We got in the entryway to the pool and there were dogs everywhere. Big, brown, black, medium, striped, spotted, running to the pool, running away from the pool, yapping, bellowing. This was supposed to be fun. We were here for the final day of our beloved city pool, the day that the dogs take over before the water is drained. But suddenly I felt like running back to the car. I was going to lose the dog and my kids. The dog was going to get bitten. A kid was going to get bitten. Breathe, Jennifer, breathe.
It took awhile of chasing Arlo around the pool and setting him into ankle high water while the kids got increasingly wet – they eventually just jumped in – until the dog swam. And a half hour later he looked like he was even enjoying it.
Note to self: Chase your fear around. Step into it. Play with it. And maybe it will even be fun.
I’ve been reading a book by a friend of a friend (one of the pleasures of my life is having a lot of writer friends who have their own writer friends who produce and share) – Turning Dead Ends into Doorways: How to Grow Through Whatever Life Throws Your Way by Staci Boden. The book is structured with the intention that a reader follow it linearly – beginning, actually, with setting an intention and then exploring it through eight lenses, such as intuition, awareness, and choice. I’ve been never been strong on intention, though (my brain always fogs over if a yoga teacher asks me to set an intention), so I’ve found the book more interesting as a way of practicing the art of “what you need, you shall find.” You know: Open the book, direct your eyeball, and interpret what you find through your current life experiences.
My most recent foray into Staci’s book came after a few nights of trying to go without any kind of sleep meds and waking up at at 3 am with my mind wandering from the state of my retirement fund to the life insurance mailing I received to the fact that my daughter’s attic windows don’t really open and I should get a fire inspection. In other words, Fear is adrift in the middle of the night, wafting over me like a horde of Dementors. So it seemed apt that I should open to this: “The amount of energy we spend trying to push [anxiety] away heightens what we wish to avoid: our fear of being controlled by fear.” My middle of the night self definitely becomes as gripped by the fear that it will never fall back asleep as it does by the fears of financial ruin and domestic calamity.
And then I read this: “…what can happen when we move beyond resistance and into relationship with something.” Just as the dog first peered at the water with terror but later got in and found it intriguing if not even fun, can I be light with my 4 AM brain and its fears? Breathing through them does not always work. Putting them aside hardly ever does the trick. Praying through my malas makes me groggy but doesn’t necessarily break anxiety’s hold. But is there another way, a sort of “Ah, I know you. You’re not so bad,” kind of attitude. What if I acknowledge the anxiety as real and don’t shoo it away?
Aha, so I have an intention! I am in relationship to my Anxiety. It is part of me, a part that can be challenging and uncomfortable but not a part that is meant to be ripped away, sawed off, hidden from view, or even chemically removed. So what happens when I remind myself of this late at night? I’ll report back from the water’s edge once I find out. Nothing’s guaranteed.