When that happens, the familiar panic sets in.
What’s different now, different than when I was a little boy, is that I now know better ways to handle the anxiety.
Sure, I still self-soothe in harmful ways.
I can spend minutes picking mindlessly at my skin, but it’s so much better than it used to be.
What it used to be was pure perseveration.
My parents did a good job hiding away their worry. I hear stories now about the extent of my anxiety as a child, and the tinge of shame still pokes through.
But still, it’s so much better than it used to be.
These days I can do something productive with the anxious feeling that I’m not doing enough.
To start, I can notice it.
I can notice the shape it takes inside of me, a hidden serpent slithering down a murky and unknowable path.
And although it is unknowable — anxiety is a formless thing — I can still attempt to put words to it.
And to my great surprise, the simple act of naming something rids it of its power.
It seems like a cheap trick, but that’s anxiety — all bravado with little foundation upon which it can perch.
An extension of writing is making lists.
If I get my anxious thoughts down in list form, they are, once again, baseless in their construction.
What seemed so certain is barely propped up on wobbly stilts.
And I breathe deeply and learn to take it all in stride — to be better and grow stronger with each obstacle I surmount.
I’ve learned to write away my anxiety because that’s how my mind operates.
I dream in entire speeches.
Lyrics float effortlessly through the air in my dreams. Poetic riposte is written before the first argument has ended.
And then I wake up, and I curse my bad luck that I never dream up a pen with which to write down such fantastic words.
But it’s all ok because anxiety settled is creativity.
The key is stopping long enough, at just the right time, to grasp it.
The inspiration lies in wait for me, and I must show it that I’m ready.
And that ultimately requires facing down the anxiety.
It requires welcoming it at the entryway, fighting off every natural impulse to lurch forward and slam the leaden door in its shapeless face.
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