” Most of us follow our anxieties most of the time,” is what he said. I didn’t hear anything else in the conversation. I was stabbed by his words. Could it possibly be true? I scanned my life.
Working away on a project, and an email comes in, bringing with it a problem. Anxiety rises. Creativity crashes. A drive within propels me out of the door and onto the ‘fix’. Following my anxiety.
Vegetables lay sliced on the cutting board and oil heating up on the stove, NPR happily buzzing news and music into the air. Spices blooming and the sizzle of garlic hitting the pan. Smells and sounds that make the heart happy. Yum. The phone rings. My boy has run out of gas again. Anxiety. Frustration. Anxiety and frustration. I follow the anxiety out the door into the car and off to the mall. We get home and dinner is flat. No one talks much. We eat fast.
I wake up to the alarm at 6 and anxiety rushes in. That meeting. That person. That unpaid bill. And the day starts as I follow my anxiety and design my day by its cruel instruction.
Anxieties have the power to create our agenda, reorganize our plans and determine the mood of the day. If I decide not to follow my anxieties any more(ish) what would have to happen?
First it would take a moment of breathe between the introduction of an anxiety and action. Breath. In for four, out for six. Within that breath my spirit can pray.
Second, recognizing what the anxiety is latching onto. Have you had a time when suddenly you were tossed into anxiety and had no idea what it was caused by? With a little reflection we can identify the source and release the power. Naming a thing disarms it. Perhaps the problem persists, but the alarm is modified.
Third, choose trust. No matter how great the anxiety, God has promised presence, peace, wisdom and resources. Make the choice based on trust.
Today I am NOT following my anxieties. I have felt anxieties, just not followed them. At 2:15 I had to find a quiet place and go be alone and pray. At 3:20 I had to walk outside in the snow, and breathe, and listen, and go back at life.
Not entirely easy. But a day that feels like it didn’t get swamped by a wave of anxiety.