In mid-August, the sudden onset of severe panic attacks landed me in the hospital for several days.  Since then I’ve continued to struggle with generalized anxiety, although medication is helping.  Walking through this experience I continue to reflect and wonder about the roll of anxiety in my life.  This post is a result of some of that work. 


        After the hours of
careful listening, my therapist offered 

        an image that helped me, eventually to reclaim my life. 

        “You seem to look upon depression as the hand of an 

trying to crush you,” he said.  “Do you think you 

        could see it instead as
the hand of a friend, pressing you 

        down to ground on which it is safe to

        Amid the assaults I was suffering, the suggestion that 

        depression was my friend seemed impossibly romantic, 

        even insulting. But
something in me knew that down, to 

        the ground, was the direction of wholeness
for me, and 

        something in me allowed that image to begin its slow 

        work of
healing. – Parker Palmer in “Let Your Life Speak: 

        Listening for the Voice of Vocation”

Dear Anxiety:

I don’t want
to talk to you, deal with you, or look you directly in the eye.  The fact is, at this point, I’m scared of

But I also
realize that you are nothing.  You are
absence, the open, empty space between. 
Or maybe that’s just where you dwell, like a dark shadow creeping
through cracks, the chill winter wind finding its way in, always.  

That’s where
we’ve met most often – as I step from one thing to the next, you rise up in
the pause between inhale and exhale, in the moment between departure and
arrival.  I learned a long time ago
to watch for you, warily, in times of transition.  On occasion I’ve fended you off,
outwitted you and though you stalked, I felt no fear. 

Maybe that’s
because, in those times, I know the game’s afoot and I accept you as part of
the process, the way shadows and deepening night are not their own phenomena, but are only an indication of the earth’s movement in relation to the sun.   

though, you’re here and you know how you work, I don’t need to explain it to
you.  Have your piece, will you?  What is it you’re trying to say?


Anxiety’s Reply


I saw you,
dear one, hanging like a spider on its silken thread, blown by the slightest
wind as you journeyed.  Hang on! 
I wanted to shout.  Be careful! 
Take ease! Your soul is in transition. 
your outward life is settled, your soul is undergoing a transformation.  

It was as
though the ground shook and you did not notice, as though the sun was blinded
and you continued walking, unaware. 


I became afraid for you.  I
saw the chasm between what was and the destination – what will be – seemed but
a blurr.  I tried to wake you up to the
danger, but you shut me out, pushed me down, so I cried out louder, Be careful! 
Take care!  Your soul is in

Forgive me,
please, I only wanted your attention.  

I only
wanted you to slow down, to rest.  

I was afraid
for you. 

I did not
mean to frighten you.


My reply:

I see.

You’re here
because I’m again passing through the valley of the shadow of death on my way
to new life, but I was unaware.     

I hear
you.  I will listen.

Let us
both lay down now, here in the grass, here where the earth beneath us is solid
or there on the living room floor where the old oak holds steady.  

Let us sit
awhile in silence . . . 

Yes, my
friend, my soul is in transition and you are here with me as I cross the great
divide.  Let us hold hands, shall
we?  And lying here, let us remember that
we are held, for though you creep in through cracks and empty spaces, so also
does the light.  

I was afraid
because I thought you were the voice of darkness and behind you I sensed the
deepening night of fear itself.  Maybe
you also thought the same.  I can see
now that you are but a mist, a fog, and behind you also dwells the light.   

Darkness is nothing but the absence
of light, fear is nothing but the absence of love. But love
endures forever, there is no absence, only waxing and waning in our awareness
as we travel.  

Love endures

Don’t worry,
I will remind you of that.  

I hear
you.  I will rest, let us lay here
together for awhile as we rest in love.  

I will not
miss you when you depart, anxiety, but while you are here, let us be
friends.  Let us converse about our
fears, about the shadows and spaces between, but let us rest also in the love
that is always, always breaking through.  

This post is linked with Playdates with God hosted by Laura Boggess who’s lovely book Playdates With God: Having Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World is now available for pre-order on Amazon.  Also linking with Unforced Rhythms.

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