Friday Fodder – Anxiety

Once upon a time…

Beads of sweat formed in unison across Alistair’s brow and freshly-shaven upper lip. Waves of nausea threatened to drown him. He slammed his hands on the bathroom vanity, loudly sighing in defeat. If rehearsing conversation in front of the mirror was painful – and it was – his high school reunion was going to be absolute carnage. Looking up, he found it impossible to gaze into his own sunken eyes. Instead, he focused pensively on a space just below, where a web of little red veins disappeared into his sculpted cheekbones.

‘Maybe I ought to stay home,’ he thought.

He splashed cold water on his face and patted it dry. As he adjusted the stiff collar on his shirt and felt a dull ache at the back of his head travelling up from his shoulder. Everything about the injury was dull – he was dull. Alistair only had about an hour to come up with an interesting story.

Retrieving a bottle of Xanax from the medicine cabinet, he took a deep breath and tipped it over his hand until a pill shook loose. It went down without water.

“Yeah,” he rehearsed, closing the medicine cabinet and placing his hand on the mirror. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to the reunion. There was a family emergency. I know. Can’t be in two places at once.”

Alistair flicked off the bathroom light and shut the door on his way out. Before he made it down the hall, there was a loud ‘CRACK!’. From the crevices around the bathroom door shone a bright white light, bleaching the hallway. Alistair froze as the door creaked open.

A figure walked out, no more than a silhouette until the noisy white light faded.

Alistair gasped at the face he saw. “What the? Are you -?”

“Yes, I’m you! Your doppelganger, dark twin. You in a moustache and a leather jacket. Alistair in italics. Try to absorb that as quickly as you can, please. I’m afraid if we linger too long on the specifics, things will become grotesquely philosophical. Basically, I’ve had enough of your whinging, so I have decided to go to your reunion for you. You can stay home and relax.”

“But-”

“Now I need to figure out my angle. Were you bullied in high school?”

“I was a skinny boy named Alistair.”

“Say no more. What happened to your shoulder?”

“I slipped and fell in the shower.”

“Good. I was beginning to worry you really didn’t remember. It wasn’t just the shoulder, was it? You also hit your head.”

“Well, yeah, but I don’t think it was that bad.”

“Yeah, it’s probably nothing. Give me the sling. We both know you don’t actually need it, but it’s perfect for my plan. I mean our plan.”

Alistair handed over the sling and watched his reflection put it on and quickly depart. ‘This is fine. That wasn’t real, so this is fine. The reunion will be just fine. I’ll just stay home and nobody will think twice. Unless I’m really in two places at once. No. Impossible. This is fine.’

Alistair turned back to the empty mirror, numbly reached into the medicine cabinet, and took another Xanax before going to bed.

The next morning, Alistair heard three solid knocks on the front door. It was Constable Rachel Andrews. They had gone to school together. She had a wicked look on her face, as though she somehow knew all of Alistair’s darkest secrets.

“Hey, Al. May I come in?”

“Do you have a warrant?”

“This isn’t a movie,” said Rachel, barging past him into the apartment.

Alistair yawned. “What’s going on?”

“Rough night last night, eh?”

“Er, no. I crashed early and just woke up.”

Rachel cocked her head to one side. The smile playing at her lips twisted into something quizzical. “You’re a tough nut to crack, Al. Here you go, you forgot these.”

Reaching into her back pocket, she pulled out a piece of blue cloth. “Is that my underwear?”

Rachel nodded, and the quizzical look twisted into annoyance. “Oh, God. You don’t remember anything, do you? I had no idea you were that drunk. Go on, make me a cup of coffee and I’ll fill you in.”

Alistair reluctantly walked into the kitchen and put the kettle on, and Rachel began to recount the events of the previous evening.

“About half an hour into the reunion, a man in a slick black motorcycle helmet walked in through the back door. That man turned out to be you. For some reason, the alarm never went off but it might as well have. From the moment you walked in, all eyes were on you. Including mine.” she cooed.

“When I asked you about your sling, you told me you had saved a little girl and her puppy from a burning building. At first, I had no reason to doubt you, but I later heard a few… slightly different versions. Jake Whitty said you were at a charity snowboarding exhibition and crashed out twenty-five degrees short of a Tomahawk. He said that you said you slid off a cliff and nearly died. Then Jenna Goldsboro told me you couldn’t explain what you did for a living, but you ‘got in a little tiff’ when a group of terrorists tried to enter a children’s cancer ward.”

“Wow,” said Alistair. The reflection had far outperformed the rehearsal.

The door swung open and Alistair’s reflection sauntered in. He looked at Alistair and then at Rachel “Well,” he said, ruffling his hair. “This is a bit awkward, isn’t it?”

Rachel looked like she’d seen a ghost. She waved a drooping finger between the two Alistairs and promptly fainted.

The reflection turned to Alistair. “You haven’t seen my underwear, have you? I’ve been searching all over town”

‘All over town. He’s real, she saw him. And he was all over town last night!’

Alistair presented his reflection with the underwear in silence, then blurted out “What is going on? What happened last night?”

The reflection folded his arms and leaned back on the wall with one foot raised and pressed against it flat, posing like a male model. Before he could recount the events, the door swung open again, making way for three people.

