The other night, I felt absolutely exhausted, so despite the Croatia versus Russia World Cup game heading into overtime, I closed my laptop, turned off my light, and climbed into bed.
As I was lying there, thinking I would be asleep within seconds, suddenly all anxious hell broke loose and I started to freak the freak out—about things that have nothing to do with me and will never impact my life.
A few minutes earlier, I’d read an article stating that Cristiano Ronaldo is probably switching from Real Madrid to Juventus, an Italian team, and for some reason utterly inexplicable to me, it caused me to melt down. I’ve never watched a Real Madrid game, and while Portugal is one of my favorite national teams, Ronaldo isn’t even my favorite player. So what the what?! Why was this bothering me so much?
Then of course I started worrying that Croatia was going to lose to Russia, because I’ve decided that since my two favorite teams have been eliminated, I want Croatia to win the whole dang thing. And despite having seen them play for the first time when they decimated Argentina a couple of weeks earlier, I found myself in bed totally flipping out about Ronaldo going to Italy and Croatia potentially losing, and angry that Spain hadn’t beat Russia in the first place.
And then, damn it! I checked the score on my phone and Croatia was winning, so I probably should have just watched the end of the game because I was just lying awake anyway.
Then the article I was reading was talking about how Real Madrid needed to look toward the new generation of players because most of their best ones were “on the wrong side of 30,” which meant Ronaldo, who is 33 and only has a few more years left to play, and oh my God does this mean I’m old too? I’m already 30 and eventually I’m going to be 40 and 50 and everyone is going to be younger than me, and most people are already younger than me and there is still so much I want to do with my life and how did I get this old and I wish I was younger—and why am I not 25?
Oh, and because I can’t sleep, I’m probably going to feel too tired tomorrow morning to run, and I’ll be cranky and I won’t be productive, and I’m going to be single forever, which usually doesn’t bother me, but right now that idea is punching me in the face, and the earth is obviously going to plummet into whatever abyss lies below the infinity of outer space and the whole of everything about everything will be ruined.
The spiral of anxiety.
It’s also monotonous, tired, boring, and sometimes, totally ridiculous. And even when we are able to see the absurdity of it, a part of us is still experiencing it and suffering from the pain of it. While the other part is watching everything that is happening with a side eye, like, “You have got to be kidding me.”
The thing about anxiety is that it doesn’t have to make sense and it doesn’t even have to stem from any real, imminent threat. It has a life of its own and seems perfectly content to make us feel horrible about things that have nothing to do with us. Which is perplexing—and annoying.
If we are able to stick with it, though, and watch what is happening inside of us, the power of the feeling lessens and we can learn from it.
Anxiety isn’t fun, but it doesn’t have to be as debilitating or all-consuming as it sometimes feels. If we can find a way to separate just a little bit, even just to observe our thoughts in disbelief, the grip of it loosens.
Sometimes I feel exhausted by the repetitive, totally unsurprising, and uninteresting stream of anxious thoughts and worries that swing dance through my mind. But they are there and it is what it is.
When I’m feeling particularly dejected, I remind myself that this whole thing is a process. It’s a practice. And if I can find some way to learn from my experience or figure out a new way to cope with it, that’s progress.
Besides, I am who I am and I have the issues that I have. I can prod them and dissect them, and I can work to ease them, but they are still mine. And only I can deal with them.
I went to bed the other night feeling baffled and woke up the next day feeling slightly embarrassed that I could get so worked up about something so irrelevant to the living of my life.
But I did. It happened. And it’s okay.
We don’t have to have reasonable triggers for our anxiety and we don’t even always need to understand the nuances of why we are feeling what we are feeling.
Sometimes it’s enough to just notice it.
And feel it.
It’s happening, and it’s how I feel, and it’s okay.
It’s all okay.