I’ve been working on my anxiety lately, which is something I neglect because I more often have to deal with the other side of the coin, my buddy since way back, depression. But my depression has been pretty self contained these days. A side effect of doing what I love, and also allowing myself to under earn for a time while I figure out how to make things work. Instead, of a quiet hum that whispers for me to crawl back into bed, recently there’s a current of worry juice running through me.
Sometimes I can flush it out. Ground myself. Take a shower, go to the gym, lose myself in a book, a show, a game, a movie. It’ll come back, but the flush is enough to remember. To feel your breath and your heartbeat. To remember how special life can be. How good a glass of water can taste. But it’s a sneaky thing, anxiety. Too much worry is something I’d say most of us struggle with. We worry about things that are immeasurable and out of our control. We worry about how we are perceived or if we're working hard enough. If we're making the right decisions. Of course, some worry is good. Worry makes you double check a form before you submit it. Or that the oven is off. Worry makes you think about others and how a situation will affect them. Worry can keep you tethered to things. Help you keep tabs, pay bills, show up to work on time. It pulls some serious weight.
But then there is a baseline tightness in your chest. Or a pinch in your shoulders. There is the can’t-fully-relax-even-when-you’re-asleep anxiety. Or for me, there’s the bite your nails off, tongue that one tooth that's a little wonky, pace around the room wildly, look of anxiety. Sometimes I just can’t convince myself not to panic. It can be hard to talk yourself out of something that's hard to measure, and exists mostly in the recesses of your brain and that expresses itself mostly in emotions. Something that's also programmed into us. Our fight/flight responses. That which used to protect us from wolves now has us worry that our dogs secretly resent us (and we domesticated those wolves specifically so they'd like us!)
I worry worry worry about some big thing or other, or more commonly, just a very busy few days. Let’s say, a craft show. I worry hard and fast about what I need for this show, decorations, new products, deals, prices, tactics, what should I wear, should I ask a friend for booth help? And then when the show arrives, I am relieved that it’s not a nightmare. And then when it is over, the whole thing has been such not-a-big-deal that I feel depressed. Anxiety is an over-inflated form of expectation. And so when the event itself doesn’t meet up with my fears, when I don’t need all 300 of the business cards I made or, no one is going for my price breaks or signing up for my giveaway there's a huge drop. And the relief after a thing is done is so great, that I feel confused without it. Often what comes next is depression. It's over, and I somehow feel like I missed it.
It’s incredibly disappointing, but it doesn’t need to be. If I can manage my anxiety better. Work through things more rationally, calmly. Temper my expectations. Then I can come out the other side, well, unscathed I guess would be the best way to put it. Without the need for a recovery period. An overly moody contemplative rebound.
Recently I had an opportunity to go to Beacon for a week to watch my friend's shop and dog/cat. It was a no-brainer for me because these are the EXACT kinds of opportunities I want to fill my schedule with. I get to go somewhere nice, do something I like that's creative, that doesn’t keep me from making cards, and I stood to make a bit more money than I would have made if I hadn’t gone. I was so psyched, but soon after that, came all the things I was going to have to get done in order to make it happen.
And the anxiety came. But not when you think. It came on the trip. Prepping was a delight. I can be crazy indecisive about what to do with my time, but with the trip in mind, I knew exactly what I'd have to have finished by when. The anxiety came during the stay, not when I was minding the store, but at the end when I had a few days off. 3 days when the shop was closed. All the sudden all the things I had trouble finishing in my city life, which I had imagined having time for in Beacon became stressful, harmful things. I have a bad habit of doing this. Some things on my to do list I let slide peacefully, over and over. For months sometimes, and I just think, well, I’ll do it one day. But other times I get really stuck on the idea of something needing to happen NOW.
Entrepreneurs get things done. I heard this recently in a commercial for a computer and it PUMPED ME UP. I think it most certainly is true that as an entrepreneur you are responsible for just so much, and no matter how efficient (or not) you are, you certainly get more things done than the average bear. But sometimes you are held down by the things. Sometimes you keep yourself from really breathing, from really being present (and even from making intelligent decisions at times) because you are defining yourself through your accomplishments. Living life as a Human Doing.
Sundays tend to be the day where I just statistically get more things done. As far as my side business is concerned, the food's all done, and packaged, just needs to be delivered. The trash and recycling goes out this day. But it’s also the day I tidy up, scrub the stove, vacuum, take care of bills, do some Shipwreck odds and ends, go to the gym, it can quickly become so productive that it makes me wonder about the rest of the week. And I look back at the day in a sort of wonder. How'd I do that?
But more importantly is this, is Sunday me, me? I mean most days I’m not super productive. I’m not making my to-do list sorry it was ever born. Some days even writing one is kind of a mean thing to do to myself. Others, it’s just the not the best way to measure a day. Like, perhaps on vacation. Sure, this was a working vacation, as in I had certain expectations inherent in the job (run the shop, watch the dog/cat), but other than that all of my expectations were self-imposed. I turned my fun trip into a Sunday.
Ultimately it was a wonderful experience, and it lived up to all the reasons I was excited about it initially. But I got worked up, and anxious and kept it from being the peaceful trip it could have been. And I saw myself be controlled by the feeling of accomplishing. Because there are so many things everyone does in a day, that wouldn't necessarily go on the work order of the day. Things that aren't productive. But these things have value too. Much needed value in fact. A walk. A nap. A phone call without a reason. Flipping through an art book or a magazine. And it's about looking at both lists and saying, isn't life more than just a series of things? A list of lists? Does that do anything justice?
So to look at anxiety is to make the list, but not to let it control you. Sometimes I fall in love with the idea of myself as entrepreneur computer commercial guy in the sense of accomplishing things. Do more. Be sharper. Be more available. Make. Sell. Teach. But this is not who I am. I am not just someone who owns a stationery company that is impressive to some, and not impressive to others. I am not just a guy who likes to tinker, and who has the patience to make labor intensive paper crafts, and the bravery/stupidity to stick to a career path that's mostly risk. I'm something much harder to describe, and no amount of doing or not doing will take that away from me.
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