When I was twenty-four, I sat with a friend on the bench seat out front of my Kelso Street share house and, having talked about all that wasn’t going right and all that felt wrong, we concluded that at least by 30 we’d have it all sorted out. Everything, surely, would move to a knowable beat by then.
Some years closer to that endpoint – the one that society had fed us and which our young selves had swallowed – when I was twenty-seven, I went with that same friend to a yoga workshop for people with depression and anxiety. Nothing was really working out as I had planned or imagined and the things that I thought should have been making me ‘happy’ weren’t; I’d been living and hurting hard and I kept making the same bad choices and reliving the same painful mistakes. I was lonely all the way to my bones. On the up side, and this makes most of it worth it, I had come to know myself from every angle, the beautiful and the ugly. And yet I still couldn’t figure out how to get past my anxiety.
During that yoga workshop we were given a stone on which to write a word that represented something to us – a desired feeling, a state of mind, an emotion. I wrote acceptance. It was what I believed I needed most at that point to move forward, past the things that I couldn’t let go.
Several months later I turned 28 and a couple of months after that, when I was in India, I experienced an incredible and significant shift in how I felt day to day. Last October I turned 29 and I still can’t believe that anxiety has all but left me. Sure, it flutters by sometimes, but it never stays for long. And so closing in on that infamous number, it seems that it might be possible to reach 30 with something close to a balanced mental state and a content and nourished soul.
I wrote about some of this last year, and I think I gave the impression that the shift I experienced was something of a miracle. That is totally misleading. The shift happened after years of digging myself out of a deep, slippery hole. And the first thing that really helped me gain my footing, even before that yoga workshop, was acceptance.
(All of this is my own personal experience. All of it is true. All of it has layers of meaning. All of it is shared with love and openness. None of is meant as instruction or advice. And it is not an exhaustive representation of all that I did to re-calibrate and heal.)
The things I accepted (with varying degrees of success and which require constant upkeep and reevaluation):
- I accepted that my anxiety was real and that it was there to show me things about myself I had ignored for too long and needed to understand and heal.
- I accepted that it wasn’t going to go away when I wanted it to, but when I was open to the lessons my very own person was trying to teach me.
- I accepted that my life would never be how I imagined and things would never turn out the way that I thought they should. It sounds so easy – it was so hard.
- I accepted that all that had already happened would never be undone.
- I accepted that I won’t always get what I want (or imagine that I need) from the people whom I want most to receive it.
- I accepted the idea that people show you who they are through their words and their actions – and the version of themselves that they show you is the only one you should trust. Not the one you have imagined, not the one you wish them to be, not the one you think they have the potential to be.
- I accepted that I fear rejection, abandonment, vulnerability and intimacy.
- I accepted that I fear death. (Along with everyone else.)
- I accepted that I am alone, and I always will be alone. (We all are.)