dancing with panic

sticker graffiti of two monsters with wide open mouths full of very sharp teethGood morning this morning. I am starting this morning’s write late, after too many snoozes, my body tired with the fighting off this cold that’s taken hold in spite of tea and soup and vitamins. Sometimes our bodies have to go a little deeper into the conversation with the viruses, don’t they, before the virus will take leave of us.

The dandelion-nettle-fennel-cardamom-mint-holy basil tea will feed something, though, will settle the belly and feed the liver and talk to some of the inside agitation and invite it to settle for just a little bit. Last night we did the ramen noodles (adulterated just a little with garlic and ginger and cayenne), plus maybe a few too many saltines and some Noah’s Arc: that’s some of my comfort food. Today will be more soup and reminding myself that my to do lists tend to be overly optimistic even when I’m at my peak — when a significant portion of my energy is siphoned off into a dance with a cold virus, it’s time to tender to this voice inside telling me to go go go, telling me there’s no time to be sick, telling me there’s work to do, emails to send, copy to write, you have to Get It Done: my heart rate’s increasing just writing all that down. Today’s a day for deep breathing, recalibration, patience.

I have recently given notice at my day job, in order to let whatever it is that wants to flower with/around writing ourselves whole and my writing projects the time and space to truly flower. This means giving up a consistent paycheck and insurance in favor of my dreams, in favor of my belief that this work will sustain me as I sustain and feed it.

Needless to say, I am terrified.

Not only terrified, of course. I’m flowing fairly regularly between exhilaration and terror, actually. One minute I am full of energy and ideas for new workshops, have scheduled meetings with friends and colleagues to learn how they do their work and to talk about how writing ourselves whole might connect with local colleges and universities and other organizations around the Bay Area.

The next minute, though, I’m in full panic mode, certain that I’m going to lose my apartment, seeing myself out on the street, or maybe having to move back home (and haven’t we already talked about that? What does home mean? Where would I even go?) — panicking around and inside the fear that I will fail. There’s the part of me that wants us always to be Doing Something to ensure our success: start a new workshop! start another blog! line up another job! hedge all your bets! respond to all the email messages! mail your promo letters! call the newspapers, the magazines, the radio stations! This is the part of me that finds it hard to relax when there’s work left undone — that part of me is quite worried just now. She’s afraid she’s never going to be able to relax again, since we don’t know yet what done means when you’re a freelance writer running your own business.

It’s maybe no wonder that the cold finally caught me.

So I am breathing deep these days, and living fully into the fear. I focus on developing the workshops that are already running. I take notes, I catch the ideas, I begin a whole new idea journal. I remind myself of what is already working, I make space for the writing practice, for exercise, for puppy- and down-time even when that frantic inside self is screaming at me: There’s No Time For That! I allow myself to learn new self-care routines, a new rhythm. I exhale the frantic into the notebook, into conversations with beloveds; I breathe it, I let myself feel it, I try to soothe it with too much work, then I remember that that’s not sustainable.

The truth, I think, is that part of panic’s job is to make sure that we don’t dive all the way into this dream — to ensure that we turn back to safety, find another steady job doing someone else’s work, building someone else’s dream, for which we are rewarded with regular paycheck and insurance. Panic wants us well, wants us shielded, wants us to Be OK. Panic thinks we deserve to be comfortable after the shit we went through back when we were younger. Panic’s job is to tell us the horror stories so that we won’t rock the boat. Panic isn’t opposed to growth; panic just remembers how risky growth is, how growth entails loss, how inherent within growth is uncertainty.

Panic wants us to be sure of things. Growth and risk don’t offer that, though.

So today I’ll walk more slowly when panic wants me to speed up; I’ve got no choice now, anyway, with this cold all entangled within my chest and neck and head. I’ll do my best not to fall headlong into the Alice-rabbit hole that panic leads me toward. I’ll ask you: How do you take care of yourself when you’re scared?

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That leads into a prompt idea for today: What does your or your characters’ dance with panic look like? What dreams are you or they living today in spite of uncertainty and riskiness? What dreams are you avoiding because panic has your ear (I have a long write in response to this one)? What does panic sing to you? What do you sing back? Give yourself 10 minutes today, if not twenty, and press into this writing — follow the words wherever they seem to want you to go (even if you don’t write anything about panic at all!).

Thank you for your gentleness with yourself and your processes today. Thank you for the easy way you allow for course correction when you notice how you’ve strayed from the direction you’d thought you’d be going, for the way you take the lead back from Panic and Fear and Trigger and Anxiety (and, too, for the times you want to let them lead). Thank you for your honesty, your courage, your words.


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