“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake.” – Francis Bacon Sr.
I had an absolutely great weekend a few days ago, and I almost missed it because of my problems with anxiety.
I didn’t do anything epic. There were no mountains climbed or gourmet dinners enjoyed. Didn’t travel anywhere or have any new experiences.
Instead, I had a series of little moments that were meaningful to me. Starting Friday night and ending Sunday evening, these moments added up to a great weekend, and that fact didn’t even register with me until Monday afternoon.
I’m sharing them with you because they’re so small and normal, you could be having similar moments pass you by without noticing, just like I did.
Friday night, my family went to Hersheypark, a local amusement park, together. I was feeling a lot of anxiety from the crowds there and had been just pushing my way through the night, knowing the kids were having fun.
Right at the end of the night, my nine-year-old daughter notices there’s no line at Skyrush, the biggest, fastest roller coaster in the park. Roller coasters are my favorite and she’s a little daredevil.
“Come on, Daddy, let’s go!” she says, grabbing my hand and running toward the ride. We run through the queue, right up the steps, and climb up into an open row. Glasses off for both of us, and off we go!
And we both love it. It’s our favorite ride there. I love her fearlessness and I love that she loves to ride it with me.
But I was in a rush to find my wife and other daughter so we could get away from the crowds.
Saturday, I had the time to go see both my niece and nephew play soccer. I try to get to see them play once or twice a season, but it’s been a while since I’ve been to their games.
After my nephew’s game, I wait around to see him and say, “Good game, dude.” He gives me five, gets a smile on his face that’s half-devilish and half-precocious, and leans in for half a hug.
I’m feeling uncomfortable with social anxiety, and I duck away quietly.
Sunday morning, we went to watch some friends run in a half marathon. When the first one saw us, she stretched her arms above her head like Rocky, smiled and came running towards us to give us big mid-race hugs.
Our other friend, my wife’s running partner, whom I had just met earlier that week, joked with us as she ran past during the race. We met up with her afterwards and walked to the parking lot together.
And as we were saying goodbye, she gave my wife a hug and turned to me and said, “Come here, you,” and gave me a big hug. It felt good to receive an act of love without any reason.
But that quickly passed as I got anxious about the traffic leaving the race.
That night, my wife and I spent several quiet hours together watching our favorite tv show. It was nice to connect with no distractions, just spending time together. Just being together.
It was Monday afternoon till I put all those pieces together. What had felt like a busy weekend had really been a string of small, wonderful moments. Because of the anxiety I was feeling throughout the weekend, I had nearly missed them all.
Anxiety takes hold of us and it can steal away all our time. Past, present and future – anxiety tries to take them all from us. We need to be aware of what anxiety can do to us in order to prevent it from happening.
ANXIETY FORCES US TO TRY TO PREDICT THE FUTURE
With anxiety, it’s natural for us to want to protect ourselves. We have been suffering for some time and we don’t want it to continue, so we try to take precautions. We try to predict what’s going to happen to us in the future, so we can take steps to avoid more anxiety.
I’m unemployed right now because severe anxiety disrupted me too often at my last job. If I try to predict the future, I might decide that in order to keep my anxiety in check I should just remain unemployed. But how can I know if that’s the right decision?
Obviously, I can’t know that. It’s impossible to predict the future. But anxiety makes me try.
How can know that I won’t love my next job and it won’t cause me any anxiety at all? What if the future is good? These are thoughts that I don’t necessarily have in the midst of anxiety, but they’re important.
We assume the worst when it comes to anxiety. We prepare ourselves for the worst possible future. In doing so, we rob ourselves of a potentially good future.
When we’re prepared for the worst, we’re not looking for the good.
I was feeling anxious during a lot of the moments I shared earlier. I was bracing myself against feeling bad further down the line. As a consequence, I missed the special moments that were happening to me.
ANXIETY KEEPS US HANGING ONTO THE PAST
Last weekend wasn’t the first time I’ve missed out on good things because of anxiety. It’s happened to me plenty of times before. And I’ve spent more than my share of time regretting the things that I’ve missed.
I’ve spent a lot of time dwelling on the past. Full of remorse over the good that happened that I didn’t notice. Hanging onto the memories of the few good things I was present for.
In order to keep myself from feeling anxious, I’ll replay moments like the ones I’ve shared with you over and over in my mind. They’re reminders of what good feels like.
But I’ll also spend time wishing I would have been present in those moments. Wishing that I would’ve shared the love that I received. Wishing that I would have smiled or said, “I love you.”
Anxiety drives me to the past, both as a reminder of what could have been and as a condemnation of what I’ve done – or not done.
ANXIETY MAKES US MISS OUT ON THE PRESENT
By pushing us to look to the future or dwell in the past, anxiety always makes us miss out on the present. Predicting the future or reliving the past keeps us out of the right now.
We don’t see or enjoy the good little moments in our life when we’re controlled by anxiety.
All those beautiful little moments that happened to me last weekend, and I completely missed them until it was almost too late. Happiness cut short by fear and regret. This is what anxiety can do to us.
So how do we keep anxiety from robbing us of the present?
By recognizing that anxiety is nothing more than thoughts and feelings, things that come and go and change, we can see that our fears are impermanent. We can’t control our thoughts or our feelings, but we can choose how we’re going to react to them.
We can choose to stay grounded in the present despite the fears we’re feeling. We can choose to focus on what’s in front of us. We can choose to search for joy in the little moments of our lives.
When we stop and look at the good little moments in our life, we open ourselves up to the possibility of more good happening. We can start the cycle going the other direction.
We can share in our daughter’s excitement. We can enjoy some quiet times with our spouse. We can feel the love in a friend’s hug.
We can live our lives again – moment by melting moment.
Author Bio – Jason has suffered from depression and anxiety for over twenty years. He writes to bring light to mental illness and the ways that those who suffer from mental illness can work to improve their lives. Follow Jason at www.jasonlarge.com, on Facebook, or contact him directly here.