In an effort to increase my optimism and awareness of positivity in my life, I write down five good things that happen every day. I’ve tried this off and on for several years, but I have been incredibly faithful for this past one. Just before bed, I reflect on my day and find some way to pull five good things from it, no matter what. I’m proud of keeping this up, because it reminds me to look for that silver lining.
So often, and for so long, I just looked at the storm clouds. However, in recording just good things, only silver linings show up in my notebooks. The darkness that may have prevailed over my day is nowhere in sight. Sometimes, this is good (see my history of dwelling on the clouds). But I realized in a moment of panic that those looming anvils of anxiety can’t stay inside my head. I do talk to people about my worries and problems, and vocalizing them has always helped. Despite this, keeping track of all the things that make me nervous is hard. I never know when something I forgot will pop up into my thoughts. I stress over forgetting things to say to my therapist. I worry about worrying about something I’ve forgotten I worry about.
The other day, as I felt the tingles in my extremities that meant I was letting my anxiety take over, I wrote myself an email. “You are making yourself anxious because” is the title, and the body is filled with the reasons. As I kept going, finishing the “because” with entries like “ you are impatient when it comes to the future and also terrified” and “you want answers but there aren’t any,” I realized that for some reason, writing in the second person was incredibly therapeutic. I’m a believer in “I” statements due to my diplomatic dramatic-conflict-avoiding nature. But this time, instead of saying “I’m anxious because” like you do in therapy, I made my statements almost accusatory.
I felt like I was either having an out of body experience, or I was yelling at my subconscious self. I was telling myself to own it, to own everything that was distressing me and recognize that I am in control. Sometimes you need a swift kick in the butt to let something go or get started on something else, and that’s what I was doing to myself.
Lately, one of my greatest causes of anxiety has been my career. I work in the film industry, but don’t think I want to do that anymore. I have always considered myself a writer in one way or another, but I’ve been missing the drawing, painting, and art that used to infuse my life. I’m in the early stages of speaking with a career counselor, who told me that career building / discovery / development is a process, not an event. I understand this. It makes sense. I’m researching writing and art / graphic design careers at the moment to compare and contrast. But my problem is I don’t want to do the research — I want to be something now! I want it to be an event. And I don’t want or know how to choose between those two fields.
So I wrote to myself:
“You are afraid and angry about considering these options that seem like diverging paths in a wood, when really they might be closer than you think. The paths don’t necessarily have to go in opposite directions — they could be side-by-side with easy access. Of course by crossing a bridge to one path, you might miss some of the beauty the other has to offer. But the bridge has great views. Whichever path you’re on, you might trip over a root and slip in mud, but you know that no path is ever perfectly clear.”
I read that statement to my mother and she laughed halfway through, saying “Even your anxiety lists are personal essays!” I don’t know whether to take that as a sign or something else. Maybe I can have both in some way or another….a silver lining. At the moment, I’m writing. It’s not a living, but I’m doing it. Yet my sketchbook is calling and I can’t find a pen, so I’m finishing an essay about my anxiety and inability to choose a career path to dig around in my desk until I find one.