I found myself one day living in a state of constant regret of my past, continual fear of my future and humor impaired in every waking moment. I mean Humor Impaired Grade IV, serious. How did this happen? Why was I angry all the time? What was I angry about? I sat with that question until the first answer emerged from my grick.
I was angry about things being simply just the way they really are. From large to small, I was irritated at almost everything – everything was an impediment or annoyance to clamber over or around. It was so embarrassing when I dug down and realized that my pin-prick ready anger was simply over things being just the way they were. It could have been anything – objects misplaced, dropped pens, all first world problems. It didn’t matter! I was roiled and resistant to my every waking moment. I was pissed as hell.
So, after sheepishly accepting this anger problem and seeing it as a mere smokescreen for a ridiculous and unsustainable personality defect, I started to realize that under my bluffoonery of aggression as a primary defense, I actually was feeling scared shitless.
It hit me, that I was actually scared shitless all the time. Scared shitless feels like whoa in the nether regions of the soul. So I sat with that until I realized that what I was actually scared shitless about was that I was afraid that I was going to fucking blow up. I mean, my body burst – all the patch jobs I’d accomplished in my life “fixes” for my inner tube were going to blow and my cells and blobs were going to blast all over the room and walls.
I sat with that image in my mind. My bits blown onto the ceiling walls and floors was graphic. When I pictured my inner tube body with overlapping patches blowing – I thought of all the little fixes I’d applied to myself over time to try to appear normal in order to cover my possibly horribly personality defects lurking underneath. I was a complete life patch job! Bicycling for 3 months in New Zealand on metaled and unmetaled roads taught me that inner tubes do blow! I sat with that awareness of this magma stirring inside and threatening to pop when virtually the only thing I could do was sit still and grip my knees with my hands. Hold on, breath. Look at that patch job blow. She’s about to blow. But she didn’t.
Then I realized that my actual greatest fear – that I’d blow up and disintegrate into small cell bits – was an reality and eventuality for my body someday. I was actually reading my biological blueprint accurately and that ultimately, my borrowed cells, this star dust transmitted through foods my mama ate when I hid in her belly – all this matter, this star dust – was going to come unglued. And, as a human being, I am in reality a cellular patch job. A temporary glued-up living human being. We are mosaics of electrons and neutrons and somewhere a Higgs Boson does something and we’re alive! And, someday it all goes away. My greatest fear was actually just the way things are – my cellular patch job was a clear analogy to what my body was teaching me. I was seeing inside my molecular structure the fact of my impermanence, that one day all these patched together pieces and parts would fall apart. Dissolve.
But still the wave of scared shitless emerged time and again. Starting with a few curls of subconscious fear state it would grow. I began to have panic attacks. My practice remained the same. Sit still when I felt most turbulent, hold my knees to remind myself that I was alive and that I was not flying apart in real time. Fear is a wild ride. But, I also knew that my emotions are not the real me, they are great rivers coursing through my days and nights. They have a life of their own, but they don’t define me. I am not my emotions, they flow through me because I’m a human being. Thank you, therapist Cynthia. Your last name starts with Z. You helped me to stay present for myself even in the pit of fear until I could watch it’s appearance and finally its cessation. The rampage of fear is impermanent and I am not my emotions. I learned to to listen to it.
Anxiety still plagued me for a long time, years. I lay anxious on my bed, hung out anxious on my couch, felt anxious at every turn.
So, I sat with that! Anxious. There it was. In the stomach. Neck. Jaw. Clenched root chakra. Shallow breathing. Panting. Anxious. They gave me medication. A disorder. I got off the medication, it took a while. The anxiety was like a black Persian cat constantly whisking about in my space, stirring up the air, restless and insistent.
I sat with my new friend anxiety. And, over time I realized. How greatly I was misinterpreting the signals from my own body. My body is an electromagnetic biochemical organism. Three years of uni nursing school gave that orientation to me. What I was actually feeling in my body was the intermittancy of physical processes inside. I sensed the gaps between heart beats. The pulses and swishes of blood. The little electrical ignitions that powered some Krebs cycle of my cells. Breath, pulse, heart, muscle movements, this living machinery is alive! And, it is gappy. All these systems operating in homeostasis. Seamlessly.
I had been misinterpreting my very basic physical experience of being alive in a temporary human body as anxiety. But it was not anxiety at its root. When neutrally experienced – yes, with my hands on my knees albeit more lightly cradling them – my thought that I was anxious was really my misunderstanding that these feelings were really simply the sensation of aliveness. The thrum, thrill, dip and spill of aliveness.
I think Hindu call it satchitananda. The bliss of being alive.
Walking myself through this valley of death in recovery from PTSD took years. I think the key was my commitment to patience. And, doing everything I could to be kind to my inner child, my woman, and to take good care of this miraculous biomachine every day.
Releasing me from garden variety anxiety through a combo of meditation practice and psychotherapy is what what led me to what I call Overnight Happiness.
Don’t get me wrong, Overnight Happiness took a long time. I’m 63. But, I don’t get mad at inanimate objects for lying inconveniently on the floor or get pipped at people for saying words. I try to live as well and much in the present moment each day while fully accepting this is a term-limited gig on earth with one precious day no guarantees.
I now enjoy tuning in to the tingling, subtle and multi-dimensional feeling of aliveness as pure impersonal and non-conceptual underpinnings of my physical existence. It was never anxiety all along, just the miraculous pulsing, flowing, sparking aching, gasping, sleeping, weeding, blabbering, wholeness of being I Am.
Ta da! Overnight happiness.
I think it is really radical when women are in our bodies, alive and ecstatic. Just the way we really are.