The New York Times has a whole anxiety column? I just discovered this today.
The below is an elegant description of anxiety, as I see it through the rear-view mirror, although the latest column by Alexandra Heather Foss as a whole is not reflective of my experiences:
This is what anxiety does, the anxiety that comes from being a sensitive being in an insensitive world. We are taught when we are young that life will be fair, good guys will win, that if we are well behaved we won’t suffer, that out there for each of us is some perfect stranger who will swoop in with armor and save us, some fictional man or woman who will make everything — all the assaults and sorrows, traumas and disappointments — O.K. But it is painful to be born, to literally be pushed out from a tiny canal, crushed so that we can live.
When we arrive the world is bright and harsh and loud. Strangers fondle our bodies as though we asked them to and then we are given to one, maybe two, people, our parents, who are supposed to love one another and us. Often some part of that equation is lacking and that becomes confusing because when the blind trust between child and parent gains sight and we see things as they really are, when we see the disappointed tears of one parent, hear the screams of another, when the reality starts to come into focus and we realize that what we believed was real never was and that trust is a candy peddled by strangers, it becomes too much to bear.
When this happens we have to look elsewhere for the picture of happiness we formed before we saw clearly the underlying thread of sadness inside those we love, all the while doling our light and love out to those lacking as if our supply were endless. Soon we are tired, our lights are dim, but still we give, we try to make things we cannot change different so that the people we love are happy, but the burden becomes great, the task Sisyphean, and those we try to fix are never satisfied.
And, an equally elegant description of our society:
Our culture is not nurturing. We ask each other, “How are you doing?” but we do not really want to know. We do not really want that person to say anything other than “fine,” because that would mean we would have to listen, to really care, something that most of us have not even done with ourselves. We want form responses, people who check all the right boxes, who say all the right things, whether they mean them or not. A résumé for a culture puffed up with lies, that is what we want. And as a result, we have a “fine” culture that is everything but fine. Medicated smiles, robotic responses, whole lifetimes that pass under the guise of “fine” when all we really want is for someone to ask and care.
We want nourishment, not only for our bodies but for our souls. That is what we need to flourish, to feel less anxious. Environments that are safe, loving, relationships that are honest and nurturing. Nobody wants to fight, not really. We are taught to fight ourselves and others, we are taught to be defensive and aggressive, so that we may survive another day. But it seems it should be different.
When I look at nature — the way a seagull spreads its white wings wide as it hovers just above a meal, the way the tide rushes in bringing shell sparkles and lost treasures, the way the sun rises every morning even when it is cloudy, the way a tree stands proud even when it is wounded, it’s roots deeper than the trials it endures — I see truth, a truth where there is no need for anxiety because things are as they should be. People should stand strong and say what they really feel not what they think others want to hear. They should flow with their emotions, like the tide, whether they be happy or sad. They should rise bright with possibility into every day and hover gently near what they want instead of aggressively taking.
I wish I had written this. Well-done.