She grabs your shoulders from behind, in a back-hug and shakes you around like a my-sized, standing shake and bake…also how you’re not supposed to shake a newborn baby.
“Look at you! You’re amazing!” She says to your reflection that stares from an abandoned and mirrored headboard on the sidewalk that you’re sure has witnessed a night or eighty of raunchy sex.
You tell her you may cry because you’re hungry and tears are your undue reaction to low blood sugar. You try not to for the sake of the man with a man-bun walking towards you, the only witness to this kind and accidental interaction with this girl that is young and spunky and that you fight with during the one and a half day overlap when you are both on your periods.
You’re grateful for the walk that distracts you from your anxious thoughts that have nothing to do with being amazing for eleven minutes. Most mornings, when you’ve stepped into the shower a steady flow of: What if, what if, what if, what if thoughts entrench your mind. Quiet and sly, at first, and then solemn and sudden. They become demanding. What if! What if! What if! What if! They blare, until the worries become too blunt and tangle with reality. They transform to Of course! Of course! Of course! And in your mind and heart what you fear has already occurred and your anxiety transitions to the reactions to events that have never happened and cloud your perspective.
You know you don’t have a life altering illness and that you have many, many things to be thankful for. Food and shelter and family and friends and love and adventures and free beef jerky at your place of employment. You know because you’ve neglected many a present moment to obsess over these things themselves.
Your mind that operates in a loop only perpetuates itself and makes you want to do something drastic. Move abroad. Quit your job. Call your mother and ask her what she thinks about the man you’re dating. She will tell you that even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll survive. A comment that reminds you of lying on the floor in a matching sweat suit that wasn’t yours and begging for what you wanted from another one and seems a little too recent.
You try to practice mindfulness, to not drink too much coffee, to run, to recognize negative thoughts when they form. These figurative tools and others chip away at the anxiety; they guide it back in line like a floppy puppy on a leash on the sidewalk in the afternoon. You’re constantly shepherding your mind from anxiety back to reality, back and back and back and back. It is never possible to dissolve it completely and the constant cataloging of your natural thought pattern is exhausting. Sometimes the anxiety escapes its constraints and rampages before you’ve even realized it was tugging and you can’t rein it back.
The anxiety itself is that gregarious dinner party guest that stays too long. He’s still there after the dishes have been washed and dried and placed back on their shelves. He’s there after the rest of your guests have gone and after you’ve rubbed your eyes in a subtle, social cue sort of way. He is there, talking, requesting coffee after you’re donning your pajamas in your home. Your own home! And you will have to offer your couch to him so that you can go to sleep.