Sometimes we live in stuffy rooms. Places where the air is stale and old, where it feels hard to breathe but you try anyway. You end up wheezing. Heeee-hawww. Donkey breath. You have it.
But sometimes you get what you need. A good conversation with a friend. A change in circumstance. A piece of writing or music or art that changes the way you breathe, at least for a moment. It feels like new oxygen is being pumped into your room, your life, your lungs. It’s a gift. Remember that.
I felt like that reading this quote. Not like I’m out of the stuffy room entirely. Just like I can breathe a little easier:
“The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.” – Thomas Merton, “The Seven Storey Mountain”
Doesn’t that feel right? I think, for me, my anxiety is my stuffy room. It’s the place where I sit and try to breathe. But I can never really take a deep breath. Not really. It’s always choked.
Here’s one thing I know. Much of my anxiety stems from fear of suffering. And guess what? I suffer from it. Do you do this too? Try everything to avoid feeling even the smallest bit of pain? We do it in all sorts of ways. Numbing out is a popular choice. I do that too sometimes. But I mostly obsess over small details. I do that a lot. I put my mind on repeat until I can no longer hear my own clear thoughts.
And sometimes my thoughts sound just like this “PANIC PANIC PANIC.”
We can’t avoid suffering. That’s the damn truth. But we can have faith we’ll survive it. We can be in the moment, letting ourselves breathe. We can stop the PANIC PANIC and instead tell ourselves peace.
I mean that literally. It’s not any more complicated than that. Now when my mind goes PANIC PANIC I pay attention to it. I hear it. And then I tell it, calmly and sweetly, no mind, peace.
I don’t think that solves everything. Sometimes I’m still trapped in my stuffy anxiety panic-ridden dungeon. But I know this too:
I’m breathing a little easier already.