Poppins, Take a Chill Pill

I have been a worrier my entire life, living with a layer of anxiety in varying degrees wrapped around me like a veil. In the last months of my mother’s life, the effects of anxiety and stress were almost crippling, but perhaps understandable. What I don’t understand is why I can’t seem to let go of the worrying in everyday life. Just like my mother before me, if I don’t have something to worry about, I seem to find something. Frustrating and ridiculous at the same time. What’s a girl…um, a middle-aged woman, to do?

I have been seeing a terrific new physical therapist three times a week to help me with recurring back and neck pain. When he was working on me a couple of days ago, he said, “You have some of the tightest back and neck muscles I have ever seen. Wow.” He followed this with, “After watching you and working on you, I can tell you your biggest issue- you are tense all of the time. You visibly relax for me, and then within a minute you pull right back into the tension.” To which I replied, “So basically, what you’re saying is that I’m an uptight clarinet player.” Yep. Imagine that…The PT joked that I needed an IV of Valium…I told him my students would probably thank him if he made that happen- but I’m goofy enough without any help.     

I try so hard to find my inner calm; I do yoga religiously, I meditate, I write, I focus on my breath when I feel the tension rising. I work every day to remember the positives in my life and let go of worrying about things I cannot change, I try- often unsuccessfully- to live in the moment. But still, I catch myself over and over with my shoulders up around my ears, and that niggling knot of worry buried in the pit of my stomach. It doesn’t keep me from enjoying my life…or does it? I often wonder what it would be like to live each day without stress as my constant companion. I recognize its impact on so many areas of my life…why do I cling so tightly to it as if it’s a part of my DNA?   

I do see progress, but there is a long road ahead. I don’t mind that, though- I have always liked the idea of the continual metamorphosis, the constant effort to evolve into a better version of yourself every day. The key is to keep a sense of humor about our human foibles, along with a spoonful of hope and a dash of stubbornness. And so, this Mary Poppins gal will keep at it, working to let go, working to shed that heavy skin of worry and anxiety that doesn’t serve me in any way at this point in my life. Each day is another chance to get it right, and I am so grateful for each and every one.  I have to believe that there is a special magic that happens when we truly open our hearts to possibility instead of being shackled by fear. How empowering that will be…and it will be.  

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