The other day I faced two of my anxiety triggers. I left my kids and my husband (separation anxiety) and got on a plane (flight anxiety). My emotions and adrenaline were on high and the tall beer I got at the airport cafe barely touched it. I considered grabbing an Uber home (everyone would surely understand). The husband laughed when I told him that and assured me he would not have understood. But I dragged myself into my seat, one foot after another. At one point I wasn’t sure if I was going to poop my pants or start sobbing, but still I stayed put. I didn’t run down the aisle screaming LET ME OUT I WANT TO GO HOME like I thought about for more than a couple seconds.
I’m not really sure if staying in my seat was bravery or social anxiety.
Once we were in the air and the stewardess brought me a diet coke (always my sign that we are going to make it, because obviously they wouldn’t offer refreshments if we were about to die), I started to relax. I watched a comedy as I fidgeted in my chair. I was doing it. I did it. I did it scared.
I had a wonderful trip, and though I braced myself for a panic attack on the way home…it never happened. Anxiety is weird and unpredictable that way.
I used to have the goal of “arriving”. I’ve thought before that what I needed was an un-anxious life; one free of triggers and bad days. I would never be worried or scared in that perfect future I pictured. In that future my body would be sleek and toned and I wouldn’t even like sugar or toast anymore. I’d also have epic body confidence and I’d have zero days where I felt shame about my crows feet or armpit boobs. I’d never get frustrated or mad at the kids. The husband and I would see eye to eye on everything. I would have conquered my battles and he would have conquered his (#winning). I’d feel an overwhelming sense of peace and joy and purpose every single day.
I don’t think I knew that that’s what I was picturing when I pictured it; but it was.
Here’s the thing I’ve realized though: I don’t need or even want a perfect life. The level of healing and freedom I have today is worth celebrating. Yes, I’d love to never “feel” anxious again. I’d love to do the magic thing that erased it from my life forever, but I’m also okay with how things are right now. I’m okay and grateful that I’m able to go scared and that I’m able to talk about it and laugh about it without feeling any shame.
I’m grateful that medicine and running have helped my struggle so, so, much.
I love my marriage. Not because it’s perfect (because it’s definitely not), but because we get to hash through this messy life together and we get to make mistakes and love each other anyway. We take out our stress on each other sometimes, but we are also learning to stay connected through the stress instead.
I love who I am as a mom. My girls are currently spitting at each other at the coffee shop I’m trying to work at, and I’ve snapped at their antics no less than five times. I’m okay with that reality. Not because I’m the Mom I always pictured, but because I love raising these tiny humans in my own imperfect way. Also, I’ve gotten really great at apologizing.
I love my life even though sometimes money is tight and the bills pile up, and the clutter is literally having babies all over my house. What would I do with my time if there was nothing to worry about and no one to clean up after (and no one to get annoyed at)?
My goal isn’t to arrive anymore. It’s to love well; to love myself and to love others.
My goal is to give myself grace for the process and not to believe there’s something “wrong with me” because I have anxiety. There’s nothing wrong with me because I’m scared sometimes and I make mistakes in parenting, wife-ing, and life-ing. I am human; you are human; we are flawed and imperfect. We are beautiful mistake makers. Each of us has battles we fight daily. If I was perfect and free from fear and discomfort and failure…where would I find connection? That sounds like a very lonely and boring life to me.
It’s like that movie Inside Out. We were made to have more emotions than just joy.
So, my friend, whether you are at rock bottom and barely making it through the day, or if you’re somewhere in the middle place (not arrived but moving forward slowly), I celebrate your journey with you. I’m grateful to have community to embrace this imperfect sacred mess with.