Related Links: Tama is referring to this conversation back in chapter nine.
I walked by myself to the grocery store twice this week.
That may not seem like a big deal, but it’s something I’ve really struggled to do ever since a car followed me a year or two ago on a walk to that same store. I don’t think I’ve walked anywhere by myself since. Even places a block or two away, I’ve driven to.
I don’t like being scared. I especially don’t like feeling controlled by fear. As a person with anxiety, these two conditions unfortunately make up a massive amount of my life.
But last night and this morning I walked by myself to the grocery store.
It helped that I took a big stick. Cory’s old jo from our Akido classes in college, in fact. I dug it out of the closet, along with my old kubotan, the last time I got frustrated at being afraid of walks.
And you know what? It helped a lot. The clack of the jo on the ground gave me something rhythmic to focus on. The feel of it in my hand was solid. It made me feel more confident when people walked by, and I was able to greet them with a lot more warmth and clarity than I’d be able to do normally. Even when I went walking to the store at night, I had fewer moments of panic. Still times when I’d be nervous, or frightened, but not that sickening I-can’t-breathe-my-heart-is-going-too-fast kind of scared.
Facing down a fear is a good feeling. It doesn’t mean I’m not scared, but I’m proud that I could do what scares me anyway.
Plus, I need to get more sun and exercise. I’m an artist. We pretty much always need more of those two things.
It made me think about a question I asked Cory a month or two ago.
“Am I more anxious lately?? Am I actually getting worse? I feel like I’m freaking out about things all the time!”
He thought about it for a moment, and replied, “No, I don’t think you’re more anxious. I think you’re just doing more things that you’d never have tried a year or two ago. You’re not any more anxious than you used to be. You’re just not letting the anxiety stop you from doing as many things.”
I think he’s right about that. And part of it is letting myself get the help and the tools I need to do those things that scare me. Sometimes I can’t tackle an intimidating problem all at once, all by myself, with no resources. In fact, most intimidating problems can’t be done from a zero state. We have to break them down, work up to them, test the waters, get the tools, find the support.
My brain used to think of those things as signs of weakness. If I needed help, it was because I wasn’t good enough to do it unaided. If I needed a tool, it was because I wasn’t skilled or strong enough to simply do without. If I had to do a smaller task or an experiment before taking on the far larger challenge, it was because I wasn’t capable enough to do it right the first time.
None of those thoughts help me do things. The only thing those thoughts accomplish is ensuring I DON’T do things.
Sometimes, I gotta work up to what scares me, take baby steps, get equipped, and do whatever I need to in order to make myself as comfortable as possible. I have to accept my anxious self and meet my concerns halfway. Challenge myself to do things, but support myself when doing them.
Sometimes, I have to get myself a big stick.
What kinds of “big sticks” do you use to help you accomplish the things you’re intimidated by? Or what might work as a “big stick” to help you do something you’ve always been afraid to try?