When other people have it worse than you it can feel unnecessary and self-pitying to worry about your own problems. I’ve been lucky so far in that none of my loved ones or friends have died of COVID-19. Even though my life as a professional musician is pretty much wiped out for now, my family can still afford to pay bills and buy groceries, thanks to my wife’s job. I have health insurance so if I do have an issue, I have resources. And, although my daughter came home from her junior year of college early, none of our lives have been totally wrecked by the virus or the quarantine. Overall, I’m very lucky and I know it.
But as I’ve been going through life counting my blessings, I’ve failed to notice some things. As a first year student of yoga, I know that awareness is critical. Yet, I was not aware.
I didn’t notice my worry over the fact that I recently left a stable, good-paying job in education in order to expand my career as a musician only to have it all crash to a halt when corona hit. Current best estimates are that I won’t be playing live gigs consistently again until the pandemic ends, about 2 years.
I didn’t notice my worry over how difficult it may be for me to get my new writing career off the ground. Especially now, as economic collapses like the one we’re fighting don’t exactly provide the best opportunities for newborn freelance writers like me.
I didn’t notice my concern for how my daughters’ college days will finish. Will she go to a real class again in the fall? Will she get the hands-on clinical experiences she needs to have as part of her nurses training ? Is it worth her returning to college, incurring more debt, in exchange for a less effective virtual semester?
I didn’t notice the fact that I miss my other adult daughter, my parents and in-laws, and my closest friends. Even though I’m an introvert and enjoy being alone, I didn’t notice the fact that I also need to see and be with the people most important to me.
I wasn’t honest about how much I worry for our polarized culture. How will we deal with the corona pandemic? Will we come together and find ways to build a better community? Or will we default to selfishness?
These are the squares in my quilt of mild anxiety, draped over my consciousness, just below my distracted mind.
In the scheme of things, my list of issues is pretty mild. I felt like none of it was worth dealing with, so I pushed it all aside. But you can’t ignore what bothers you. At least not for long. The mind and body will get their message to you eventually, one way or another. My body used its bread and butter communication tool- digestion issues.
I felt the message physically, but didn’t grasp the meaning right away. Feeling a little rough, I gave myself the usual, poorly-conceived, internet medical assessment to identify my problems. And, after obsessing over all of the symptoms for all of the diseases and cancers I was pretty sure I had, I eventually allowed for the possibility that my physical problems were the manifestation of something else.
Like a Jedi in Star Wars, I needed to search my feelings. When I did, I noticed that quilt of mild anxiety, hidden in nearly plain sight. I also noticed my neglect in following my yoga teacher’s instructions, to take note and create awareness.
Noticing, acknowledging and affirming what is, makes it easier to deal with. Like a side stitch when running, or a wandering mind during meditation. Notice it. Acknowledge it. Tell it to chill out for a second.
Once I noticed that quilt of anxiety, my symptoms went away almost immediately. It’s like my body said, “Thank you for hearing me.” I feel lighter and calmer. It’s not that the situations I worry about have improved. They haven’t. But it feels much better.
I’m still grateful to be as lucky as I’ve been so far in life, but that doesn’t mean life is problem free. It never is. We all have things we’re dealing with, and those things are important to us whether they’re world-impacting, life threatening or not. We can feel thankful, lucky, compassionate, empathetic, worried and self- concerned all at once. It’s normal. Self- concerned doesn’t mean self- absorbed. There is a balance.
So each day, let’s make sure we’re taking stock of things. Every thing. Notice and acknowledge what is, not so we can be overtaken by it, but so we can put it in its place.
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