Sunday, April 13, 2014

Shifting Anxiety into Clarity

Today I turned off a set of Red Cross notifications.

When I got my new phone, I set up my Tornado Alert Warnings to include the Kansas City and Lawrence areas, where I used to live and still have many friends.  A few weeks into tornado season, I am struck by two things.

First, that I used to spend a substantial part of every spring fairly blithely living under the reminder of constant potential doom from the sky.  Sirens once or twice a week wasn't that unusual.  I formed the habit of making a mental note, in every building I regularly occupied, of the lowest and most sheltered ground.  Each year I checked and repacked the small bag containing a change of clothes, some emergency cash, a flashlight and other necessities, without really acknowledging it as a tacit admission that I might face an actual tornado or have the roof blown off my apartment building by a microburst and need to grab the cat and run for shelter.  In all that time, I never saw a tornado though the city I was in was hit more than once.  I became blase about the danger because I was both used to it and personally untouched by it.

Second, that at some point in my life I created this fantastic and beautiful network of people, reaching across the country and around the world, and as a result my world has become very small.  Today alone I am thinking of a shooting, tornado warnings, two children in my community facing illness, people facing the loss of loved ones, friends who are out of work, fearful for their futures, or worried about their own health.

Facebook keeps me in touch and aware, and e-mail, text, and messaging let me maintain a network of love and support.  I have found that network a lifeline in my own daily experience, and I'm grateful for the ease with which an "I love you and you're in my thoughts," can fly hundreds of miles in a second.

But at some point, I have to unplug and hope I will hear what I need to hear as it happens.  I turned off my notifications for Douglas County and Kansas City, not because I do not love the people who still live there, but because I cannot share their ever-present awareness of dangers that will almost certainly never come to pass.  There is nothing I can do, except light my candles and hold fire and faith.

I was an Army Brat.  I spent my childhood forming fast friendships with a changing population of peers, and then walking away with the knowledge that I might never see those best friends again.  I've been running my adulthood that way, but now I keep the friends as an ever-expanding network of deep emotional connections.

But I'm having to refine and reframe the way I manage that network, all the time.  A few years ago, it was evaluating my relationships and choosing to focus on the ones that supported and empowered me.  More recently, I've been looking at a lot of my interactions and choosing to focus on those where I had a chance to change someone's mind or make someone consider a different viewpoint.  Today, I'm choosing to step out of the reactionary mode, trying to give up that constant awareness of where my love and support will be needed next, and shift to simply giving it where it's asked.

To my gods I say, I am not abandoning my love and support for those who are important to me.  I am not changing how I feel, or how deeply I wish for their happiness and success.  I am simply pulling back my constant threat awareness and trading worry and anxiety in for the calm faith in love and community.

I love you all.

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