“Action absorbs anxiety,” said cultural anthropologist and activist Angeles Arrien. Based on my experience before my recent trip to France, I would have to add “skillful” or “wise” action. Unskillful action can actually feed the anxiety.
Like many people I’ve talked to, packing for a trip provokes anxiety. While I usually manage fairly well, I can also become obsessive. And because I have for the most part retired, working about 10% of what I was, I have a lot more time. This led to me writing a new aphorism: “obsession driven by anxiety expands to fit all available space.” It became one of those feedback loops (anxiety leads to attempt at perfection, inevitably impossible, back to anxiety, etc.) that can be seen most clearly after one is out the other side.
What did I learn? Given my personality, it would be ridiculous to tell myself not to get anxious. But I can refuse to indulge the anxiety, staying more present to the feeling tone and then loving the part of me that wants to believe that perfection and total control are necessary and possible.
“Oh, honey,” I’ll say to myself, “it’ll be okay; just breathe and relax for a moment.” And then I’ll have more energy for wise action that truly moves me forward in a much more satisfying and grounded way.