• Tag Archives anxiety
  • Shame, Guilt, Fear

    Lughnasa                                                  Waning Artemis Moon

    While it’s fresh.  A meeting this morning with our financial manager where we went over, again, the various moving parts of our investments.  It resulted in a down feeling, almost defensive.  What was this?  He said we’d be fine financially and I believed him.  We overhauled our whole approach to money now over ten years ago and have a great track record since then.  When I mentioned my feelings to Kate, she said she trusted in our ability to adapt.  Again, I believed her.  We have and will adapt to changed circumstances.

    It took a while to delayer my feelings.  First, I noticed anxiety (my unfortunately favorite response to the unknown), as if a vast pit were about to open ahead of us.  A pit of this and then a possible that and more stuff we didn’t know, or have impact on.  A little deeper I recognized a fear about being dependent on a bag of gold held in some financial dragon’s lair and only won back by dint of great effort.  Silly.  Obtuse.  Still, the case.

    Pushing a little further, a different layer.  Retirement.  When Kate retires, my long tenuous connection to the world of work would fray, then vanish.  It’s as if she’s retiring for both of us.  Or, rather, that I feel the imminence of retirement perhaps in a manner similar to the couvade, a strange situation in some cultures where a husband takes on the characteristics of his wife’s pregnancy, often placing a heavy rock on the belly near the birth moment and heaving it off.  So, there’s the unknown, the strange sense of money coming in from a pot somewhere far away, a feeling of retiring that is sympathetic or empathetic rather than actual.  But, that wasn’t the end.

    What finally came to me was a mixture of shame, guilt and fear, all related to no longer having a viable connection to the world of work.  This is my middle class roots talking.  As long as Kate practices, I have a tangible though fragile link to work and the income it produces.  After she retires, all semblance of that relationship vanishes.  In the central Indiana world where I grew up not to work was shameful, weak, irresponsible.  Kate responded with, “Well, I’m upper middle class and I don’t care! (about the abandoning work)”

    All of our life comes along for the ride and we never knew when one part or another will express itself, rise up and claim attention.

  • Understanding the Anxious Mind

    Fall                                     Waning Blood Moon

    Finally, a city criteria list worth paying attention to:  The Daily Beast has ranked America’s Smartest Cities.  The Twin Cities come in 4th after, in order, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco and Boston.  Denver is 5th.  Las Vegas and Fresno, California bring up the rear at 54th and 55th.  It’s an interesting read.

    Kate’s surgery happens on October 19th and the surgeon requires that she stop taking her nsaid.  That means she has less pain control on board so her pain level has begun to ramp up.  This is only the first day without it.  Ouch.  We’ve also begun to reconnoiter what changes we’ll have to make in the house for her recovery period.  Move a comfy chair in front of the TV in place of the couch.  Things like that.thedress625

    Kate’s sewing a lot.  She’s finished a butterfly costume complete with antennas and wings as well as a purple jumper for granddaughter Ruth.  She wants to get all this stuff done before she’s post-op.

    If you have an anxious bone in your body, well, better, if you have an anxiety prone amygdala, then reading this article might interest you:  The Anxious Mind.  It recounts the work of Jerome Kagan who established the genetic imprint on reactivity.  His work undergirded the notion of a fixed temperament.

    As a high reactive myself, I found the notion of a genetic imprint for anxiety strangely liberating.  It made me feel that my state was not a character flaw, but part of the package.  The article makes all the nuancing you might want related to nurture, triggers and coping skills, but the clear fact remains that people like me are the way we are because we have a hypervigilant amygdala.

    When I finish sermons a week ahead of time,  investigate the costs of medicare drug and health care plans now, a year or two early, and plan my tours at least a week in advance, I display a learned strategy for managing my anxiety.  That’s why I’m not good in a crisis or under a crushing deadline.  I need time to prepare, to think things through.  I bring sufficient pressure to bear on myself.  I don’t need external stimuli.

    After I got done reading this article and realizing that I was on one end of the bell curve–again, I began to wonder–again–what it must be like to have a normal, stable reaction to the work, a calm feeling in the pit of your stomach instead of a roiling mess.

    It also became clear to me that I had a trigger that moved my anxiety from genetic inheritance to personality dilemma.  When my mother died, I was 17 years old.  My brain had not finished maturing.  It took years for me to integrate the confusion and insecurity that her sudden death created.

    Even though previous analysis has surfaced some of this before, this particular slant, a genetic proclivity, is new to me.  It helps.

