Putting anxiety in the back seat

Image: Chloe Benko-Prieur

This week has been a crazy week. Ever have one of those? Like you’re always 4 steps behind?

Well that was me this week. Not only was there stuff I wanted to do, there was stuff others wanted me to do. There I was in an intense tug-of-war between my personal demands of my time and other’s.

All week, that pull was stretching me more and more. Something was about to break.

As the end of the week approached, there was a lot I wanted to do in a short amount of time. Thursday night, I planned it out. I had one more day in the week. I could do it. This was possible. This week hadn’t killed me yet.

And then Friday came around. All of a sudden, visions of that tug-of-war championship ring started to fade (do tug-of-war players win rings? — because they should). ‘Their’ demands were winning while mine were not.

I realized this driving my car to an appointment I hadn’t foreseen the day before. I felt anxiety well up from the depths of my being. So much for what I wanted. Wah, wah, wah. My inner toddler was on center stage and he was about to proverbially kick off his shoes, piss his pants, and make a huge scene.

But something interesting happened this time…

I noticed it. I felt it coming up. Like when you fill up a water bottle, and it makes that certain high-pitched noise before it fills all the way to the top and overflows. Yeah, THAT is what felt like was happening. Like I had to turn the tap off now or I was going to have a huge mess on my hands.

So I did. Just like that. I recognized it before it escalated. And I ditched it.

What was happening was beyond my control. No one to blame. All of the things that I wanted to get done that week were just going to have to wait.

And was that really so bad? No one’s life was on the line. No great financial calamities awaited my decision. It was just some things that I wanted to get done. You know, like the things that are always there tapping their feet, whistling, and passive-aggressively checking their watches as you scurry around and try to satisfy them but never can.

So I abandoned it. I ditched it. There was no way I was getting off of this bucking bronco, so I may as well enjoy it, I thought.

I took a deep breath. Saw the anxious thought for what it was — just a thought. Relaxed back into my seat. And enjoyed the trip with my wife.

And then something interesting happened…

“You actually don’t have to go to this thing, Jonas,” my wife said. “It’s mostly for my stuff, not yours.”

Just like that, out of the blue, I was off the hook. I had that extra couple hours to get those things done. I was saved. And I didn’t even have to throw a tantrum.

It’s just weird how the universe works sometimes. I’m finding something more and more as I go along in this life…

The more we keep the ego in the back seat, the better the drive tends to go (literally and figuratively).

The fewer deer run out in front of you unexpectedly. The red lights become more enjoyable. Those flat tires are avoided by clear mental vision.

The more we keep ourselves in a good state of mind, the more things just… work out. You ever find this to be so?

I just think that letting it go is one of the most valuable virtues we can tap into.

Or, you can buy into the anxiety, white-knuckle that steering wheel, grit your teeth, and floor it — see how far that gets ya. Always seems like it’ll work better, but typically only ends in a bad way.

Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way.

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