Lately, I have been aware of a new emotion taking space in my life (A LOT OF DAMN SPACE); the emotion is anxiety. I was never an anxious child, not in high school or college. I traveled freely to Europe in my 20s, moved to NYC, fell in love, got married, and started and changed careers throughout my 20s and 30s without so much as a flutter in my stomach. Yet recently, I have found “worry” in every corner. Worry about silly choices—“What backsplash should I have in my kitchen?”—and worry about big choices—“What college will my children attend?”—and more importantly, “Will my children be happy at the colleges they choose?”
Worry about the future is NOT the only thing that is making me anxious. Sweet memories of the past have me melancholy, thinking to myself, “Damn you Facebook for all those amazing memories that pop up on my feed each morning!” I find myself looking back to a time when my kids were young, and we traveled with new “parent friends” to sports events, cheering our children to victory and building our network, or tribe of friends, larger and larger along the way. There is no other word I can use to describe these times as blessed—blessed with love, friendship, laughs and adventures.
I look back not only on memories of good times but also on paths I have taken (and not taken), wondering (read worrying) how things would have been had I, say, stayed in the corporate world and not been as available to my kids (I do sometimes wonder if I loved them to a point of coddling).
Looking forward is also a double-edged sword of both excitement at possibilities and fear of wrong choice. Considering what I will do next with my home, which is one child less; my business, which evolves daily; and my need to do more to fulfill my personal need to share compassion, can be fun as well as pressure-filled. Planning is not a bad thing until it becomes a tad obsessive.
I was talking to my friend Kim the other day (my own personal psychiatric nurse practitioner) about feelings of anxiety that I never had before, explaining that perhaps it was from hormones or something. She gave me the simplest piece of advice: “I try not to think about things upcoming [plane trips, colleges, new home]and try not to think back [did I make correct choices on past plane trips, colleges, new home]and try just to think about today.” I swear to God, I have never been hit with a more profound piece of advice (and she didn’t even charge me a copay!!).
Simply said, BE HERE NOW. As I say those three words, I literally “exhale” (which is odd because I hadn’t even realized I was holding my breath). It’s definitely not easy; it takes practice being here now at every moment. Since I have begun this process, I find my anxiety is lower, decisions are less difficult and relationships are growing.
Mindfulness is a word that people say over and over (and over and over and over), but I don’t think I truly understood what it meant. I think BHN (be here now) is a present. The present is the gift of being present.
I intend for this letter to help you all focus on the present, and, in so doing, that you relieve some anxiety, build some friendships, and enjoy all the positive energy that can be found right here in the (it’s a) present!
Kelly Martinsen, Publisher