Birds in the sky — you know how I feel
Sometimes ‘the road less travelled’ is the path that is the most interesting. Today I took that literally. One of my emotional survival mechanisms is to take a break from work and have a walk. I can’t do it every day but when I can I always feel better. I work in an industrial midlands town so I love finding parks and areas of green and water whenever I can. From canals to lakes the industrial landscape gives so many opportunities for beauty. This half hour walk took me past a lake created at the foot of reclaimed ‘slag heaps’, the bi-product of the mining industry now long gone. Since the 1980’s when the mines closed down much of the land has been revitalised and made into areas for play and recreation. The same is true of old railway lines, now cycle paths and walkers and wildlife paradise. Don’t get me started on the politics though.
Today I changed my usual route which is to walk round the lake and followed the path that goes away from the water. It climbs to the top of the hill where a hidden secret football pitch lay green and empty. The views across the city are of high-rise flats and housing. The light was golden on the hill and the blue skies were a welcome change from days of rain. I felt grateful to be alive
It made me sad that in leaving the bustle around the water’s edge there is a slight feeling of anxiety and wariness. Down below children are on scooters and bikes, teens crash around on skateboards and dog walkers and families watch the birds and throw bread for them to swirl high in the air. Away from the crowds I meet surreptitious couples with rangy lurchers, a man carrying a bottle and reeking of alcohol, broken glass and the unmistakable signs of drug use. I don’t mind walking alone and I know how to look confident when I walk but the thoughts still creep into my mind when the people I pass look shiftily at their feet and none of us make eye contact
Coming back down the other side of the lake the sight of children watching a man fishing is comforting and looking up into the sky through the silver birch trees I breathe a little sigh of relief and head back to work.
Fish in the sea you know how I feel …
Only blue skies
I never thought I was an anxious person. A few years ago when I experienced anxiety and depression together I thought my world was falling apart. The sick feeling, the inability to be still or settled, sleeplessness and constant horrible feeling felt like the worst thing ever. And I remember saying that I’d never know what anxiety was before. Now, of course there is a difference between anxiety in its extreme form which is an illness and day-to-day anxiety which many of us experience. But I realise that I never recognised that day-to-day feeling as anxiety because I never let it permeate through long enough for it to reach my consciousness. Instead I would find ways to numb it, usually with sweet stuff. Other addictive behaviours like shopping or creating some drama also figured fairly high on my ‘coping mechanisms’, I use the phrase lightly.
Over the last few months I have been on a new learning curve. As part of a support group for compulsive eating I been ‘abstinent’ from sugar and other trigger foods for several months. That has taken care of the physical craving for all that stuff. But the hardest part, as everyone knows, is the mental obsession and the feelings that drive us to want to make ourselves feel better in the first place. Not so easy! And one of the first things that came up for me was, you got it, anxiety. At first I have to say I wasn’t too good at recognising it. Sometimes I must have it pointed out to me by my nearest and oh so dearest, “You are anxious” she’ll say, “about x or y”. My usual first response is to deny this vigorously. I didn’t get where I am today by admitting to having uncomfortable feelings! But I am trying to listen and not always be right ( That’s a Tough One). And 9 times out of 10 it’s true. ( It may be 10/10 but I have to have room for growth here). And then I am confronted with realising I have a Feeling That I Don’t Know What To Do With. My previous ‘coping mechanism’ hs been consigned to the bin ( food) and I am working on the shopping/drama/distraction ones one day at a time ( Sweet Jesus).
Last night for instance. I was giving a talk at the support group. This was the first time at that group that I had given a talk. I wanted to ‘get it right’. I re-wrote what I was going to say 3 times, I changed it again when I got to the meeting. I was pretty anxious. And this is even with a) planning b) praying c) knowing I was with friends. And I realised that the only thing to do was to say, ‘Yes, I am anxious!”. It didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do,
it was Just A Feeling. It wasn’t going to kill me. And the fear was what? That I wouldn’t get it right? That I’d make a mistake or make a fool of myself or not be helpful to someone else? Well phooey. Isn’t it wonderful how ego gets in the way of just being present and doing the job in front of you?!
So this morning I am sitting here knowing I did my best and that was good enough. That is pretty damn good for me to say. And today I am just going to be grateful to that anxiety when it comes along because it lets me know that all I can do is my best. And that the feeling will pass and today is always a new day.