I know of only one way through life and that is forward. Not so good at standing still or moving backward. But it has not always been so.
As a child, I was a tiny slip of a thing. Pale, bookish and shy, an anxious observer of life rather than much of a participant. If I was moving forward, it was reluctantly. The world moved too fast for me, people spoke too loudly and expectations were my nemesis—not because I didn’t perform but because I felt I must exceed them.
In my house, love was offered for performance. Talk about incentive systems. I’m sure my parents were unaware this is how it appeared to me, but nonetheless, there it was. If all A+s on my report card, but for one lonely little A—the praise was not to come. Instead, “Why not a plus in this class?”
And so, I jumped through hoops. I also went home “sick” a lot which was less true illness than my anxiety becoming so unbearable that I felt ill.
As I became class vice-president, gave speeches, won scholarships and seemed to be doing all the right things, I felt ill. I had to resist the urge to throw up before starting my first real job, turning in my first real newspaper feature, going on my first real date.
I did not realize that not everyone felt this way. That some people thought such things were not a big deal—not determinants of their worth as a human being. That some people knew how not to put it all on the line.
I wish someone had taught me this early in life.
And yet, I’ve been able to learn this lesson as I’ve aged.
Which makes me a keen observer of those who have not.
I have friends who suffer from acute anxiety and they don’t even know it. They don’t realize that what they feel and put themselves through is excessive. They tend to raise children with the same issue. This may be a chemical thing or it may be environment—but either way, it’s not healthy.
I wish more people were open about the scarlet A they carry around, secretly. No need to suffer alone and in silence.
I was lucky enough to grow out of my anxiety issues. Or maybe, better put, I just faced them. I soon learned the only way to true peace was to face my worst fears. It was hell leading up to whatever I had to face but sweet relief on the back side of the event. I guess the professionals would call that behavioral therapy, but it was self-induced. It worked, which is really all that matters.
As I watch my children navigate a world that throws far too much information, adult content and unfiltered muck at them, I talk to them about taking time to just be. Meditation, deep breathing, zoning out while unplugged—and yet, I feel I’m fighting an uphill battle. Against a world that is anything but unplugged and ready for meditation.
If life were fair, I’d win this one .