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?