God might be found in brushing the dog. God might be found in scrubbing the sink. God might be found in doing a load of laundry...God is in the concrete facts of our life. The leap of a young dog is a joyous prayer.~Julia Cameron (From Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance)
It is a brilliant day, blue and fresh. The River Birch tree branches just outside my window are bobbing softly, a gentle breeze caressing their leafy arms. The sun is not too warm. Yet I feel as if I'm suffering an anxiety hangover. Just yesterday a very different weather picture filled my window, the River Birch boughs bent mercilessly by tropical force winds as Hurricane Irma marched across the southeast. I'd spent the last few days preparing for her arrival--calling forty plus clients at work, alerting them to the clinic's guidelines in case of evacuation. I heard their fretting and sighs of concern, the maelstrom of "what ifs." Who could blame them? This hurricane season has been pummeling millions of people all over the south. Finally, though, all were called, and I could move on to preparing my own home. There is always ambivalence regarding evacuation, but there was no mandatory order from the governor to leave, so Giovanni and I decided to stay. We packed up the important documents, moved my car to higher ground in a downtown parking garage, lugged all the outside furniture inside the garage, all the potted plants as well. Anything could be a projectile. Then we waited.
The winds came and flooding commenced all over the city, the storm surge higher even than last year's Hurricane Matthew. We were fortunate, with no damage, and only about thirty minutes without power.
And so why do I feel as if I'm standing on the edge ready to fall into an abyss? Perhaps it's because there is another hurricane brewing in the Atlantic. I heard that it might be heading our way. But if I stare into this chasm too long, surely I'll be sucked into more anxiety. I must begin walking backwards away from the edge. But how?
For me, it's about creating a routine for the day. Keeping things simple. Starting with the basics. I force myself to take a shower and get out of my pajamas. I put on just a little make up, coat my lips with a bit of tinted lip gloss. Attach my eyebrow "wigs." After losing my hair to chemo, I've come to appreciate these two strips of human hair that I can attach just above my eyes. Without brows, one's face can look like a vast expanse of no expression. Seeing those two light brown "commas" on my forehead brings me a sense of balance. And today, I need a sense of equilibrium. It is not a day to begin a new project. It is not a day to make a list of how I can be more productive. It is a day to treat myself with compassion and move away from the edge.
I know that writing often helps me create some sense of symmetry. I don't feel like writing. I have nothing to say today. But I know that my office offers me a safe, quiet space. My office is a familiar companion. I go there and sit down at the computer. The tap, tapping of my fingers on the keyborad is a comforting sound. I reach for words, and their beauty and constancy, pull me away from the pit of anxiety and worry. I will take a walk later, the movement loosening my grip on the fear of that other storm. "Stay in the day," I tell myself. I'll observe birds roosting on intact power lines, blue-black grackles hopping about scrounging for worms. For this day, I will appreciate the sunshine and be grateful that I have an undamaged house and that my family is safe. I'll greet my neighbors and relish the fact that our little coastal street is okay for now.
One of my friends says she is headed out to the beach to practice her latest dance steps. "I just need to get out of my head and forget the storm. Remember that things eventually return to normal. I know I'll feel better." I like her idea. Another way to move backward away from the abyss. And you, dear reader, you may not be experiencing the after effects of a hurricane, but rather some other circumstance that has you close to the edge. What can you do to take two steps backwards--to keep from falling in?