I work pretty hard at being happy. I work even harder at finding peace and calm, at acknowledging what I can’t control and letting go of my desire to try anyway. I’m probably more aware than most of my state of mind at any given moment, and I feel a fair amount of responsibility about what that state might be.
I suppose that’s why it pisses me off so much when anxiety or fear come calling.
Of course, none of us likes anxiety or fear. As a species, we go to great and sometimes ridiculous lengths to avoid these cold, prickly feelings. Our instincts are to run from, ignore, or push down that which keeps us awake at night.
As a species, we’re kind of stupid.
Recently, I’ve been wrestling with some ambiguous anxiety about my family’s year-long road trip. Although I’ve enjoyed dang near every day of our journey, I’ve found myself wishing for the end over the last month or so. When my husband revealed he was having similar thoughts, I suggested we might all be getting tired of life on the road.
“Maybe,” he said, “but I don’t think we’re tired as much as we’re anxious about… something.”
I thought about this a little bit and realized there were places my brain was trying not to go, worries and concerns that I wasn’t letting myself really address. At the risk of spending the remainder of a once-in-a-lifetime trip wanting it to be over, I decided to make an effort to let my own mental guards down a little bit.
What I discovered was that some changes needed to be made to our plans. Our budget was off, something I’d known but been avoiding for months, and we weren’t going to be able to achieve any of our long-term goals if we didn’t make some adjustments, which I’d also been trying to not think about.
After confronting the idea of having to change, which we’re all programmed to hate, and taking the time to figure out what adaptations would be best, I realized my anxiety had dissipated. Even better, I was no longer looking for an excuse to run to the end of our trip.
Experience keeps trying to teach me that fear and anxiety are road signs put up by the part of me that actually has a clue. The trick is learning to recognize and decipher those signs.