I’ve been experiencing anxiety for the last couple of weeks. It feels like an unwanted guest in my body, making my heart pound with anticipation, my mind spin with worry, my neck ache with panic. As I sat having my mid-morning green smoothie and eggs, my mind went something like this–Ok, Donna, just focus on eating the eggs. Come into the present. Breathe. All is well. I am resilient and strong, peaceful and calm. This is absurd. I’m sitting in my warm, cozy apartment, listening to some house music and my mind is all over the place! It’s creating things that aren’t even true! Why am I feeling so anxious? What’s going on beneath it? I know trying to talk myself out my feelings doesn’t work.
Then I think–What am I going to do today? What might help me calm down? Maybe I’ll think of something I can speak about at the next Toastmasters meeting. It will be Halloween. Do I want to talk about anxiety? Hmmm…masks…I could make a speech about the masks we wear, the mask I wear. Yeah, that could be interesting. Maybe I could even make it funny. Ah, yes…I am the spiritual, artistic type and so what do I do with a situation like facing anxiety? I find the opportunity in it! I create art with it!– I put on a Chipmunk outfit!
So, I grab my pen and journal and start writing what I’m thinking. This sometimes crazy mind that just keeps chattering on, non-stop. I notice as I start to write, my nerves calm down a bit. The words feel a lot less threatening on the page than swirling around in my head. What’s really worrying me right now? What am I afraid of? In the midst of this mid-life transformation I seem to feel both afraid of changing and afraid of not changing. What if make some changes but I can’t handle it all? Or worse, what if I end up confined to my box of self-limiting beliefs?
As I stretch myself out of my comfort zone more and more, the pendulum swings from excitement to terror. Maybe I’m moving too fast or maybe too slow. Do I need more action or more patience? Should I be doing more or sitting more in stillness and quiet? What is it am I learning through all of this? Compassion, humility, trust.
I long to live a life that is completely true to who I am. I long to help and heal, to write and create, to share and connect. I long for a life of passion and purpose. I long to be open-hearted, holding nothing back. I long to speak freely and honestly. I long to drop the mask I’m wearing and simply be completely myself with people, vulnerable and naked, with nothing to prove and nothing to hide.
The costume I wear tonight is not unlike the persona I put on every day. The persona of Happy, Nice, Calm Woman Totally in Control. But it’s just so tiring trying to keep the mask on all of the time. There’s so much energy going into an image that isn’t even real. This chipmunk costume is like the protection my ego builds around me. The ego tricks me into believing I need this coating–indeed a furry one–in order to survive the arrows I perceive to be hurled at my heart. But really it’s a veil that blocks me from directly experiencing the world around me.
Do we want to live our lives behind a veil, a mask, only to wake up to the reality that fear has been keeping us feeling small and separate? As long as we are busy trying to create and maintain our image by getting stuff, getting ahead, achieving and succeeding, we are robbed of experiencing the present and deeply connecting to what is. I know for me, when I am seeing through the eyes of love rather than the eyes of fear, I have a much better understanding of what’s really going on. When I see through eyes of love, I feel compassion for my fellow human beings, knowing they are just like me.
I dream of a world where we can slow down, pause more, truly SEE each other and freely express our joy as well as our suffering. Imagine the energy we all would have if we could end the pretending and defending…if we could remove these masks we wear! If we could simply be human. If we could simply BE. I dream of a world where we can all be in touch with our own mental suffering and through that deep connection with ourselves, we can profoundly connect to the suffering in others. I believe if we can connect in this way, we would realize the truth, that there is no separation between us. That behind our masks, we are all made of the same stuff.