I could feel anxiety in my toes this morning. Sometimes, though not always, that’s where it starts. It’s like those cartoons characters who wring their hands with stress, almost maniacally. But I’ve never seen anyone actually do that. For me, it’s much less theatrical, but more realistic—I wring my feet. Point and flex, point and flex, shuffle shuffle shuffle.
And then sometimes if that doesn’t expel enough energy, I request a snuggle from Jeremy because human contact helps release the static the same way it does after you’ve handled a balloon or dragged your slippers across the floor.
September’s going to be a stressful month for both Jeremy and me, and it’s like my body is storing up anxiety to save for the winter. I’m pre-stressed, which I’m realizing now is a succinct way of describing anxiety. Pre-stress. But Jeremy’s busy too and has had to pull two work days that end at 4 AM this week, and last night was one of them.
But I had static that needed diffusing. So I gently climbed back into bed where he slept and whispered my intentions.
“I’m having anxiety,” I said, and by 8 years of marriage he knows what that means, “so I’m just going to snuggle up to you. You don’t even need to move.”
So, obviously, I did need him to move a little bit to get comfortable. I wriggled under his arm, and put my pillow just so, and he patiently obliged while keeping his eyes closed and his breathing regular. He was only marginally conscious, but trying to hold me anyways because he he wanted to help. To demonstrate his love, he clutched me tight. Unfortunately, he was clutching my armpit.
I let the intent of it sink in—Jeremy trying to squeeze my anxiety away when he is so personally exhausted. But it was uncomfortable, and stoicism is not my strength, so I gently whispered, “It’s ok, you can let go.”
And then I started to think about that phrase metaphorically. I wondered if to sleepy Jeremy, I’d just given him permission to let go of his anxious wife forever, which is a thought that occurs to you when your anxious. I didn’t really entertain that thought long though, because a much more potent one quickly took shape.
“It’s ok, Sierra. You can let go.”
I’ve been astronomically anxious lately about the shape of my body. Every time another perfect body (person) walked past me in while I was on vacation in Hawaii last week, I’d do another inventory with the way my body didn’t measure up. Which isn’t particularly fair to myself because the Hawaiian people look like gingerbread that have been cut from Adonis-shaped cookie cutters. My body, on the other hand, has baggage. With handles. I’m shortbread.
I carry with me, on me, five years of infertility. I’ve been haunted with anxiety that my defunct placenta is the reason that Hudson walked at 16 months instead of 12 months like all his peers. I realized in Hawaii that I still haven’t forgiven my body for that. Any outward blame I place on not looking right has deeper roots.
I carry work stress. My belly line says that sometimes I have a hard time prioritizing my fitness over my work day. My body carries stagnation right now and it makes me anxious.
I feel my anxiety physically sometimes, and sometimes it just feel like my muscles are clenching the stress in. Clenching in financial stress, medical stress, family stress, work stress, woman stress, mom stress. I cling to it in my muscles like it’s my job.
But anxiety’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. And when you break that down, what I’m clenching in my muscles is wisps of smoke and nothing more.
And so I breathed in deep this morning, and for just a moment, I let myself believe: “It’s ok. You can let go.”