anxiety’s wave


Just my ability to be kind and supportive of myself, that is significant enough.


detail of "Stormy Seas" by Henry Moore, 1874


This week I got the letter I’d written to myself during my final days at Kripalu last July. My classmates and I all knew we’d eventually receive this letter , but it was unclear how long it would take. Every once in awhile, one of us would get on to our Facebook group page and inquire, “Anyone gotten their letter yet?” Nah. Nope. Wonder when? came the replies.

So there it was about three days ago. A friend on the east coast had gotten hers before me, and so I knew it was on its way. Still, it was weird to see my handwriting in my mailbox. As a writer, I have bad memories of rejection letters in the dread SASE. Never good news. But this one was a little nugget of pure light. In fact, that’s what I say in the first line, “I am a being of pure light.” Wow. What chutzpah, what a sense of everything being possible, what assurance I had of my inner grace.

One yoga friend said how buoyed she was by her letter. Another commented that she hardly even recognized her own handwriting, she seemed to have been such a different person in July than the one she is now.  And another wrote:  “As for my letter, nothing earth shaking here either, but emotional in the sense of the diminished ‘high’ and reconnection to the beauty of that experience.  Just  my ability to be kind and supportive of myself, that is significant enough.”


I dipped into some heavy anxiety this week. Fell down several stories into a dark pit. Very Indiana Jones. Snakes and skulls and the like. I was up at 1:30 am worrying about how fast my kids are growing up all of a sudden; it’s like they’ve gone into hyperdrive. Especially Bella. My sweet, thoughtful girl is rolling her eyes and just hardly tolerating my utter stupidity. Then an hour later, out of the  blue, she’ll find me and give me an enormous hug.

I’ve been allowing myself to pour over memories of both kids, trapped by the thought that these things will never be again – tiny shoes, preschool, the first missing tooth …  And then I shoot forward to all that might be:  the bad and rough and unfortunate things that could occur – many of them will undoubtedly occur – broken hearts, parent-child arguments, sniping friends, fender benders. I’m not even going to true horrors; reality is plenty.

I’ve dealt with anxiety on and off for as long as I can remember. I used to think of it as depression, but I’ve realized that the anxiety starts the cycle and depression is just one possible outcome. I don’t go to that dark place so much any more, but I still let the grasping, tightness take  hold for days and weeks at a time, clouding out clear vision and blocking possibility. After this summer’s amazing expansion – filled by breathing exercises and opened by back bends, nourished by kale (and kale and kale) and held by the hands of friends – I really believed myself to be done with anxiety. It was a coat that I’d outgrown and left it in the woods of Western Massachusetts to compost down into the moss.

Not so, it turns out. Anxiety is a shadow part of me sewn on tighter than Peter Pan’s mischievous shadow.

It was an amazing ride that left me shiny new and certain of my own powers.

“Ride it like a wave,” my friend C. advised. Which makes sense as it reminds me of  labor. If you fight labor, it is harder. You tighten with fear that it will never end, that you might not “succeed.” But if you hop on your laboring surfboard and ride every contraction toward the ultimate possibility of birth, it is much easier. Release and let go. Release and let go. That was my mantra with both kids. In the minority among women I know, I loved labor. It was hard as hell, and would I want to do it regularly? Of course not. But it was an amazing ride that left me shiny new and certain of my own powers.

Could anxiety be similar? Could it serve as a suggestion or reminder that something is brewing in me that yearns for change, that seeks to be birthed? I like the idea that I can ride it knowing that I will come to a new place greater understanding. And when I get there, can I celebrate myself and my powers, not unlike after labor? I think here of my friend’s comment after reading his letter, that simply knowing and remembering the kindness he’d shown himself this summer was sufficient. He didn’t need to still be in that same blissful space. It’s enough knowing that it’s available to him, a wave he’ll ride again.


5 thoughts on “anxiety’s wave”

  1. Thank you so much for this entry-I’m a little less than 2 weeks from my due date and your reflections are inspiring and encouraging. Thank you for YOU!

    1. Good luck with your own surfing, Elena. It will go great! (Wow, I forgot I knew so many pregnant mamas right now. I wasn’t kidding – labor can be a totally transformative experience. Beautiful. Profound. Empowering. Humbling. … all of which hold true for motherhood nearly 10 years past the actual birth!

  2. This is a full one– I love the reminder to be kind to myself. And the idea that I can accept and go with anxiety, but not be ruled by it. To recognize my fear and see it as labor, with the promise of delivery.

    I’m 22 years and 25 years out from my labor, but I still think of the wonder it caused in me– especially the urge to push, which I loved. There was no way I could have ever imagine the mighty power and focused force of it until it swept over me, or the satisfaction of having come through to the other side, a moment of complete joy.

    Thanks, Jennifer, as always!

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