I’m Trying Not to Be Stressed, I’m Trying to Be Afraid

It’s a frightening time.

I’m frightened.

My body has been on high alert for days. I’m exhausted when I fall asleep and I’m exhausted when I wake up. I am on an edge that no amount of meditating or cute puppy pictures can push me away from. I cry when something breaks in my house or when food doesn’t turn out. I cry when I read the news. I cry when I have do literally anything that is not looking at the news — what if I miss something critical to my family’s survival? The what-if worst case scenarios are so close to the surface of my psyche that you can read them in the bags under my eyes.

At the same time, I am radiating anger over our current administration’s fumbling and self-serving buffoonery. Anger helps people feel like they have agency. Anger means that you have not given up hope but you are furious that hopeful things have not happened yet. I am so furious right now that my body is in full on fight mode — ask my partner how many hugs I’m not accepting (but want oh so badly once my body calms down).

Today seems as good a day as any to start blogging again. By the look of my tweets, I’ve posted an essay or twenty in the last 24 hours anyway. I tend to tweet a lot when I’m anxious frightened. Me and the rest of the sane world are scared shitless (there is a hilarious joke about stockpiling toilet paper if you care to make it).

I had this theory before novel coronavirus took over the world. The theory was that I was hiding behind words like anxiety and stress because I was ashamed to admit that when I used words like those I was hiding from what they really meant– I was afraid.

When I said I was stressed, I was actually afraid. When I said I was anxious, I was afraid, when I said I was nervous, I was also afraid. That was the truth I felt I needed to sit with in order to overcome my fears, both real and imagined. But, I had a fear of feeling fear. Stress and anxiety sure – those are like “soft fear” right? Wrong, turns out, it’s all fear and we are suckers who are afraid of naming it.

It sounds insane, but it’s true. As a culture, we are afraid of fear, and I didn’t want any part of that lie – I pride myself on being emotionally transparent, at least to myself. So, like the queen of a far far away land naming Rumpelstiltskin, I was hoping that by naming and exposing these “soft fears” for what they were, real fears, I’d better manage them.

But here we all are, our president was caught with his pants down in the middle of a global pandemic (more loo roll jokes here) and our senators and hedge fund billionaires were caught with their hands in the cookie jar serving themselves instead of serving the greater good by sounding the alarm and saving lives.

I don’t know where the aftermath of all of this leaves the world, our country, or my family and that’s terrifying, infuriating, and heartbreaking.

I’m trying not to be stressed, or anxious. But I’m not practicing my zen, I’m trying to be afraid, and it sucks – because there is a lot of work that goes into honoring the truth of fear this big; I am struggling to sit with that, and I hate it.

PS. I love you, go wash your hands.

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