I take it all back. Anxiety isn’t trying to help me. Anxiety wants to kill me. It ravages, exhausts, drains, whines, depletes. It wants to die. It wants to live forever. It wants me to give up.
My husband, as I’ve mentioned before, gets frustrated with my approach to life. “You just like to suffer,” he says. For awhile I believed him. Suffering gets me attention, and I like attention. I used suffering as a way to drive people to tell me it’s okay to quit. It worked. Parents, sisters, husband, friend have urged me to give up; “you don’t have to try so hard” they say, or “don’t worry about it,” or “let it go,” their weary response to all of my vocal and dramatic hand-wringing.
But “just quit” is not the message I wanted. It was the easy message, the comforting one. What I wanted (although I didn’t know consciously) was for someone to tell me to focus, to forget about everything on the periphery. Do what you want, I wanted them to say. Forget about cost; forget about inconvenience; stop trying to not bother anyone; stop running around cleaning up after us.
It’s not that I wanted to suffer; it’s that I didn’t know how to not suffer.
I get why my husband has such a pessimistic and unflattering view of who I am: a junkie for suffering. We are all addicted to suffering. I read that in a spiritual text, and I believe it. We find ways to be unhappy, to complain, to blame the world for our problems. We wouldn’t know what to do with happiness if we had it.
But I’m arguing—because I’m finally understanding—that I do not structure my life to maximize suffering. I structure it to maximize meaning (knowing that “meaning” is a tricky concept—more on that in a later post). The anxiety gets in the way and causes the suffering. I’ve let anxiety control me, let it deter me from what I want, let it convince me I don’t really want those things, that nothing really matters except being happy.
Except…it’s not in my nature to be happy without development and growth. It’s not in me to enjoy a life that doesn’t require me to use my imagination, my creativity, my mind and body. My commitment to these things I’ve chosen—yoga, writing, music—allows me to exercise and grow in ways that feel important to me. The work that I do, when free from anxiety, brings me an abiding joy.