I struggle with anxiety. As long as I can remember, I can recall battling worry and concern.
I am cautious not to say that I am anxious as that implies something not true. I do battle it, however. It is one of my greatest struggles, and I know that if I am to grow in the spiritual life, I need to make strides into a more peaceful and joyful experience of life.
My earliest memories are playing organized basketball. My dad would tell me, “you can’t catch the ball if you are biting your nails.” I am not sure why I was so hard on myself. I didn’t have to impress anyone as my skills were never mistaken as “Jordanesque.”
I also remember graduating grammar school, and at the rehearsal the day before, I was invited to “accept” my diploma and shake my teacher’s hand. My palm was sweaty, and she reacted, saying “why is your hand so wet?” I was embarrassed and didn’t know how to calm down enough to keep my hand dry. It was unfortunately the focus of the next night when I accepted the diploma for real.
Anxiety continues to be a struggle for me. My incorrect mindset reminds me that a day well spent is a day where my “to-do’s” are all checked off. This is never the case, and if I allow it, I can stay up for hours worrying about what is left to do, and when I can accomplish it.
Spiritually, I am constantly reminded to battle this anxiety by living in the moment. This is a great spiritual test as I am conditioned to look at what is next.
For example, my “happy place” is Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. I can be at a baseball game, having a beer and truly enjoying the atmosphere. At some point, I will look at the clock. I will begin to anticipate traffic, the time I will get home, and all that awaits me. If I took the train, I will worry about how long it will take to catch the bus on Roosevelt Avenue. From my happy place I move to a worry place.
This state of worry does not leave easily. Yet, I find hope in those moments when I was present, when I focused on the task at hand. I think of my wedding in taking the advice of a friend who said, “be sure to take ten minutes to watch, and soak in the moment.” I recall sitting at my table, watching loved ones gather, knowing that they were here to celebrate love. Many of those in attendance have returned to God. This lesson should be a constant reminder to appreciate those in my presence as a present.
I recall being present when my wife was giving birth to my daughter, and how as things were getting worse, I could only pray. Hours later, I met my daughter in the NICU. She held my finger and I am not sure I was ever as present to a moment as I was in that experience.
My daughter teaches me to stop and to simply be. With a child, the “to-do” list only grows. To be present to her as she experiences life is a constant reminder of how I should approach this day, and every day, despite all the things to do each day.
I also combat anxiety by writing. Writing allows me to create, and in doing so, to surrender to the Spirit moving through me. I battle outside thoughts and interruptions, but as I return to the screen, I simply am.
Being present to the moment at hand is all there is.
Buddha teaches us, “the secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
As we journey together, how do you live in the present moment, wisely and earnestly?