Anxiety has been a constant companion for many years. For a while it paralyzed me and then I got better. I talked about that story in my TEDx talk. This story is about me living while anxious and how I made a startling discovery.
With any big project comes worry, I’d say that is natural. For me though that worry turns into heated anxiety that keeps me up at night. (Like right now as I am editing this post.)Anxiety tells me a story of doom doom doom. There are gory deaths and painful lives. Terrifying stuff all.
This time though, there was guilt mixed in with all the anxiety too. And that was new.
Guilt told me stories of traumatized friends, living on the streets, as I buy the just right something. Of refugees that walk a thousand miles with all their world contained in one bag, as I decide which luxuries are worth the extra grams and what do I leave for my return.
I’m not usually given to wallowing in guilt I can’t do anything about. This wasn’t making any sense.
Then a friend pointed out that if there’s an issue along the way, missing gear, losses, injuries, whatever, I can just throw money at it. It was meant as encouragement.
And even if I have no money, I have credit. And if I have no credit, I have family and friends. And if I have no family and friends, I have so much privilege that I can just ask a random person on the street for help and they likely will. I am white, I am educated, I look like someone who has friends and family and resources, even if they can’t access them right now. I am nice and I trust people.
The realization is so blindingly obvious now that I have it, I’m not sure how I missed it; I’m not anxious for death and danger. There are no significant dangers, beyond the every day dangers of existing in the world.
A potential night out in the open would be decidedly uncomfortable. Not finding food for breakfast isn’t fun. Having my gear stolen would really piss me off. But you know what, it’s not dangerous. Merely uncomfortable. I have resources.
The real story that anxiety is warning me about is discomfort.
It’s funny, in a tragic way, how badly we fear discomfort. I see it all the time.
No, let me not make this about you, because you are a lovely human being and I don’t know what goes on with you.
It’s funny, in a tragic way, how badly I fear discomfort. It’s there all the time. When I ask for favors, or when I speak up, or when I don’t have every last detail of a project planned. I fear being cold for an hour or hungry for two. I fear being asked a vulnerable question. I fear being found out.
But here’s the thing. Sometimes, often times, there’s something more valuable than comfort waiting for us. When I risk discomfort I also risk connection, beauty and intimacy. I risk truth and love and justice. Risking the discomfort of my journey I also risk finding meaning.
So here then is a new question:
Am I anxious about danger, or discomfort? And if it’s discomfort, is there something more valuable that I can gain?