Even taking current local and global issues into consideration, I am incredibly fortunate right now. I get to relax. I get to choose when I get up, when I concentrate and when (and to what) I give my attention. This situation is new and pretty unnerving to me.
Initially my break with the rat race seemed nothing but positive, but I’m growing more aware that not being able to socialise (even if I wanted to, which I don’t) has amplified the benefits and hidden the less desirable consequences from me.
I haven’t had to measure just how much of my self worth and social status was tied up with my career, who am I now without it? My company car has been replaced by something older. I very much enjoy it, it’s fully paid for and I’ve even stuck a bumper sticker on it, but it is obviously less shiny and new, are there people judging me for that?
I haven’t had to justify my weight gain or the fact that I haven’t worn a normal outfit for almost a year (pyjamas rule in this house and sod what the postie thinks). If it wasn’t for the rare, socially distant, neighbourly interaction I really think I would have forgotten how to talk to people who aren’t my immediate family.
I suspect all of these things are temporary, and I know I have no control over what others think, so why worry about it? But something new has started happening. I find myself seeking out things to make myself anxious about. I am inventing responsibilities and worries, I am procrastinating about the stuff I want to do.
Fortunately I enjoy thinking about thinking and I am already in the habit of attempting to dissect my own thoughts.
I believe that after a career of wondering whether I was a good enough employee and after a lifetime of wondering whether my face was appealing enough, or if my hair was bouncy enough or if my body was worthy enough of love, I am now seeking anxiety because that’s what my brain default mode has become.
How could it not be the default after decades of oscillating between the fear of being seen as a ‘know it all’ and the certainty that you were utterly stupid?
How could anxiety possibly have been avoided when the battle between self respect and self esteem was so one sided? (In my case my self respect far outweighs my self esteem. I will always stick up for myself, but I don’t really believe I deserve it – others face the opposite dilemma but it all leads to the same disruption in the brain).
I know from experience that I will be able to think my way through this, and the unnecessary future anxieties I create for myself, but what struck me this morning was how the generations following mine have all these issues, but may never get the moments of quiet and relaxation needed to ponder their way through them all. How do you think your way out of something if thinking is constantly being devalued? How do you find enough peace to hear your own thoughts if missing a notification feels like the end of the world?
Deep down I’m an optimist (deep, deep down and getting deeper by the year), I know that civilisations have always had to face huge changes and that people were convinced that their society was going to end because of them (spoiler alert – sometimes they did end and that was not necessarily a bad thing) but I also know that humans are resilient and capable of great kindness and compassion, for themselves as well as others. I just hope that we (as an entire species) are capable of rejecting the comforting lies in favour of some harsh truths, even if just for a little while.
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Thank you for this.
Am developing a new theory about intrusive thoughts. The inchoate feeling of anxiety comes first, upon which the mind imposes a narrative structure. Much like finding shapes in clouds or coherence in dreams.
I can feel an experiment coming on…tackle the anxiety, as if it is the root problem as you predict, rather than the symptom it is currently assumed to be, then assess whether there are fewer intrusive thoughts to follow. Also, probably a good excuse to buy a new notebook 😁