“Marianne!” shouted Alistair, as if caught in a lie. “You’re home early. My wife, Maryanne and her parents, Murray and Elise. What a surprise!”

Marianne felt one of her mother’s hands squeeze tight around her arm. The other was carrying a dish of hot casserole. Marianne scanned the room. There were two Alistairs and an unconscious police officer. “Alistair. What on earth is going on here?”

“It’s all a bit confusing, isn’t it? Allow me to explain.”

“Like hell,” shouted Murray, drawing a pistol and waving it around. His liver-spotted hands shook with old age, but his finger was firm on the trigger.

Rachel roused from her slumber and, upon seeing the gun, drew her own and pointed it squarely at Murray’s chest. “Drop the weapon!”

Alistair pointed at the ceiling. “Shhh the possums in the roof. I told you they were there” A tense silence followed, but was soon broken by the sound of shattering glass at the back of the house. A man in a black ski mask burst into the living room brandishing a gun in each hand.

“Alright, I don’t want to hurt anybody,” said the intruder. “Just hand me the keys to the Ducati and I’ll be on my way.”

Alistair’s ears were ringing and hot. “Nobody in here owns a motorcycle, dude.”

Alistair’s reflection interjected. “Actually I do, although I think ‘own’ is a fairly strong word. I found it last night in a parking lot.”

The robber gritted his teeth and pointed his pistols at Alistair’s reflection. However, before he could do anything, the reflection reached into his leather jacket and withdrew a revolver. He popped the robber right between the eyes.

Rachel turned her sights away from Murray and drilled Alistair’s reflection right in the shoulder. The reflection groaned and fell, hitting the back of his head on a table and collapsing to the ground. Pooling blood made him a halo.

Murray’s gun was pointed at Alistair, but when he pulled the trigger, his safety clicked. As he unclicked the safety, Marianne pushed his arms up. Bang! The skittering above became panicked. A bullet-sized hole appeared in the ceiling, and the area around it began to sag. Slowly, the hole opened up and possums rained down. One landed in Elise’s casserole.

Elise shrieked and lobbed the casserole up in the air. The dish’s protective cloth sleeve slipped free and floated down to the floor.

Marianne, by instinct, held her hands out to catch the falling dish without realising the porcelain was scalding hot. She squealed and launched the casserole behind her.

A fallen possum stood at the starboard bow of the flying dish, peering out over the lid, bracing himself like a Kamikaze pilot. Crack. Constable Andrews once again fell unconscious. Steaming sticky green bean casserole mixing with her trickling blood.

Horrified, Alistair looked around at the chaos. Rachel was knocked out. Marianne was blowing on her burned hands, and the in-laws were skating about in splattered casserole trying to get possums out of their clothes. The robber and the reflection lay dead. Only he remained unharmed.

He ran to the bathroom and on touching the empty mirror, there was a blinding flash of white light, and an ear splitting chorus of screeches. When the light show faded, he could see his reflection in the mirror where it belonged. It was evening again – the evening of the reunion. He could feel the stiffness of his collar.

A Xanax rolled over his palm. He dropped it back in the bottle and returned it to its place in the medicine cabinet.

“Yeah,” he said. “Upon reflection, I really ought not go.”

“Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.”

— Pema Chodron

Moral of the Story:

You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you. You are here to learn to manage energy and everything is energy. Anxiety is a natural part of the awakening process into expanded consciousness. At a time when large quotients of energy are flooding your system, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. This influx of energy opens your body’s energy centres and heightens them intensely. Emotional centres are opened (sometimes quickly) which makes you extremely sensitive because all your emotions flood to the surface for healing. It is not necessary to feel anxious in order to awaken. However, if you are just stiring, your body has likely never experienced the volume or intensity such as now. Your body often perceives this to be anxiety when really, it’s just energy. And if you are stuck in your head, then your mind can go into overdrive creating all kinds of fanciful scenarios. The good news is, that if you can anchor that energy to the earth (grounding) the energy can be balanced, and the anxiety can be released.

Nature always balances us. The best way to ground is to be outside in bare feet. However, if you cannot do that and need to quickly ground your anxiety, try the 5-4-3-2-1 Technique: This is a hugely successful grounding technique because it calls upon all the senses to bring you back to the present. It involves looking around your immediate environment for:

Five things you can see

Four things you can feel

Three things you can hear

Two things you can smell

One thing you can taste

Identifying things in your physical world through your five senses slows your heart rate and takes your focus off the intense feelings of anxiety. It brings you out of your head and back into your body where you can centre yourself once again. If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.

“Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.”

— Walter Anderson

Affirmation: I am safe.

My body is healthy, my mind is brilliant, and my soul is tranquil. My ability to conquer my challenges is limitless; my potential to succeed is infinite. I am strong and I’m ready for change. I can slow my breathing whenever I choose. I move beyond anxiety by developing patience. I always emerge victorious when I pay attention to the details. I succeed by following one step at a time. Life wants the best for me. I am connected with Nature and comfortable right now. I control my mind, and choose nourishing thoughts. There’s so much pleasure in my life now. I am unique. I am loved and I am important and I truly matter. I am free to focus on the beauty all around me. I am calm and relaxed. I am free from anxiety. As I breathe, all my muscles relax. Stress is evaporating from my mind and body. Just like before, I will survive this situation. I am safe and free.

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

― Corrie Ten Boom

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