Wednesday, November 05, 2003

breathe

Sometimes when things just get too hectic or senseless, or when the pressure to do things weighs a little bit too heavily (and not just for Big Things, but even for the most mundane responsibilities – taking care of your kids, putting food on the table, paying the electric, water, phone, cable and food bills, paying the helpers’ salaries, attending to the business), it is important to just step back and just…stop.

In all honesty, the world will not end, nor will the stars falls screaming to ground just because you took a moment off.

It seems that for a lot of us, anxiety comes in the minimum size of XXL, in pairs or trios or six-packs – because everything adds up. After all, you are not alone. But rather than indulge in trichotillomania, do something about it.

Look: you play peacemaker on behalf of estranged friends and relatives (and see more sides than you care to); you get involved as the dispenser of wisdom in someone’s latest heartbreak (and realize how draining someone else’s travails are, or how petty, or how abyssal); you act as parent for someone else’s child (all the while juggling your own worries, asking yourself, perhaps unkindly, why such situations happen in the first place); you loan money or time or thought or skill to someone who asks for it (though its not as if you had much lying around, but how can we, as good people, say no?). You bite off more than you can chew, increase your load and work until your emotional core is exposed.

There is a limit to how much you can handle, and there is nothing wrong in setting everything down for a while. You need to do this on occassion - otherwise, you risk either dramatic collapse or slow degradation.

Take the morning or afternoon off, get away from everything, and park yourself in your bedroom on your bed and stare at the ceiling. Then just relax, consider how everything is transient, how your worries mean little in the greater scheme of things, how someone somewhere loves you. Think about what makes you happy, what makes everything worthwhile, be it faith or agenda or inertia. Remember what matters. Look again at what you believe in, indulge in a little solipsism (whether you believe in it or not is beside the point) then nod off to sleep.

It doesn’t matter if you dream or not. This is not about dreams - often they are arbitrary, and true dreams are hard to come by.

When you wake up, the world will not be changed; your concerns will not miraculously vanish. They’ll all still be there – where to get money for tuition and books, the problems with the choir, the impossible client deadline, the overextending houseguest, the Sisyphusian school schedule, the termination of a love affair, the emotional extortion, the burgeoning discovery of sexuality, the petulant child, the cold mother, all your unaddressed issues of hate, guilt, recrimination and fear, things that are neither salubrious nor pleasant – but now at a bit of distance, and perhaps with less devastating force, and definitely with the advantage of perspective.

What you do next is up to you. Just remember that while you cannot control the circumstances of your life, you can exercise control over how you deal with things.

Breathe, my friend. Breathe.

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