Does the music you listen to affect the stuff you write? I don’t know, but today I am listening to Leo Kottke radio on Pandora, so I’m getting a lot of guitar vibes, some bluegrass picking, and a nice warm melodious feeling all over. A single guitar piece can be an intimate experience, especially after listening to an anxious client who should have been a prosecutor for methamphetamine addicts. All the air in my office was used up. I felt like somehow my office had rocketed up to 16,000 feet above sea level. The air was so thin that we all had to breathe harder. That is one of the many gifts of anxiety. Not only can it produce high blood pressure for everyone in its presence, but it has the ability to travel across time and analyze problems that may never come to pass. Anxiety is like a bad idle in your carburetor: it causes a lot of wasted energy, sudden stops and starts, post ignition temper tantrums, and negative gas mileage. If you are anxious, you are most likely attempting to be in two places at once. The destination of choice for anxiety addicts is the future, where they play the game of “What IF?” It’s a fun game that can be played alone or in groups. It can last for hours, days, years even. Some folks have been known to play the game of “What IF?” over an entire lifetime. These are professional worrier warriors. (That’s fun to say.) You can tell them apart from normal human beings because they can’t sleep; they are always fatigued and on edge; they talk fast and don’t breathe deeply. Often they have a chewing problem– nails, hair, cheeks, lips. They sweat cold fear droplets that have a metallic smell like mildew that has corroded a copper pipe in a damp basement. Yeah, that’s it, with just a hint of cat pee. Anxious people stop and start abruptly. They walk fast. You would too if you were injected with adrenaline. And they What IF? like there is no tomorrow and their coupons for speculation will expire at midnight. What if I have cancer? What if it’s inoperable? What if it is operable but bankrupts me so that I have to live in my parents’ basement with three kids and a dog? What if the operating surgeon is kind and falls in love with me? What if he leaves his wife and she puts out a contract on his life? What if he comes to my parents’ basement to profess his love for me and the hitman is right on his heels, he misfires and kills me? What if I wake up dead? (Notice that the last “what if?” is illogical unless Jesus is in the house and what a tangled mess that would be to explain to the cops.)
Ohhhhh, let me stop and breathe. WHEWWWWW.
Just trying to capture anxiety on the monitor screen in words makes me tense. So now I am back to the rhythm of guitar music. Let me turn off these flourescent lights. Now that’s better. Ooooh… soothing even. Darker, cooler, slower, unpressured. That is where I like to live, where you can hear the crickets stir, or where swallows dip their wings in the still surface of a lake at dawn. Nature is decaffeinated, unjacked, just right if you will surrender to it. Like this mellow guitar performance floating out of my speakers, I can surrender to it and leave the artificial tension behind. Or I can switch to Led Zepellin radio. I have that power in my mighty right-handed mouse click. So do you.
If you overinflate a tire, it will lose traction as its shape distorts. On the other hand an overinflated tire can carry a heavier load, because that load presses the hardened tire back into full traction with the road beneath it. Do you know folks who are like this? So pressured and overweighted that they virtually chirp like a pet shop bird in an overcrowded cage. “Cheep, chirp, buy me. Get me the hell out of here. Just open the cage and I’ll do a Maya Angelou recital for you. If not, how about an ibuprofen?” They have sick parents, a wild child, a bad marriage, a job they hate, and runaway credit card debt. Oh that’s you? Sorry. Go back to paragraph two and take a deep breath, a bunch of them, two Advil, and then skip this paragraph. Zap it out of your poor, overtired mind.
My prescription for the worrier warriors who play “What IF?” is to try a game that one can win. It’s called “What IS?” It can only be played in the here and now, also known as the present. Being present is critical to operating in the present time/space. “What IS?” is played with facts rather than fear. Compared to “What IF?” it’s so much easier to play. Facts and logical deductions can lead the gamer in a forward, upward direction whereas the worrier warrior cycles over and over on the ratwheel of obsessiveness, vainly grasping for control. And guess what? Control smells like fear. It produces psychological body odor. This is why normals don’t like to be around controllers, even if the controller is your mother. There is that metallic/cat pee smell that permeates the anxious air around the controller. [This is the real reason why air traffic controllers work short shifts. Their supervisors need time to switch out the cat litter in the tower. After a couple of hours everyone’s eyes are burning with ammonia gas and no one can see the blips on their radar screens. I’m sorry if you fly frequently, but someone had to tell the truth.]
I should close with hope and a dash of wisdom or dashed hope and some moodswings. Flip the coin please. It’s heads– hope and a dash of wisdom. Dang it! It’s harder to be positive. Okay, breathe deeply. Listen to the crickets or the softest sound you can find in your space. Loosen the belt around your brain. Be. That’s correct. Just be, stop doing for a while. I know, I know. It’s all so critically important, but you have time to waste reading this blog, so you’re busted, Mr. Important. Sink into your shoes and stop at your toenails. Those poor guys labor in the coal mines of your socks and shoes. And you don’t hear them complain, do you? Stay in the toenail mode for ten deep breaths, immobile, immemphis, imnashville, imknoxville, impigeonhollow. Now let your liquified self rise back into the body it calls home. You’re being now. Just being. Allow yourself to vibrate like a final resonating guitar chord in an empty auditorium. There you go…rhythmically realigned.