Escaping Anxiety

I have discovered a magazine I really enjoy lately: Travel & Leisure. I like their first-hand accounts of experiencing a new place. First of all, I have been to many of the places described in this journal. I have also always been a bit of a master at taking vacations in my own head. The Internet has made that so much easier. And at a time when so many of us are seeking escape from our predictable daily lives, I look forward to the next issue of this magazine to help me decide where I want to go next.

Yesterday, I started reading an article about escaping anxiety at a Riviera Maya healing resort. The writer spoke of “living with anxiety for many years; my mind wanders constantly.” Luckily, this author found themselves relaxing into “extreme calm” surrounded by nature, chimes, horns, drums, and gongs.

When I spoke to Mike about this, he immediately pointed out that “going on vacation can be quite anxiety-producing.” Mike, always the realist. Yes, first choosing a trip to take, buying tickets, flying, etc. can be quite stressful, especially with my new handicap, being on oxygen full-time. Did you know that most portable oxygen machines aren’t allowed on airplanes? Who knew?

So is a trip the best way to escape anxiety? Well, that depends on where your anxiety comes from. I learned the most about my lifelong case of anxiety (really fear of others) by moving away from society.

Almost seven years ago now, Mike and I built a passive solar home out in rural southern Colorado. On our three acres with very few neighbors, I finally found myself truly relaxing after a few years. I believe living close to nature instead of others was the main ingredient in this process. Yes, we have some serious snowstorms and amazing wind storms down here, but I feel secure and comfortable looking up at the Spanish Peaks each morning. Nature feels so much more safe to me than most other human beings.

What was most interesting to me was my eventual perception of the nearly unconscious vigilance I apparently felt my whole life in cities. That slowly melting away out here. Whenever I’m in cities now, I feel that subtle fear slowly creeping back. I believe it is the simple equation of having too many people per square mile, the constant possibility of someone disturbing us or worse. When I’m at home, that need for keeping a careful watch over my life and my loved ones slowly recedes and I find peace like I have never known before.

So, where does someone like that go on vacation?

Aging makes me so angry!

I was finally ready yesterday to take an honest look at my feelings from my last visit to see my Mom in Denver. When we first arrived there, my brother went to take a nap because his lower back always hurts him. I sat down with my Mom and we had a lucid and serious discussion of many things. Even though it only went on for thirty minutes or so, she seemed completely there and asked a few truly revealing questions about my life, and I thought,

This is what I wish my relationship had always been with my Mom.”

It seemed relatively healthy and honest, but within just a few minutes she disappeared completely into remembering very little. The next few days were a confusion of her feeling anxious because she needed to ask every few minutes “What day is it?” and “What are we doing today?” I learned that she doesn’t eat well or take her pills on a regular schedule, etc.

How does that feel? I know it sounds irrational to say that aging makes me angry, but to watch someone I love slip away so very slowly, and to know that what I am losing is gone for good, is truly devastating. At first I felt angry, and as always, the sadness soon followed. My Mom will never be the Mom I remember from the past 65 years again. She is vanishing so slowly but permanently, and I can do nothing about that.

Neither one of my Mom’s parents lived as long as she has. Her Mom died in her mid-70s of cancer and her father lost it after that, dying at 81. I remember most my grandfather’s anger that his dutiful wife had abandoned him when he needed her most. He finally just gave up. So we really don’t know about dementia in her side of the family. She has outlived everyone in her family’s past.

Personally, I have experienced my share of “aging” in the past few years, where I have gone from a healthy 60 year old, who exercised regularly and never smoked, to someone on full-time oxygen. Yes, aging sucks! I have one gigantic constant reminder. Life on a tube is so frustrating. I guess I see now how so many of our elders end up angry and so sad all at once.

How did the concentration of American wealth shift to the very richest since the 1960s?

I know it’s more fun to just binge watch all the shows and movies we’ve missed over the past few years, but how about learning something new every now and then? Yesterday I spent a little over an hour watching:

“Requiem for the American Dream” and learned a lot about why we are where we are today.

Leave it to Noam Chomsky, a man in his 90s (!) to clarify things for me. No really, his mind is so much clearer than mine at this point! As this renowned academic and author goes through his “10 principles of concentration of wealth and power” he explains how they have led to a well-planned and carefully executed shift of wealth and power from most Americans to the 1 percenters, leading to unprecedented inequality in our country. See if it doesn’t make sense to you. The hollowing out of the American middle class has made the richest in this country so much richer and left the rest of us behind to blame ourselves and others for our inability to “get ahead.” And then he explains why at least 60% of us can do absolutely nothing about it.

This story does not even include the ultimate consequence of this gigantic shift of wealth, the election of Donald Trump by those who mostly have very little and have only lost more in this shift. Dr. Chomsky explains that problem well too. He shows how the rich can carefully convince those who have lost the most to support a rich man who is only in it for himself.

See this documentary and please give it some thought. It explains quite a bit about where we are now and where we are probably headed as a nation…

Requiem for the American Dream on You Tube

Have you gotten better through difficult times?

I happened to catch an interview with a Christian religious leader the other day, speaking of resurrection after a fall. Of course he was referring to the resurrection of Christ after his crucifixion, but every spring we experience rebirth, a brilliant rising from the dead of the plants in the northern hemisphere.

Spring always raises my spirits as I am a lover of plants of all kinds!

I was born in the spring and love the idea of rebirth in nature and in our own emotional life as well. In answer to the question posed, “Do we get better through difficult times?” I would answer not automatically. Difficult times can make us think more deeply about our lives, where we are stuck, and what we want or need to happen next. I faced my first truly difficult time at age 24 and found I was not equipped to find my way out of it except by moving somewhere else and starting a new career. There I made great friends and eventually moved on. This has happened a few times in my life. It was only at age 49, when I faced joblessness and possible loss of my home that I truly “woke up.”

“Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.” – Pema

My midlife crisis offered me not only the opportunity to consider my life more deeply, but it also generously offered me time to sit and consider what I wanted and needed more of in my life to choose to go on. At the time I focused on this question:

What do I want to happen before I die? I finally concluded more fun & meaning...

After that very dark time for me, I felt resurrected. I knew what came next and I energetically went out in search of it. I met Mike within a few months and knew almost immediately that I had found a person who would love and value me as wounded as I was. My relationships changed, especially those with my parents.

Mike helped me begin the finally and fully love, value and honor my Self and my own very real needs. For the first time I took my place in the world, but this was a gradual opening. At first I did not trust my own judgment, because it had let me down so many bad roads in my past. It took me many months to know that Mike was trustworthy after so many betrayals. My natural stance had always been “Don’t trust anyone!” Now I confronted my need to trust again and finally found a way after much testing.

It all turned out well for me, but that is not to say I won’t face even more dark nights of the soul in my future. I still have many fears, but I feel better equipped to deal with them now.

Living in gratitude for what I do have everyday puts it all into perspective for me. How many more rebirths will you experience? How will you learn & grow from them?

Do you want to learn more about waking up in midlife? Please take a look at my books