Stupid brain. Stupid stupid brain, awash in anxiety, scrolling through the Yahoo home page and superimposing my children’s faces and names over today’s horror stories. Five men chase a father off by gunpoint so they can rape his 18 year old daughter, and I imagine myself in that position and my heart clenches like a fist. Dozens killed at a mall in the middle east, and I imagine our own trip to the mall this weekend being disrupted by explosions and the sideways rain of gunfire, and my insides leap like I’m on a roller coaster.
Funny how anxiety works. For a time I tried to justify my anxiety by saying that by imagining me or my family in those horrific situations, I was being empathetic, walking a mile in their shoes, etc…but I think that’s a clever trick that anxiety tries to pull. Anxiety is good at masquerading as other things, including empathy, but really, at least for me, it’s simply anxiety. To me, true empathy never seems like real empathy unless there is some sort of spur to action, whereas anxiety serves to do the opposite: paralyze you, leave you in stasis to fear.
One way to look at the world is: every day we walk on a razor’s edge; yes, we are happy, and safe, but at any moment, we can lose our balance and slip from the thin edge and tumble into the dark abyss of loss and sadness. I love the metaphor of being swallowed by sorrow, not because I long for it, but because I appreciate its accuracy: I see how sorrow, how utter loss, could subsume you, could change you in a myriad of lasting ways, how the “you” that you are today could simply disappear and not reemerge.
How do I keep this way of the world from becoming my default worldview? Well, first off, I navigate the hell away from the Yahoo home page. While some might deride this as the equivalent of an ostrich burying its head in the sand, I see it as a way to save us from the constant message that the media is trying to bury in our own heads: that we are not safe. Thinking about it now, I’m not 100 percent sure why they would want to do that – I suppose that’s another thought for another time – but I’m pretty sure that when we all step away from the news, far enough away so we can see the larger themes begin to emerge, we can see that goal as one of the overarching focuses.
Second off, I pause in my day and think of all the days I’ve lived in safety up until now, and the almost countless days that I have spent safe, without harm coming upon me or my children. Again, this doesn’t guarantee that we will continue to be safe, nor, if I understand my math correctly (which is not a given at all), does this mean that there is a greater statistical chance that they will continue to be safe, but it does help me to remember all those times where I worried and worried with such a strength that I had never had before, and still, even with that worry, nothing bad came to pass.
Just words to help me go on, words to help me take a deep breath and continue living, and living well.