  • I Wonder

    Lughnasa Full Harvest Moon

    “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” – Greek Proverb

    I’m nervous. Not sweat on the palms, head for the door or the tunnel kind of nervous, but nervous anyhow. It has two sources I can identify. One, will I dress well enough to preach in Wayzata? After a life time of playing down the importance of dressing up, I still know when it can hurt. I know this seems hopeless given that I’m 62, not 16, but there it is. These folks (folks I imagine attending a Unitarian-Universalist church in a wealthy burb like Wayzata.) dress better than I do. I imagine. And, they probably do. I only want to come up to minimum standards and I’ll probably make it. What if I don’t?

    I’ve shaved and cut my hair, trimmed my nails. I’m not about to buy new clothes because I believe Thoreau was right, “Beware of ventures that require new clothes.” but here’s the problem. I don’t wear sport coats or suits at all any more. This is so true that when I went in the closet to fetch a jacket I might wear I found most of the shoulders covered in dust. I’m not kidding. It’s been that long. Also, I’m no longer the svelte guy I was when I bought all the dress pants I own. Fortunately, I can still fit into a few pair.

    The second source of anxiety is also about vanity. I’ve preached around the state in several congregations, but I only get asked back in a couple of places. There’s no need for me to preach at all, financially, but I do have an intellectual stake in being heard and appreciated for the work and original thought. That intellectual stake comes freighted with an emotional stake, too. It’s not like I’ll roll over and quit writing if I don’t get good feed back. I generally do good feedback.

    Part of me says it’s the changeable nature of program committees and the changing tastes of even those who remain constant from year to year and I’m sure that explains some of it. Part of it, too, I’m sure, is the non-pastoral nature of my preaching. That is, I don’t write to inspire or to give practical advice; I write to make people think, to get them to act, to consider new ways of seeing old problems or to see possibilities and problems where they never saw them before. I can make people nervous. On purpose. Because I’ve understood that to be my particular calling from day 1 in seminary.

    In spite of all those it might just be that people don’t like what I say, the way I say it, or me in particular. Oh, well, if it is this, then what can I do? I’m gonna be who I am anyhow. Still, I’d like to know. I think.

  • 62 And Still Worried About High School

    Imbolc                Waning Wild Moon

    Leaving for St. Paul in a few minutes.  Managed to work myself into an anxious state.  Wonderful.

    The day itself has glorious possibilities, bright and warming.

    What I’m experiencing falls under the category of pre-tramautic stress syndrome; that is, stress caused by anticipation of an unlikely, but possible phenomenon.  Last night I wrote that I gave up wanting more speaking opportunities and that the work is its own reward.  True enough as far it goes, but I also want to be liked and know that my prickly, combative personality does not lend itself to the warm fuzzies of human interaction.  God, here I am, 62 and still worried about high school.

    At my best I know and accept the path and the person I have become, but just before a public event, sometimes, like right now, I’m not at my best.  Anyhow, it helps to write it down, say it out loud.  Thanks for listening.

  • The Fog of Everyday Life

    35  54%  34%  7mph  windroseENE bar rises dewpoint20 First Quarter of the Snow Moon    Holiseason

    The great tragedy of Science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.

    Thomas H. Huxley (1825 – 1895)

    Whenever I read something about war, especially from a general staff perspective, this observation comes up:  “A battle plan never survives contact with the enemy.”  This represents several attitudes at once.  Humility, in that no plan can entertain every contingency created by others with free will opposed to it.  CYA, in that it provides cover for even the bad plan, for it too will not survive contact with the enemy.   Hopefulness, in that it apparently assumes that despite this problem, somehow, things will come out ok. 

    A paraphrase might be, no plan survives contact with reality.  That is to say, no intellectual effort, a non-dimensional rendering of a complex, 4-D world, can guide us unerringly in the nitty gritty of daily life.

                                         Reality is a crutch for people who can’t cope with drugs.
                                                           – Lily Tomlin

    All this explains why I’m not done with my tour.  The cursed enemy of groceries and filing and e-mails were ugly facts, real obstacles that rose up and overwhelmed my plan.  In days gone by I would become anxious about this, troubled.  Now, I’m merely frantic.  I have all the stuff out, I’ve done most of the objects before, and I’m bound to know more than the high school students.  This all provides me with the long ago experience of college when a report or test was imminent and other ugly facts like beer and women and politics had crossed my path and torn up my plans.

    At some point in all this mental milling around, I come back to this, “This is why you’ve not done more with your life.  You bum.”  This occurs especially when I read about someone like Jacque Barzun who, at age 100, just published his 38th book.   If I publish one a year from now till my 100th birthday, I could just catch him.  Well, I guess there is still time. 

    Next comes:  Oh, geez.  Come on now.  You love your life and realize how lucky you are.  How grateful you are for what you have and for what you’ve been able to do with your life.  Then, I nod, get up and go work out.  Out, out, damned fact.