The year was probably 2005. I had about an hour to commute to my job, and the Christmas season was upon us. I flipped to one of my favorite radio stations to realize that they were playing holiday music throughout the whole month.
I loved holiday music.
I quickly changed the channel.
At the time, I was terrified of my thoughts. To be honest, I was terrified of anything that could give me an opportunity to think. Christmas music is calming; it lets the mind wander. Christmas music reminds us of all that is good and pure in our world.
I naturally would have seen myself in contrast to it. It would have made me feel broken, defective. It would have reminded me of all I believed I had to protect the world from, all I felt I could contaminate the world with.
During those days, I needed to make sure my thoughts were always trained on complex ideas. I needed to be constantly considering, constantly mulling. I needed to make absolutely sure that my mind was never allowed to wander because if it would wander, there was a great likelihood that it would land somewhere that would provoke anxiety. And I had no idea how to get out of that rabbit hole once I went down it.
There’s something about being terrified of your thoughts that is particularly painful. It’s a fear of your own brain, of your very being.
This year about a week before Thanksgiving, I gave in and I turned on the Christmas music. I had been holding myself back for weeks, and truth be told, I may have possibly played it at times during July.
I still get anxious about my thoughts. I still have a bit of apprehension. But these days I have mostly learned that thoughts are just thoughts. I have learned that they don’t necessarily point to a deformity in my character. And I’ve also learned that if those anxious thoughts come that I do have power to overcome them even if it sometimes takes tremendous effort and faith in all that I have learned.
I’m sure I’ll fall back into old patterns. In fact, I know I will because I have already many times. But the more confident I become in my ability to handle them, the less I worry about them and the less they come.
And the most remarkable thing is that these days, I’m not afraid to let my mind wander. I seek out silence. I read things and I don’t worry for days that something in a book will trigger an anxiety attack. I allow myself to believe in peace and to rest in peaceful moments.
I’m not as afraid to face the world, and I’m not so afraid of letting the world come into contact with me.
I can’t call it a happily ever after because there’s no such thing as a life without trials. But I can call it a happy hour and a happy day and a happy season.
I might not be somewhere over the rainbow, but I’m up there floating above much of what used to tether me down.
The word peace used to haunt me. I wasn’t sure it was ever achievable, but I held it out in front of me as a carrot to chase after. A therapist at the time told me one Christmas Eve that peace was what he wished for me in the coming year. It made me take pause because until that moment I didn’t know anyone else could see my lack of peace, and I wasn’t sure it was a goal within my reach.
But even these days many years later, I remember that day and I remember those words, and they always make me realize how very far I have come. They have reminded me that peace is a gift and it’s what we are always fighting for, and it’s a fight we can win.
There is always a tomorrow, and we will see beauty and peace again even if we absolutely cannot envision it. The calendar will change; the season will change, and one day the world will have a light we never believed we would see again.
Anxious woman photo available from Shutterstock