“Long, I am woman who speaks but one language, the language of the fall – discontentment and self-condemnation, the critical eye and the never satisfied.” Ann Voskamp speaks my language in her book One Thousand Gifts. A language of the fall I know all too well and have been guilty of speaking often is anxiety.
I was born into chaos, which resulted in anxiety. Anxiety and fear are as natural as breathing is to me. In fact, in some weird way, I find comfort in chaos because peace represents “the calm before the storm”. As a result, I’ve trained myself to expect the worse as a way of protecting myself from pain. You may be asking yourself, “how can you protect yourself from pain?” and that’s a good question. I don’t really know because, quite frankly, there is no way to truly protect yourself from pain even if you prepare for it in advance. I tried and it always failed. In fact, after years of living in fear and with anxiety, I’ve finally discovered the key that may just get me out of this bondage, this way of living I know all too well.
Gratitude. You see it plastered all over social media about having gratitude, be joyful, choose joy. It sounds so simple and even appealing but it’s not simple and the action of getting there isn’t always appealing, especially if you are someone living with anxiety. Think of the most recent time you had anxiety or felt anxious. For me, it’s my health. I constantly fear tragedy happening to my body like it did my parents. Like me, your anxiety may be a result of tragic life experiences which makes dealing with anxiety tricky because there is truth and validity to why you are anxious. Now that you’ve thought of the most recent time you were anxious, think about how this anxiety manifested in you. For me, I become sad, preoccupied and overwhelmed by it. In fact, every good thing that happens is always tainted with this anxiety and fear I’m facing at the moment, so my joy is deflated and the moment it gets filled up, I deflate it again as a way of protection. I’m a slave to my anxiety. I’ve spent years in this cage, fighting to get out, desperately seeking for answers and help. Bottom line, anxiety leaves you feeling fearful and desperately alone so how can we get out of, what seems like, this never ending battle? Gratitude. Let me expose anxiety for what it really is…a thief that steals your gratitude for everything around you. Think about how much we miss when we are so focused on that which we are anxious about … the beauty of the sky, birds chirping, another day, freedom, health, laughter and the list goes on. Maybe I’m just the only one like this, but when I am anxious about something I miss (sometimes willingly) the beauty and joy around me. The thing about anxiety is you can’t will your way out, but you can have gratitude for everything beautiful and wonderful around you. It’s gratitude that will help you find your way out, that will make your blurred vision of thankfulness clear again. We can live life in the “what if” or we can live in the “even if” and have gratitude for what is here now. It seems simple but it’s a choice, an active one, which makes it hard because you are going against your natural tendency to live out of anxiety.
Today, let’s choose gratitude by opening our eyes and looking around at all that is beautiful and wonderful as a smile.