Late Friday morning last week, I noticed something.
There was space inside my chest.
I have been waking up every morning with these bands of anxiety wrapped around my chest, which makes it hard for me to breathe. Every morning. It’s my constant companion.
So in that moment, when I realized I didn’t feel that tightness? I laughed in delight and joy and luxuriated in breathing. For the rest of the morning, I kept bringing my awareness into that space – my chest and heart – because it was just so big and open.
Over the weekend, though, we had a party, and there was a lot to do to get the house ready before people came over, which was more stressful than I anticipated.
And on Sunday my new boss emailed me. Again. He’s been asking for me to give him time ahead of my end of November start date, and I’ve been working really hard to put boundaries down around my time and be clear that I have limited availability until the day I have agreed to start working for him. And from my perspective, he doesn’t seem to be taking no for an answer very well, because he keeps asking.
Also, this is my last week in my current position, and I’m trying to wrap up all the extra testing I thought I was able to do and redoing some old work, since last week’s discussion didn’t go well.
And we’re leaving for North Carolina on Saturday for a week-long visit with my parents and siblings for Thanksgiving – which happens to be my 40th birthday this year. I love my family, but a visit with them comes with a whole lot of emotions.
That space I felt on Friday?
When I wake up and can’t breathe easily, I start to panic. This isn’t the life I want! Let me out! My mind screams at me. And then it gets mad. I can’t believe I built a life where I can’t even BREATHE in the morning. And then, cue guilt. This is the legacy I’m going to give to my son? Please, no. I just want him to be happy. Then, more fear. I want to be happy, too! What if I don’t actually have the ability to be happy?
At some level, I know I make it worse, exacerbating my anxiety by layering on these awful, self-defeating thoughts. But until I typed that all out, I didn’t realize the extent of what my mind – that voice in my head – is doing whenever I feel anxious.
Starting my days feelings like this bothers me a lot. I don’t WANT to start off my day with a racing heart and pressure on my chest. It’s unpleasant. And that’s why I think I’ve been fighting the feeling, struggling with myself, giving WAY more credence to the voice inside my head than I should.
But this is what meditation teachers would call “habit energy,” my pattern of reaction to unpleasant feelings – fighting them because I don’t like them. It’s hard and draining, though, to fight all the time. And it doesn’t help.
In fact, fighting feeling this way is making it worse.
So I’m setting an intention, here in this space.
I will not fight my anxiety any longer.
I will live with it and examine it and breathe through it.
But I will let it exist.
Even though I don’t like it.