But maybe calm is catching. Maybe what other people say about how they live in this world does make a difference. Or maybe just admitting my anxiety made it disappear. It just went. I still can’t explain exactly why. I can’t account for why that fearful Tuesday turned into one of the most productive and peaceful days I have ever experienced. How was it I entertained no useless thoughts? How did I manage to clean out the dresser drawers, sort through the closet, make a collage and usher for hours at the opera house where Tuesday night was four-and-a half-hours of Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin? And all this with no angst.
Do you know what it is like for an anxious person to suddenly experience quiet? No voices within to track my positives and negatives. No voices telling me, “You don’t have a plan.” I queried my body and found no answering tensions or restrictions. It was so quiet.
Considering Tuesday from a Wednesday perspective, I see that I focused my energy on those things I could control. And yet my attention didn’t feel forced. Neither resigned nor unaware, I went about my life quiet and focused.
What really stood out about the way the day went was that nothing I actually did was on a “to-do” list, rather the tasks felt close at hand and effortless. Perhaps they required pre-planning like what to do with socks that come up singles, with mittens, or with the tee shirts with logos that represent years of past affiliations or are gifts from friends. Had I thought through the dresser clean-out task as I typically do, I might not have done it.
Without preplanning, the closet was easy too. Everything short over the shoe racks, pants in the middle and coats in the closet closest to the door. What could be simpler?
Because I did not agonize over my “artistic” ability or question my creativity, the collage became effortless. I would have tackled the task eventually, but fear about artistic ability would surely have led me to postpone it. The collage could have remained an unassembled intention to commemorate the life of my daughter-in-law, struck and killed by a car last November. I had been collecting pictures and words, roses and ribbons that could, one day, be part of an artwork to honor her. On Tuesday, without thinking about it, I began to arrange these pictures on poster board, tear paper, glue the black rose, a vampire-related artifact because I know she loved Twilight movies, some black stones, and lace I tore off a girlfriend’s Valentine from years ago. Without judgments or self-talk, my collage took form, and the only effort I needed to control was where to glue, how much was enough and when to walk away.
As for the opera, because ushers need to arrive at the opera house an hour and a half early to receive instructions and assignments, I needed to be on duty and smiling from 5:30 until 11:30 p.m, except in the dark where my assignment was the top of the balcony in the center aisle. From that vantage point, sitting on a high chair marked “Usher on Duty” I watched the opera, except for the top parts obscured by the super titles. My job then was to ensure that standing room patrons, who paid $10 to watch, did not sit or lie in the aisles. With first intermission a little after 8, I went downstairs and passed Julie, who is in charge of the balcony ushers. She was smiling. Obama won the election, she said.
What more evidence could I need that good things happen whether or not I’m anxious. Tuesday, topped with Obama’s victory, turned out for me to be my first fret-free day in a very long time. Since then, anxieties have come back with as much power as before. I have fallen apart again and again, but I have the amazing memory of Tuesday, the day I felt fully present and quiet. Perhaps somewhere in that experience is a template for a life of less stress.