I can’t remember where I was, what I was doing, or how it occurred to me but I do remember, with uncommon clarity, when I realized I’m an anxious person. This was such a shocking revelation as I had always seen myself through the eyes of easy-goingness.
I would always jump at anyone’s idea, thrilled to go swing in the park, go for a walk, or sit and watch TV. If someone couldn’t pick me up for an hour, I’d be content to sit and watch spiders crawl up the high school walls, even if I had just scratched my eyeball and was tearing so bad my shirt was damp. I rarely got angry, didn’t feel slighted, and bent like a graceful willow branch to the needs and whims of others.
I’m not sure if this was a natural tendency or just a defensive mechanism as I bounced from home to family to house to city to country and back again. I suspect it was my way of coping. Aside from some grounding religious beliefs (which eventually exploded, but they served me well for a long while), I didn’t form opinions about much at all. I could see almost anyone’s perspective, saw everyone as an ally, and worked hard to love and accept those around me.
At some point this took a harsh turn. Maybe the apple was being drug back under the tree it fell from, but I started being suspicious of people and their motives. If I didn’t get a raise at work it was because I was a girl working in a man’s bike shop. If someone pissed me off, I’d ruminate and let it fester, quietly calling the offender a wide slew of unprintable names, repeating the story to anyone who’d listen as the slight grew in size and magnitude. I’d judge books by their covers, people by their actions and soothe myself with the knowledge that at least I acknowledged I was prejudiced. It got ugly.
Then my quite moments felt less relaxing, my brain constantly spinning like a frozen hard-drive, whirring audibly, frantically with no way to stop.
Maybe that’s when the anxiety started. Maybe it’s all a culmination of the inevitable. I grew up with an anxious, depressed, and socially awkward mother, a role model who thought the world was coming after her. I dodged it for a while, holding fast to school-day ideals of a society that cares, of a God that won’t let us fail without picking us back up, and an insistence that it will eventually all work out for the better.
In any case, it’s gotten to the point where I find it hard to relax and to focus. I sit down to check my email and I skim any new ones, then get up and try to find something else to do without replying, only to be back at the computer in fifteen minutes, not to reply or do anything worthwhile. Mostly I think I’m looking for something new and stimulating, although I don’t know why. I start knitting, then get up to get a snack, do ten other things before sitting back down and then picking up another set of needles with another project in mind. I do eventually see most projects through, but I read six or seven books at once, unable to focus on just one. I think this is all tied together in a tight web caused by an inability to relax. I spend hours making a delicious dinner, snack the whole time, and sit down to eat when I’m no longer hungry. I scarf down a serving anyway and then wander off to do something else. Most likely to make lunch for tomorrow.
Maybe that’s why I like working with children so much – they’re so very present all the time. It’s all about the now and it grounds me in a way that I can’t do myself. But I’m trying to learn, bumbling my way around, working to be mindful and present. I’m not sure how I’ll find the peace of mind I’m seeking, but any progress has got to be better than this incessent whirring, this stuck busyness, the inability to shut down or move forward.