Anxiety cannot be banished; it has the keys to our house.
But we need not offer it cakes and a comfy chair when it comes to call, as if it owns the place.
We are not anxious people; just people through whom anxiety passes.
When in residence, it encourages us to scan the horizon and mutter nonsense like, ‘Well how can I not worry?! Well, honestly!’
We know from experience it’s a cheerless house guest. It goes off like an alarm bell and we can hear nothing else.
It is like we are abducted by the most convincing insanity and can do nothing about it.
And it has the keys to our house.
Though there is a guest who will always send him running… and that’s gratitude.
Anxiety cannot abide gratitude.
I do not refer to North Korean positivity, forced and contrived; but something simpler and stronger – the noticing of good moments without qualification; without the catastrophising ‘Well, this may be good, but over there it’s bad.’
No, it’s just good.
Moments like these arrive unordered.
It could be a scented rose or hot tea in the cold. It could be 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, or 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 it’s around, life is a cortisol-fuelled problem, endlessly insoluble for our busy minds. It is a place of danger, where something might go wrong and we’ll be responsible.
Here is the same life, nothing altered, content the same – but viewed and experienced so differently.
Adventure or problem?
There is a more real person beyond our anxiety. As Paul Tillich said, ‘Fortitude is the strength of the soul to be what it essentially is.’
So, aware of our truer soul, we leave a note on our door today:
‘Gratitude, if you’re passing – do drop in.’