I hear the Cowardly Lion sputtering it. It takes courage to live this life, no matter what our challenges are. I’m grateful today for the courage to meet the challenges of my day, and for the lessons I learned about myself in doing so. They weren’t big, were basic first world challenges; challenges being relative, we all have some.
I had to drive 80 miles (in my car that I own though it’s 16 years old) after a snowy morning (an unexpected three inches) to see the dermatologist (which insurance pays for except a measly $2), and get a couple of centimeters frozen off my face as well as a biopsy sliced off the bridge of my nose which has precious little flesh to spare. I’m so grateful for the awareness to observe physical changes so I knew to go see the doctor, for his friendly efficiency (it took three times as long to numb my nose as it did to carve the biopsy), and for the financial assistance to get potential skin cancer identified and taken care of (thanks, Affordable Care Act); grateful for the long-lasting anesthetic he shot into my nose to get me that 80 miles back home painfree, and that I didn’t freak out driving home when I noticed that my nose was bleeding and in fact bled the whole way home. Even though I felt a little queasy after awhile.
I’m grateful for the gorgeous drive from here to there and back again, and grateful that I had other options though I decided to take little Wren with me. This was another act of courage, choosing to trust humanity not to mess with her while she waited in the car for me while I was under the knife (and freezer gun). I’m grateful for the opportunity to observe the extent of anxiety that rose in me because I know that she has separation anxiety when I leave her at home. How do I know? The way she greets me on my return panting like she’s run a marathon in summer and jumping to my shoulder. She was a perfect angel on the drive, waited quietly in the car (for all I know) and I know it wasn’t too hot today, and she slept the whole way home. Such a good little girl! She’s given plenty of gentle huggies since we got home, and is patiently waiting for bedtime.
“How are you?” asked the doctor when he entered the office. I’ve been seeing him a long time and he sort of knows me. “I’m anxious!” I replied a little too emphatically. As I told him about Wren in the car, I felt all these other anxieties bubbling up. “I’m anxious about a lot of other things, too!” I almost challenged him to ask, so I didn’t make him. “I’m anxious about politics,” I confessed, and about climate chaos, I thought, and in that moment I realized that I had channeled a lot of sublimated anxieties into the one I’d been focused on for days, What to do about Wren while I’m gone for four hours? I’ve been ignoring anxieties about the rabid right wing threat to democracy and the most basic rights of most Americans; I’ve been cultivating anxiety about Covid, long Covid, and living alone; and about this COPD diagnosis, and what the future will bring, and whether I’ll ever choose to spend time around people again. I could feel the seeds of agoraphobia taking root; I could feel empathy. I was able to recognize what was arising in me, and be with it with calm awareness even though it wasn’t comfortable, sit still for the procedures, and then follow the steps to get home to (relative) safety. My attachment to the outcome of this day was different than it would have been a dozen years ago. Instead of worrying about biopsy results, I only cared that I made it home safely with Wren, and once that happened I was able to relax again.
In mindfulness practice we consider relaxation to be a skill. It was only by pushing well beyond my comfort zone into overt psychological discomfort that I was able to recognize how far I’ve come in relaxing: It amazed me to realize that I used to spend much of every day enmeshed in this same level of anxiety that assailed me this afternoon. What a relief! It’s no longer a steady state for me, but only an occasional trait.