What Keeps You Up At Night?

There was a long time, when I was a child and young adult, when money would keep me awake. Or, at least, the lack of it. I’d worry for hours deep into the night whether we’d become homeless, whether I’d be able to afford college, whether I’d lose my job and be unemployable forever more. I traversed all these worries link by link for years until, relatively recently, I realized: money is no longer my problem.

I have been extremely lucky in this regard. High paying jobs and the principles of financial independence have led me to a place where I feel assured we will have enough money to live, to pay the bills, to take care of the kids, etc. We may not be retirement-ready rich, but it’d be silly of me to expect we’d ever be truly poor.

And with this, I felt free.

For a time.

Here’s the thing: chronic anxiety is a strange beast. When the object of the anxiety is gone, the anxiety itself doesn’t just magically disappear. It may seem that way, for a while. There’s a lull, a respite. But there’s always something around the corner or even an infinite number of things to fill the vacuum.

That terrible social faux pas I made last Tuesday, trying to meet my work goals, not being fulfilled by my labor, serious physical ailments befalling my family and friends, political turmoil, families still being separated at the border, the threat of autocracy, the threat of ethnic cleansing, climate change, whether it is amoral to have children in the current age, whether I’d feel if my life had meaning if I couldn’t have kids, the idea of death. The list goes on and on.

And the thing is: all these concerns, though of varying import, are all real and legitimate. But they are also suffocating. This anxiety, at times a useful tool to be harnessed to motivate personal process, can in the worst of times stifle my ability to even move.

This is the key idea that I want to start working through now that I see it clearly: there’s no amount of controlling my environment that will make all these problems disappear (though certainly I should work to help others). For my own sanity, I have to accept that there’s an entire world of problems out there for everyone to suffer through. But what’s keeping me awake at night isn’t the world. It’s me.

What keeps you up at night? How do you deal with anxiety?


9 thoughts on “What Keeps You Up At Night?

  1. I journal…a lot. And exercise. Barre twice a week and 10,000 steps a day, plus journaling, solid sleep, and not letting myself become hungry seem to be the ways to keep my anxiety away. All hell breaks loose when I can’t walk regularly or go to barre though… I’ve been trying to give myself the grace of time spent journaling instead of productive time when I can lately which has been really helpful. Anxiety is so hard though. The new house has been causing me a bit of anxiety (mostly the uncertainty of it and the cost) and the privacy issues at our current place too. And what I’m doing with my career. And anytime someone calls me a housewife.


      1. That is really odd that eating less meat has helped you! Bodies are weird indeed. I get incredibly unhappy when I don’t exercise, too. I had some health issues this summer that made that difficult, which really drove me crazy. (Things seem to be mostly better now.)


  2. The thing that keeps me up most at night is thinking about how to maximize potential. Whether my own potential or someone else’s. Un-tapped potential frustrates me. I’m not always sure what the solutions are, but it does sometimes keep me up at night.
    Good read. Thanks!


  3. Wasted time keeps me up at night. The thought of time being squandered while I was waiting around for something to happen. Here’s a little fable by Franz Kafka that captures this feeling:

    “Alas,” said the mouse, “the world gets smaller every day. At first it was so wide that I ran along and was happy to see walls appearing to my right and left, but these walls converged so quickly that I’m already in the last room, and there in the corner is the trap into which I must run.”

    “But you only need to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up.


    1. Not so much the fear of squandering, but I’ve often had the irrational worry that perhaps all that I was doing was all there was. Like a fish who’d swum into a cove thinking it was the ocean.


  4. Still money, sadly! I’m not sure that will ever change. It’s a mix of learning to take things one day at a time, I think, along with also leaning to see the big picture/timeline and accept that it’s a long game.

    Liked by 1 person

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