You naturally wake up with the sun and all of the birds at some time around 8 am. It’s a Saturday, or Sunday, it doesn’t really actually matter what day of the week it is because you don’t care. The room is warm and comfortable and you don’t feel the crippling need to roll over and immediately check your phone. You didn’t send any questionable drunk texts to your ex or love interest and even if you did it’s a non issue.
There is no to-do list or lingering thoughts about small tasks you should be accomplishing right now. There is no guilt in the fact that right now you just want to just live and pursue your own pleasures just for one day. There are is no questioning of what to do with this free time you’ve been allotted and no feelings of inadequacy in wanting to take some time for yourself. The weather is not an issue and you dress appropriately for it in the first thing you can find. There’s no urge to inspect yourself in the mirror for food in your teeth or small pimples. This is a day without anxiety…
For those who deal with anxiety disorders, a lack of nagging thoughts is limited to an almost masturbatory exercise like the one above. I use the word “deal” rather than “suffer” because suffer is a victimizing term. Suffering is passive, whereas dealing or battling is more of an active way to describe managing anxiety. It’s better to attempt to manage anxiety rather than be crippled by it. It’s better to pretend that nagging thoughts about what you should have done, or who you should have said hello to, don’t exist. It’s best not to dwell on the years of therapy and the money your parents spent on psychiatrists over the years.
The only way to live with anxiety is to try and accept that there are things you cannot control. For some reason as I write this the song “Turn it Off” from the musical the Book of Mormon comes to mind. The elders in the play are talking about repressing gay thoughts, but it still works for anxiety. Thoughts of Anxiety? … Turn it off. Whatever feeling is nagging you… Turn it off.
After reading several articles about anxiety on a plane so and so years ago including Scott Stossel’s “Surviving Anxiety” article in The Atlantic, (yes, I am that asshole who read The Atlantic on a plane) I got to thinking about what the perfect day without anxiety consisted of. I am sure Stossel wondered about it as well, he just didn’t place it in an article because his neuroses and issues with his parents were far better topics for a magazine. I don’t meditate because obviously it’s impossible to shut my mind off but this exercise was the closest possible thing, and I continue.
It is the type of contentment where you don’t wonder when it will end or whether something will come along to fuck it up. That something isn’t wrong when things start to feel this right. Where you can wander and wander and pass hundreds of people and not feel like they’re staring at you. Or if people aren’t staring there’s no preoccupying thought about what could possibly be wrong with you that they would avert their eyes purposefully? Where you can frolic in the grass and feel it lightly touch your body and realize everything is beautiful and alive. And you can just sit around smiling to yourself and appreciate this little moment and not make lists and wonder why so and so won’t call you back or relay all of the shitty things you’ve said to others. Or think about all of the people you slightly knew but didn’t want to say hi to. It doesn’t play through your head over and over like a movie the scene where you’ve hurt someone you care about because you were careless.
No, it’s just you and the grass right now and children shrieking with laughter. There is no anger and skepticism at how children can be so carefree and full of joie de vivre while you’re in mental anguish every waking moment and sometimes in dreams. You just smile to yourself and grab a popsicle from the vendor. You don’t even look at the calories they’re required to list, and you don’t do the mental math of how fat exactly the Ben and Jerry’s Peace Pop will make you versus the shitty sno cone. You pay the vendor the overpriced $3 for the Peace Pop without even thinking about inflation or the recession or whatever bullshit articles about how “broke millennials are” that your friends keep on posting online. You’ve ordered just the right thing and the last bite tastes as nice as the first.
There is something wonderful in the idea of very basic, simple, uninterrupted human experience that tends to slip by me. I am often so far in my own head that I am surrounded by things people dream about their entire life and I completely miss them. Anxiety makes a mountain out of a molehill so to speak. I could be experiencing a beautiful spring day in Central Park but all I’d be thinking about are problems that happen elsewhere. You miss out on a lot, and that really is the “suffering” in an anxiety disorder. Other than physical symptoms that is. #firstworldproblems.