I’ve been struggling the last few weeks with my old habits around Strangling the Bottle and it’s ironic that I sat down to write here today while still in a strange case of re-entry after a week in Durango for onboarding for my still new-ish job, and then a couple weeks of moving residences and another week on the road in Salt Lake City for the OR show… and here I am, on the mend from a fairly stressful few weeks, during which I’ve been really struggling with a feeling I haven’t felt in years … anxiety. It’s strange, after becoming acutely aware of the difference between stress and anxiety through my climbing life, and living for a number of years without much anxiety in my existence, to have a resurgence of this familiar old … friend? Teacher? Feeling.
For me, it feels like a nest of tangled ropes wrapped around my heart. It’s almost a physical sensation in my chest… when I don’t immediately notice what’s going on with my body, the tightness can actually escalate to a quickened pulse. My heart pounds, and eventually, I remember that I need to breathe, take a moment, and remember that no dinosaur is about to eat me. And then I can move through it… but lately, the anxiety has been coupled with a rheumatoid arthritis flare, which means moving through both anxiety and physical pain in a way that I’ve become blissfully unaccustomed to thanks to a few years of living in a way that reduces anxiety and a few months of having my RA treatment dialed, during which I’ve been living without pain. I can take the tangle of anxiety out of my chest… I can set it on a desk… I can see it, and watch it melt away, and know that it’s not real, and that I don’t need it. The pain, I do try to move out of my body — and a lot of the time I’m really successful. It catches me off guard sometimes, when I stand up from a meditation and am shocked at how “old-lady” my knees and hips can be, or when I realize that writing my daily three pages is actually taking longer than it usually does because of pain in my hands — but it is what it is. This is my body, and this is what it’s doing right now. And that is life. And I have had a number of reminders in the last week that I am blessed to have the body I have — seeing a hunched over older man, out for a run in Lincoln Park in his blue jeans and tennis shoes, lapping Teresa and I out for a walk. A former colleague whose wife got the all-clear on a scary mammogram, too close after finishing a round of breast cancer treatment. We all have our stress, anxiety, and pain, and I feel lucky that my life is as blessed as it is.
The other upside is that these sensations — which used to be normal — is now so unpleasant, so foreign, that my attention turns to asking them politely to leave and taking action to ensure that this ball of icky feeling stays away … to building a daily existence that doesn’t let anxiety take hold, and to taking care of myself in the ways I know I need to. Walking. Meditation. Yoga. Sleep. Writing. Remembering that I have the option to live lightly, and to approach difficult situations with a calm smile and bemused curiousity, not apprehension.
I’ve been writing more for myself again the last few days — it’s probably more a time for journaling than for blogging, and that’s just fine by me.
How about you: when you find yourself with that familiar feeling of either anxiety or chronic physical pain, what tools do you remind yourself of, to move through it all? How do you keep your chin up and your mind right?
Sara Lobkovich Newsletter
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