ANXIETY

model: Jonathan Ackley

I feel like writing every week is this exercise of having something I feel embarrassed about, then finding all of the reasons I shouldn’t write about it, then becoming obsessed with that idea to the point that it would be impossible to write about anything else. Sometimes I’ve come to a liberating conclusion by that point, sometimes I feel like I’m going to vomit on the page and you’re going to look at me the way the cab driver did the one and only time I threw up in cab. I was polite enough to contain the vomit only on my own physical body…but, alas, on every part of my own physical body. I exited in front of my house holding a very dry twenty dollar bill in a hand caked with steak and french fry chunks.

But I digress.

I suffer from anxiety. Not only the mild nervousness that comes with anticipating outcomes, but at certain times, a full blown, paranoid, delusional breakdown. Never, as far as I know, delusional in my understanding of current reality. I think I am clear most always in what is, but there are times where my hyper-vigilance in imagining every possible consequence that could happen, takes me into la-la land.

I am not a person who shrinks from anxiety. I grow in size. My brain swells with compounding mathematics as I solve the uncertainty of life and eliminate every stray outcome with diligence and action. Of course the outcomes to be invented in imagination are endless, and anyone who has spent their time muttering bible verse out loud, to themselves, on the street will tell you that devoting all of your brain’s faculties to an unsolvable problem will ruin your brain.

Nothing taxed and cultivated this part of my personality more than running a dance company. A non-profit requires most-literally non-stop creative thinking just to keep a baseline…nevermind all of the tiny shifts that could happen at any moment that would threaten the livelihood and investment of a good number of people. When your name is on the door, all of it is eventually sitting on top of your head and that awareness is there long before it arrives at the top of your head. Keeping the organization growing and out of debt was a tremendous accomplishment to make good on for so many years. The company was a fine home for my ingenuity and idealism and an even better home for my torturous internal feelings of responsibility and guarding against the cruel world.

The company was such an extreme version of this that I count this terrible component as one of its gifts to me. It pushed me to such an extreme that in some ways those circuits fried out. It took me to the very edge of the cliff to face of my own extinction and in a very wonderful way, got me to stop caring.

It also exposed a litany of false personas that, if I am being completely honest, contribute to my anxiety the most. This fear of being exposed for who I really am. The dichotomy of both being afraid of this exposure and this intense need to be seen as myself, creates a tornado of quicksand that is always pulling me down and whipping me up simultaneously. Each one feeds the other’s worst and rubs my innards raw.

So now I give a whole lot less of a shit. And when I feel the pangs of anxiety creep back inside me, it feels so much more like muscle memory firing. In fact, the knowledge that it usually has something to do with not wanting to be seen, makes it a remarkable tool for cultivating how to truly be seen in a way that moves me forward. I don’t feed the fires anymore by running from it. I sit with it mindfully and let the pain of it swirl around me and I listen.

As I sit and listen now, the fears seem so dumb. They are old things that I can barely identify with anymore. In fact, intellectually, I don’t judge or disown these things. The pain is a reflex like burping when I drink fizz.

1 Comment

  1. Trey….
    I am writing in hopes of purchasing photos you did of a friend of mine for his birthday. I’m not sure if this is public or not so I’d rather not leave his name and if its possible to purchase for framing please email me directly.

    I am not from the dance world but what you wrote about sounds so much like my mid-life it’s freaky.

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