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Waking Anxious, Underwater

I woke up feeling anxious.

It happens like this sometimes. I go to bed feeling fine. I sleep well. I might even stumble around after waking for a few minutes, getting my bearings, drinking my coffee, noticing something but unsure what it is exactly I’m noticing.

Then it strikes me. I am feeling anxious.

I examine my calendar, my commitments, my conversations from the day or even the week before. Nothing jumps out as the cause. Sure, I have a lot to do. Don’t we all? But it’s no more or less than usual.

Still, today I woke up feeling anxious and the feeling tingles inside my stomach, reaches outside my body into the air around me, electrifying the molecules that touch my skin. I do not contain the anxiety. It contains me.

Is it the condition of the world pressing in? Is it the condition of my prayer life, my thought life, my parenting or my partnering? Yes. All yes. It’s too much, of course, it’s all too much.

So I spend some precious minutes putting it aside. I imagine taking all of the anxiety and gathering it up in my hands, as I might gather the dirty laundry after sorting it, carry it awkwardly to the washer and stuff it in. I’ll have to do more with it later but for now, I sort and carry and stuff and wash and try to focus on the space that is now left behind where that mound of clothes and towels once sat.

See, this is the thing, that space left behind.

Now I’ll let the world be the world, let the laundry be transformed, let the phone ring, the emails pile up, the birds sing outside my window and I’ll focus on that space because that’s where prayer lives when I’m anxious. I cannot summon it from thinking, from wishing, from worrying.

It only shows up for me in the spaces I make like this. It’s hard to explain. I’m not doing the process justice at all in this small attempt at trying.

All I can say is that when I wake up anxious I know the cares of this world, as St. Isaac might say, want to drown me. My head is under water. Creating some space, shaking loose whatever holds me under the water, even this one small attempt might be enough to help me break the surface of that water to find some air.

#prayer #fasting #water #anxiety #drowning