“Does anyone in your family suffer from anxiety?” This question was asked during one of my children’s mental health assessments years ago. Catching me off guard, I answered decidedly “No.”
I have since boned up on my knowledge of anxiety.
The American Psychological Association’s definition of anxiety is: An emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.
Going back in time, I would decidedly change my answer to yes…most of us…on both sides of the family… going back generations. We are anxiety-ridden group of amazing people.
My response to the therapist now would be “who doesn’t…narcissists?”
On my daily morning walk along the river yesterday morning, I released my two pooches from their leashes to run in unbridled freedom through the green field on our usual route. While M the Rottie usually listens very well, my little L (Beagle/Jack Russell mix) has a price on her listening skills and will only return when called if she knows you’re packing treats, but not when a rabbit pokes its head out of the bramble or of she catches the scent of something tantalizing…usually dead. I will only pause to say that the fall salmon run is hell on dog walkers. Think heaven for dogs…a beach filled with salmon carcasses in various stages of decay…and hell for the owner who futilely calls for her dogs to stop rolling on them all.
Enter The Man In The Red Shirt
Entering the lush green field, I catch sight of a gentleman in a red tee shirt on the other side of the field making his way across. Immediately, anxious thoughts fill my head…should I leash the dogs now? It’s quite far away though so I still have time. Will L listen when we get closer or will she completely ignore me. I give a practice call, and they both come running. I give them a pat and let them run free a bit longer.
Trying to gauge the direction of the red-shirted walker while simultaneously scanning for distractions such as rabbits for L, I pause my podcast so I can focus my full energy on ruminating. I still cannot make out where the gentleman is heading, but I am thankful that he is wearing such a bright red color so visible amongst the green. We continue our walk edging our way around the field with me keeping an eye on the dogs and the man.
Now, my dogs are not a threat to people. They will keep their distance if they don’t feel like being social, but I know that not everyone loves dogs…even other dogs don’t always love dogs. If it is a dogless person/people, I will leash my dogs or if there is another dog on leash, I will leash my dogs. Another dog off leash though is fair game, and my dogs will happily exchange greetings in the inappropriate manner of all canine species. For many this would hardly be an issue to fret about, but being a chronic pleaser, I like to be thoughtful, and the idea of not being thoughtful makes life very stressful for me. I also have a deep-seated fear of being yelled at…also a part of my chronic people pleasing quality.
Facing Anxiety Head On
After anxiously ruminating on the best time to garner control of my beasts, the gentleman disappears. I keep my eyes out, and this occupies my attention for the better part of our walk around the field.
Nearing the spot where I had last spotted the red-shirted man, I scan the area and discover to my surprise a bright red post…not a man. I had spent most of the walk ruminating about whether my dogs would bother a red post which they totally would have if we had walked closer to it…christening it with their charm.
After laughing at myself, I got to thinking about how many things I get ruminating about which turn out to be red posts. From matters involving my children and husband to adopting the worries of my family and friends, I fully invest myself in being anxious for myself and my loved ones about matters which in hindsight end with a fizzle.
It is a quality I’m working hard to change because often what causes anxiety is my lack of trust in one’s ability to roll with life’s challenges successfully, and when I question that distrust, I know it to be false. Everybody I know and even myself has proven again and again that we have ability to take on life’s challenges and become more resilient in the process. Being aware of the pricelessness of time and whether I want to spend it ruminating on potentially red posts (and they’re mostly all red posts) is a possibility that always bears reflection.
Oh, and that it is time to make an optometrist appointment.
Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting control of it.– Kahlil Gibran