This year I left my corporate job and visited 12 countries in four months, fulfilling a dream to travel and wander without time constraints. As I work on my resumé and ignite preparations to return to the workplace, an unwelcome guest re-activates her loyalty card and rushes through my front door. Anxiety knows I’m an excellent hostess: just this week I fed her pizza twice for dinner, mounds of milk chocolate and generous pours of wine. She hates healthy foods and loves when I start to round up around my face and belly.
Anxiety has wonderful listening skills and delights in my monologues filled with self-doubt and imposter syndrome rumination. One of her favorite activities is to cozy up with me in bed, hugging me tightly with her arms chiseled in misery, snoring out loudly with her fang filled mouth. She thrives when I wake up at 4:30 a.m. in a total fog, unable to return to sleep, for when I can’t think clearly, she’s allowed to stick around longer.
After two weeks commanding my body and soul, I knew it was time to send Anxiety back to the bowels of darkness where she belongs. I closed my eyes and meditated, calming down my mind and activating Compassion, who insightfully whispered: “Practice yoga today.” Anxiety yelled and screamed in retaliation, ordering me in her moldy morning breath not to derail the plans she had for my day. I begged her to leave me alone, but she decided to tag along all the way to my mat.
It had been a year since my last visit to the hot yoga studio. The yogi to my left was a handsome man with perfectly carved muscles and sweet green eyes, the kind of person you think has it all together. Minutes before class started, he asked how my morning was going. All I could do was emit a deep sigh followed by a bland “it’s going OK.” He countered my ungenuine response with a very authentic reply: “It’s been a very difficult week taking care of my teenage daughters, but thankfully getting them ready to go to school this morning was easy. For the moment, this is sufficient.” With his face still tense, he folded into child’s pose.
Those brief 10 seconds of shared human connection were enough to bring the fluid chambers in my eyes to a boil. Tears streamed down my face and though I initially felt embarrassed for feeling so raw and vulnerable next to a stranger, I surrendered. The sun salutations activated the fire in my belly pouring large sweat drops out of my pores with the force of a ravishing waterfall. I could feel renewal building up. As I stretched my muscles, my mind found space for flexibility. As I aligned my spine, I realigned my strength. I often wobbled and fell, but I let go of judgment. “Just pick yourself up and start over,” Compassion reminded me.
In eagle pose I channeled the eagle that showed up to me in the mountains of Lajarón, Spain, flying majestically above the Earth, my worries so small in the great scheme of life. Tree pose gave me the grounding energy of an evergreen pine on the shores of the blue Adriatic, her smell so earthy, her energy so divine. With my arms in airplane pose, I was soaring high again to create the life I want. 60 minutes later, while lying down in savasana with a cold lavender towel covering my eyes, I noticed Anxiety had packed her bags.
At home, I wrote her a letter that ended like this:
Dear Anxiety, though you’re an unwelcome guest, your presence forced me to see that my life is so beautifully abundant. All I need to do is manage one task at a time and trust the flow of life. I have what it takes to thrive. So, thanks, Anxiety, for stopping by. You may now leave and please don’t come back.
As stubborn as she is, she hasn’t left yet. She finds ways to sneak in through the shadows and jump in my bed when the world is silent. As I continue to practice surrendering, the walls she must climb to walk in keep getting higher and higher. For the moment, this is sufficient.