Anxiety cannot be banished; it has the keys to our house.
But we need not offer him cakes and a comfy chair when he comes to call, as if he owns the place.
When in residence, he encourages us to scan the horizon and mutter nonsense like, ‘Well how can I not worry?!’ or ‘It’s only because I care.’
We know from experience anxiety is a cheerless, restless house guest; there’s little delight when he’s around.
But there is a guest who will always send him running – and her name gratitude.
Anxiety dissolves in her presence.
I do not refer to North Korean positivity, forced and contrived; just simple noticing of good moments without qualification; without ‘Well, this may be good, but over there it’s bad.’
It’s just good.
Moments like these arrive unordered, like a scented rose or hot tea in the cold or something funny, a conversation with a friend, ice cream on the beach, sun on the floor, the feel of a pillow, my living breathing child, a song on the radio, cheese rolls, a sense of hope, a tree in the wind, the smell of coffee, small achievements, kind words, a hug, a working kettle, a million other things.
When gratitude arrives, anxiety leaves, taking its self-important lies elsewhere.
We will not banish it forever, of course; it will return, it has the keys to our house.
But we can cultivate other friendships to reduce its dismal power in our home. And one of these friendships might be gratitude.
We’ll notice the difference.
When anxiety’s away, life is an adventure; when he’s around, life is a cortisol-fuelled problem, endlessly insoluble for our busy minds; a place of danger, where something might go wrong and we’ll be responsible.
When anxiety leaves, whatever is, is OK. When anxiety’s around, nothing is OK, everything could be better.
Here is the same life, nothing altered, content the same – but viewed and experienced so differently.
Adventure or problem? Joy or joyless?
Anxiety may have the keys to our house. But we leave a note on our door today:
‘Gratitude, if you’re passing – do drop in.’