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I have to admit having a little bit of compulsive tendencies. I am not a repetitive hand washer or appliance checker. I can lock my front door and drive away and not return to double, triple and quadruple check if the door is indeed locked. I can’t deny the odd thing I do with numbers, but I do not HAVE to do it. I am not obsessive about things. But, I know, without doubt, that I do somethings specifically to reduce anxiety. These compulsive tendencies are learned behaviors or adaptive behaviors started long ago before anxiety was named. But I wonder, is anxiety the true condition or really a response or consequence of something else.

I had a true sadist as a dentist when I was a child. My sister’s can attest to the torture and pain inflicted by Dr. Pressner. We were all adults before we were to learn the dentist was not a painful experience.¬† For many years I avoided the dentist out of sheer fear. When I finally HAD to seek dental care, it was because I was in pain. I had to admit my extreme phobia of the dentist. Taking my kids to the dentist made me half-crazed. I have eventually learned to quell my fears and can go to the dentist without panic. Now, I love my current¬† dentist; she is wonderful. I have altered my conditioned response and alleviated my anxiety.

Some people exist free of anxiety. They are an enviable bunch. I know I expend enormous energy and resources combating and assuaging my anxiety. I exercise when I can. I sleep well. I avoid low blood sugar. I keep a clean house and regularly declutter my space but I permit my dresser drawers to be a jumbled mess. I anticipate circumstances and prepare for potential outcomes. I also recognize the anxiety faster. I accept the flash point events that can set off the anxiety: getting lost in a strange city; being pressed for time and making a stupid, avoidable mistake; electronic gizmos and gadgets that I should be smart enough to operate but that defy all logic. And you cannot fight anxiety. It cannot be reasoned or “managed”. You cannot be talked out of the anxiety and the helpful suggestions from others is often and accelerant.

The best….I think the only…..remedy for anxiety is to be still, be silent and wait. Like a freight train, it passes. Just stay off the tracks.

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  1. I love this image of anxiety as a train. So often we talk about being “rattled” like the windows and structure of homes near active tracks. Learning to be still and wait is a hard thing to learn and harder still to be able to do.

    Finding the calm in the midst of the storm is a skill that takes years to perfect and even then we’re not perfect. But I think that having someone else sometimes that can just chill with us helps. They have to be able to just be calm, to offer the space next to them as a space to relax and wait. Anything more simply adds to the swirls of chaos around.

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