The geography of anxiety

We think we know the ‘why’ of anxiety,

Spiralling up from all those things we fear;

pressure, external and internal,

death, deadlines, illness, perfectionism,

unemployment, failure.

So many ‘whys’

But what about the ‘where’?

Where is it?

The geography of anxiety is within the body.

Our bodies become shaped for anxious feeling,

the hunch of a shoulder,

the jutting forward of a chin,

the clenching of a jaw,

the tightness of a belly,

the holding of an ribcage,

like contours on a map.

Anxiety roams this bodyscape,

energy in a landscape of tension.

It lives below awareness,

coming to the surface occasionally

like a fish, silently swimming, unobserved,

suddenly leaping to catch a mayfly.

We hold our bodies in preparation for an unwelcome guest,

trapping it’s energy within.

Not allowing the natural progression of emotion and energy

to ebb and flow and dissipate.

We hold ourselves tight within our armoured castle

in the mistaken belief that we are protecting ourselves,

until the anxiety spills out without a reason

in quiet moments and times that should be happy,

and we feel out of control,

scared of being scared.

Next time the storm arrives, let’s watch it, feel it

let it be the map

let it guide us to our tensions,

sherpa-like.

Focus on those sensations and they will pass.

Not easy, when caught in a whirlwind of worries,

and dread.

But worth it.

And eventually, over a lifetime maybe,

relax so the inner landscapes are so calm,

that anxiety can flow straight through

like a river of energy,

leaving us unperturbed.

Everyday insights

Gripped by anxiety,

a looming hospital appointment,

I failed to notice the world outside

where the blackbird continued to sit on her nest in the rain,

and despite my unawareness

the symphony of spring carried on.

Then suddenly, I realized.

Anxiety again.

Welcome.

I don’t have to fight you any more

I just have to relax.

We are not separate,

you are not something to be held at bay

by techniques and force of mind.

You are a response to a situation,

my response.

Forgive me.

You have always been the frightened child

I pushed away.

Now you are welcome to rest here

until we both feel safe again.

A queen bee stopped on a flower, unnoticed,

unmoved by my revelation

as I wiped away a tear,

but I will remember.