If You Are Feeling Anxiety Right Now6 min read
Below is the transcript of the video above. But I would encourage you to watch the video first. I hope it can bring you some calm, peace, and wisdom in this uncharted territory we are all stepping into right now.
Are you going a little crazy yet? Maybe you have kids and their school was cancelled and you have to figure out how you’re going to share a house with them all day for two or three or four or maybe even more weeks and you can’t really even take them anywhere? Maybe you keep checking the news and every single story is about the coronavirus and what it potentially is going to do to you, and the ones you love, and the economy, and society and it’s wearing you down. Maybe you are like me and went to the grocery store to buy just one thing like hamburger buns, but the shelves were cleaned out and you didn’t get to eat your hamburgers, and it’s just another thing getting piled on to the anxiety, and fear, and disruption, and burden that this whole thing is.
Yeah me too. We are in uncharted territory. Uncharted meaning that no one knows how to navigate it perfectly. No one does. This is new. And so if you feel like this is hard, know that you are not alone in that. It is hard. And maybe it’s going to get harder, maybe not. But right now, you might be feeling some anxiety about all of it. You need to know that it’s okay for you to feel that way. But you also need to remember something crucial about the difficult parts of life, especially this one that we’re in right now. When we travel into the unknown, it is all a story.
When I was a senior in high school, Hurricane Charley knocked down my house, my school, essentially my whole town in Southwest Florida. For the month after the storm, we didn’t have electricity, air conditioning in August in Florida, there was no hanging out with friends, going to school, before we got our FEMA trailer, my family of 10 all had to live on the floor of my mom’s office, we took our baths in a lake on the property, there was a shortage of food, gas, and water, not toilet paper, but people were going crazy. And I have to say, I distinctly remember it being an extremely uncomfortable period that I didn’t have a lot of fun navigating through. It was full of unknowns, and if that’s what it was like for me as a teenager, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for my parents. The unknown was difficult.
But I will say this, some of the stories I have from the time after the hurricane are now some of my fondest memories. Not because they were enjoyable times, but they are memories of when my community came together. Where I found out what my family was really made of. Where as a kid I learned what generosity really means. Where I took cues from my parents and my teachers in school about what it means to stay calm under crisis. I learned that no matter how uncomfortable something can be, I have what it takes to get through it.
This is a bit of wisdom that I’ve used since then throughout my life. I’ve never had to deal with picking up the pieces after a catastrophe since then, but I have been through some stuff. Experienced tragedy in the family, hardly having enough money to get by as a young adult, huge struggles as a teacher in my profession in the classroom with my students, trials as a parent, the stuff life inevitably throws at you. And I’ve learned that I can get through it all, and when I do, I will be stronger because of these challenges along the way. This wisdom, this grace I now have came from the uncharted territory of life after the storm.
The mythologist Joseph Campbell calls this the Hero’s Journey. After studying and analyzing all of the great stories throughout human history, Campbell discovered this pattern in almost every single one of them. Every story has a hero that lives in what he calls “the known world.” This is what life looks like for them, it’s what they’re used to and are comfortable with. But in every story there is a “call to adventure,” something that draws the hero out of the known world into the unknown. It’s a disruption, an introduction of conflict that sends the hero on the hero’s journey where they experience conflict, and struggles, and challenges, and temptations that they have to overcome.
But at the end of any hero’s journey, after battling through the unknown. the hero can return back to the known world that they left, except now, they have what Campbell calls the “gift of the goddess,” or he also calls it “the return with the elixir.” The elixir is what the hero gained from the journey, what they learned from overcoming obstacles and struggles, that they can now use at their disposal. To heal the land they left or put out any future fires. They’re more equipped now, they’re better than they were before the conflict when everything was comfortable.
And this elixir can only be gained from going through this hero’s journey. You can’t get this wisdom any other way.
And so as we are stepping into the unknown right now, feel the way you need to feel, take the precautions that you need to take. But also be aware that you are now in the midst of a story that you are going to tell someday. You are going to talk about the time you had to buckle down with your family. When you had to learn to work from home, maybe how you shared toilet paper with your neighbor, and stretched yourself for the sake of your community. Maybe how you cared for loved ones who were sick, you cooked food for widows, reconnected with your grandparents, made up with an enemy, or felt so lonely and isolated for a time and had to find new ways to connect with others, and then, what you learned from all of it. What you gained because of the coronavirus, what secret sauce, elixir, gift of the goddess that you found and can now use the rest of your life because of this crazy, unpredictable time.
So keep an eye out for the story unfolding before you and take heart by the fact that it is only going to make you stronger. And maybe that fact can give you calm in the midst of it.