, in a sense, last forever. They’ve been alerted to their own mortality, and more so than usual, frankly, so have I.

But the truth is that while I’ve generally kept my anxiety at bay over the last few years – no serious panic attacks or physical symptoms in ages – I do think about death often. Probably more so than the average person.

Every day, in fact.

You might think it’s morbid but every day I get in the car or on the bus, or I cross the street, for a fleeting moment I think about a terrible collision that might put an end to my time on earth. I think about that flower-shaped mole I really want to get check out, or that weird lump on the back of my neck that I’ve had for ages, or sometimes when I’m at a loss for words or my speech is more halting than I would like it to be, I think about brain tumors, or melanoma or lymphoma or a million other -oma’s that could ultimately take me.

And of course, you all know how I feel about flying.

The thoughts are a symptom of my generalized anxiety, and more or less fleeting. Over the years I’ve learned how not to fuel the fire, so they drift out as easily as they drift in, without doing much harm other than jolting me awake for a couple of seconds.

Sometimes I think it’s a blessing and a curse, being this way.

On the one hand, it’s a curse to have my brain remind me constantly that I am eventually going to die, and I don’t yet have any idea how or when. On the other hand, being conscious of that fact spurs me to live my life a little differently than I might have if that weren’t the case. I’m not claiming to be a master at living life to the fullest. I haven’t made my peace with death, but I try to squeeze in as much living as I can because of it.

I never leave the house without kissing my son good-bye – even if I’m just going around the corner. I tell him constantly how perfect he is, exactly AS he is. I rarely put off things I really want to do, I value experiences much more than belongings and I look at the trivial things around me with a little more perspective than I used to, back when my brain would let me walk about the world oblivious to the fact that my time in it is limited – just like everybody else’s.

I’ll probably be thinking extra hard tonight about all the things I want to do with my life that I haven’t yet accomplished. All the things I want to leave settled for my son, and all the ways I could help pave the way for a successful life without me, if he were forced to. I’m hoping he doesn’t have to walk on that pavement, but at least getting some things in order makes me feel a little more prepared.

I’ll probably also be thinking extra hard about that yoga teacher training I’ve been eyeing over the last month. I may never be a yoga teacher, but the Universe always rewards us for taking the path toward something we’re passionate, even if at first it seems a little pointless.

Good night, everybody. Whatever moment you’re in right now, put aside a second to enjoy it. I promise it will make time last a little bit longer.

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3 thoughts on “The gift of generalized anxiety

  1. Your thoughts in this post remind me of a book my sister recommended to me. It’s called Staring at the Sun. It highlighted that being aware of our mortality is, as you say, a gift as well as sometimes an agonising source of anxiety.

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  2. Sorry for your loss ❤

    On the other hand, I am thinking like you when I leave my house. There is always a flash in my mind of what might happen, like being hit by a car, my car going out of the road, my kids being sick while I'm at the store etc. But as you I have learned to let it go almost as quick as it is there. But I should be better at living more. Thank you for reminding me with this post ❤

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