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Anxiety vs. Action: Musings on Going with the Flow

By Deirdre Brannigan:

I grew up in a very self-sufficient way, as the eldest child of an immigrant, with parents who weren’t around much. Back in the day, we were called the latchkey kids (although I don’t think any of the doors to our houses were locked, and I may’ve been the only person with a key to our front door). Later the designation of Generation X was bestowed upon on us. I mention this simply as background, only to highlight that I am pre-disposed to feeling like I’m in charge. Kitchen fire? Check. I’d extinguished it before our neighbor came jogging over. I cared for my brother, sister, and other neighbor kids. Something unexpected? Handle it. Lunches made, homework done, band-aids applied, stories read – check, check, check, check.

Recently I was confiding in a dear friend about the deep sense of anxiety I’m feeling during this Covid-19 time. I likened it to an instance when I was a kid and– despite my better judgement, at the urging of my brother, I was cajoled into going down a possibly pre-OSHA waterslide. Once inside the coffin-sized diameter of tube, I started shooting through it at what felt like 80 mph. Because I was so freaked out, I decided to try to stop. Which I was somehow able to do by locking my hands and feet down on the inside of the cylinder. My plan was to slide through at a less death-warp speed. Which went ok for a few minutes, until... Yep, the twelve-year-old next in line came hurtling through like a hundred-pound pinball. Anyhoo, I mention this because I was thinking about how that situation is analogous to current feeling of panic, and the need to feel in control in order to avoid discomfort and uncertainty.

Right now, there are lots of reasons to feel anxious. Agreed? And, there’s not much we can control. Many of us are on the skinny branches financially and losing much of our incomes. Or, we have friends and family who may be sick. Or, if we are empaths, we feel the collective global weight of humanity’s struggle. And yet, there’s not much we can do to stop it.

So maybe the lesson – at least for me –is to just let go. Or be forced to. By something we didn’t see coming. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I don’t think any of us could have envisioned being sequestered in our homes: our only celebrations being the virtual sort. I was born on Earth Day weekend – maybe that’s why I’m thinking about the connections between my feral childhood, our planet, and what’s next for all of us.

If we look for silver linings, well find them. There are positives things happening. It seems to me like the lungs of our blue planet are taking a collective exhale. Not dissimilar from the repair that happens after a smoker stops an unhealthy habit, right? The Himalayas are visible from distances of 200 miles away. With the reduction of shipping traffic, the ocean is a quieter place for whales. Air quality is improving around the world. This time of isolation will change us too. How will we be different? How will we move forward? I’m hoping we collectively have a bit of time to contemplate how we want to better navigate the world – perhaps we can incorporate some of the environmentally sustainable things we’ve been doing over the last weeks into our new routine? Actions like eating more plants, driving less, ‘calling it in’, not wasting food, or riding our bike.

In terms of what’s next: will we hold onto past-practices and try to exert control or will we let go; perhaps even unintentionally and under duress – to come out the other side even better?

I’m rooting for us all.

Happy Earth Day.



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