I need to write an honest post about anxiety.
I could tell myself it’s not logical to be anxious. I should be grateful, even.
I don’t have to commute or work full time. I haven’t touched my savings since quitting my full-time job in December. I’m healthy enough that I feel safe forgoing health insurance—which would cost me over $800 a month for a lousy plan—and instead use a healthcare sharing program, which costs $220 a month. I enjoy my contract work with my former employer, working on million dollar proposals to the UN and US government. I enjoy my very-part-time job at the YMCA minding little kids. It’s summer, and I’ve got free time to go berry foraging or biking the wild paths along the Mississippi. I live in a charming and affordable duplex.
Vince, who less than three years ago emerged from prison with nothing, owns a home, is a dad, and is getting married in 10 days.
Yeah, I know I have it good.
Then why do I get ice-cold stabbing pangs of fear in my solar plexus? It’s not every day, or all day, but it can last for hours and it’s extremely unpleasant.
I think it is thanks to my nemeses, the what ifs.
My financial future is uncertain. What if my contract isn’t renewed next year? Should I get another full-time job? What if no one wants to hire a 59 year old? I recently read that the average job hunt for someone my age is 12 months. Maybe I should have started looking months ago!
Could I try to live off my savings? It’s not my regular monthly expenses that are a problem; they’re very modest. There are always things like new tires ($$), a new phone ($$), and a crown on my molar ($$$$). What if my engine gasket blows, or I need two crowns next month?
I have a plane ticket to Panama for December but haven’t booked accommodations. What if Panama turns out to be super expensive?
Those are the semi-rational what ifs.
If I allow it free reign, my mind conjures up additional scary possibilities that are unlikely to ever happen.
I saw a sign warning of coyotes at the river today. What if I was attacked by one on my walk and couldn’t work? I would lose everything and end up one of those homeless people on the freeway exit holding a sign that says, “Sick. Can’t work. Anything helps. God Bless.”
I swore at another driver on my way home from the river as we both fought our way through a traffic jam. What if I lost it, rammed someone with my car, and ended up in prison? How humiliating would that be?
Images of these things happening actually flash through my mind. Usually I am barely aware of them, and I can laugh them off. But they probably contribute to the anxiety
And those are just the neurotic thoughts about me and mine. I despair that my country can put a man on the moon, find a cure for Hepatitis C, and produce all sorts of genius inventors and entertainers and artists but we cannot come up with a single solution to gun violence. One of my neighbors was killed in a mass shooting in 2012. Will I, or someone I care about, be next?
Then there’s climate change. Contrary to what millennials seem to believe, not all of us baby boomers have been callously disregarding the environment all our lives. My first environmental protest was in 1974. We were calling on the government to clean up the Mississippi River. And it got done. But as I sit in my car writing this—at the river, on the latest of a series of unusually hot days—I fear we are all doomed.
When I travel I do feel nervous about finding train stations and such. But mostly I am in the moment every moment and my anxiety is fleeting and mild.
I’m went to the Mississippi today to hike uneven terrain, to throw myself off kilter so I would have to focus on each step or I’d pitch headlong into the dark, swift current.
There I go again!