The same friend who used to reply to my complaints about old pains and new aches with a cheerful, “But you’ve never been 48 (or whatever) before,” also used to say, “Remember, it’s just Tuesday” (or whatever day) when a person would confess to feeling anxious about an upcoming big event or holiday. (Lie, say, tomorrow’s much-anticipated T-Day.)
“It’s only a Saturday. Same as all the other ones. Sunday will come next. Same as all the other ones.”
Yes, yes, it is the same, definitely the same as all the other Saturdays, indeed, but it is a Saturday with the addition of my wedding or taking the GRE or the LSAT or … . An event-focused Saturday is an impersonation of all the other Saturdays. An awards ceremony is not just another setting for a mediocre hotel meal, even though it is that, too. So thanks for not helping us out there, not even one little bit, Mister Calm Guy.
How does one keep that inner calm, that sense of appropriate perspective? The answer lies in that word “perspective,” and there is only one thing that adds perspective to one’s life: Doing things. Experience gives one a chance to develop some perspective about whether or not something is worth a worry or not.
Chaucer’s Wife of Bath says that life’s experiences give us no authority to speak on anything but our own experience of life, but it is all we have.
In “Panic Room,” a memoir I wrote about my own anxious life lived in anxiety and spent in a series of anxious worries about the possibility of future anxieties brought on by past worries related to my concern that I may be too anxious, I recounted several hilarious escapades involving my personal levels of tension, including giving myself a black eye while mis-tying my shoe.
Thus, my advice to me when faced with a big journey or a ceremonial event or a test or a family dinner is to acknowledge that I will be anxious, remind myself that the fun/important part is in the journey, that I will most likely discover new ways to be flabbergasted by people and to flabbergast them in return, and to enjoy the ride. Whenever I attempt to deny myself my anxiety, I deny myself my feelings, and I re-learn that repressed feelings will explode.
Don’t tell me what to do. Don’t you dare tell me to keep calm, I tell myself. And then some sort of calm follows.
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This is a re-write of a piece from October 2014.
The WordPress Daily Prompt for November 23 asks us to reflect on the word, “Anticipation.”
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