I’ve been struggling for the past couple of weeks with really chronic anxiety. I’m worrying about silly things, disruptions to my routine are causing me stress, matters of career, the children’s future and the state of the world. I wake up every night at about 2 am and ponder what future my children have in a world so driven by commercial gain, one where your value is increasingly measured by personal wealth and where its difficult to even educate yourself without appropriate means. They say that everyone is two steps away from homelessness, for some those two steps are giant ones, for others those are little pigeon steps and its getting worse.
The anxiety is crippling me, I’ve noticed its toll on my body, I feel and look ten years older and I’m having trouble holding conversations. I think i’m learning the tricks so that people can’t tell so easily. I have a friend who struggles with it, when its at its worse she cant look you in the eye. I make sure I look people in the eye now when I’m talking.
On hearing the vote to bomb Syria this morning I could feel myself internally worrying, my very organs gearing up into a tense state. I really do fear for the world, i’m not convinced this is the right solution at all and wonder if it will escalate the situation. I feel quite aggrieved.
I felt a similar sense of anxiety when the Conservatives won the election, I simply don’t agree with their policies which seem to strike the under-privileged rather than those who can buy their way out of a problem. I wonder if this is because I surround myself with like-minded people and live in a bubble, when reality bursts the bubble its quite a shock. I also wonder if its related to being a parent. I have genuine fear about the examples we are setting our children in the world today, that celebrity and money are important.
Where I live its all about who has the biggest house, flashiest car and most important role. Merely volunteering in the community doesn’t cut the mustard, it doesn’t feel valued and unless its a ‘high’ profile volunteer role is unrecognised. Recently I was met with criticism because I tend to work on a Saturday and cant attend a local community high profile event to help out. Its such an unusual thing to do for these people that I get the impression that they don’t actually even believe me. Regardless of the fact that even if I was free I wouldn’t mentally be able to do what they ask, it would break me. If my child had been asked and questioned like I have been I would have been suggesting that they were getting bullied.
I have a daily fight explaining to my children that actually the things which they hear in the playground are not the things which matter in life. That those who pretend to be happy or who bully others are not worth knowing. That money is no reflection of personal value and that people choose to live different lives and value different things. Just because we don’t go on foreign holidays are not going to Lapland or Disneyland and don’t intend to (unless a kind press office offers us a trip), doesn’t mean that our holidays are any less valid and that they are any less valid as people.
I’ve come to realise that my problem is that I read. I read newspapers and magazine articles like there is no tomorrow, I often wake at 4 am and read every scrap of political, environmental, opinion pieces and current affairs news I can find on all the main newspaper websites. I watch the news, in fact its probably the thing I watch most on TV. I like to be informed, I enjoy debate about current affairs, I like to question. I talk through things with the children, I make sure they are informed, they wont be shocked and that they can make their own judgements about things from positions of knowledge because knowledge is power. I’ve never hidden things from them, its not spoilt their childhood its made them responsible citizens and i’m proud of that.
However, I suspect the time has come for me to move away from what is happening in the world and to immerse myself in my own bubble. It isn’t true that the individual can make a change, you need lots of individuals and they need to be on the same team. So i’m going to take a new approach.
Im interested in rural crafts, the environment, art and culture. As a way of dealing with my anxiety i’m going to read more books, learn more skills, i’m going to go on a professional storytelling course, help build an iron age toilet, rejoin my yoga class. I’m going to take myself on long walks and runs and see what other skills I can learn. I’m going to talk to the children about how to build a round house, get them planning a garden. And i’m going to work towards my long term goal of moving to a house near the seaside where we might be able to have our own small holding and insulate ourselves from the wider world.
I’m going to worry about these things, about how to knit in the round, how to provide the children with practical life skills such as how to put up a picture frame or a shelf and how to make their own clothes. And i’m going to hope, hope that I have brought up responsible, caring, self-sufficient and self aware children who can respect their place in the world and perhaps find the value in the small things and their own inner peace. I’m not going to read the newspapers, I’m going to metaphorically sit here with my fingers in my ears and hope that the world as it is and all the repercussions don’t come knocking on my doorstep. And, perhaps most importantly I’m going to pray for the worlds children and their future and hope that there is a god who can sort out this mess.
For me, the future might well be living in the past. But it will also mean living a free life.