There’s only a couple of days left of the holidays before work and the next semester of university start, and I can feel the anxiety in my stomach. I don’t hate work. I don’t hate university. I hate having something ahead of me that my brain can turn into a constant source of fear. I can’t relax. Nothing bad is happening in ‘The Now’, nothing particularly bad will happen when things start back up. But I can’t relax.
Even more annoyingly I’ve been feeling this way throughout the holidays. I’ve spent the last few months saying ‘I’ll be happy when I get some time off’. That time is happening, and yet all I can think about is the next source of anxiety. I’m telling myself I need a good six weeks’ holiday, like the summer holidays when I was a child. They seemed to stretch out forever. The first day off wasn’t filled with dreading the first day back- I was relaxed and excited, and at times bored. And yet I imagine that if I had such a long time off now I would still be anxious, my mind still whirling around with all the ‘to-dos’, not being able to relax knowing that at some point in the future I would once again have my life time-tabled out and HAVE to be somewhere.
‘I’ll be happy when this essay is done and handed in’. ‘I’ll be happy when that exam is done’. ‘I’ll be happy when I get the results for that exam’. ‘I’ll be happy when it’s the holidays’. ‘I’ll be happy when I’ve done that busy week of work’. ‘I’ll be happy when I’ve got that big project at work completed’.
These ‘whens’ never come, or when they do there’s something else ahead of me to fill its space. And realistically there’s always going to be. I’m not sure what I want. To have absolutely nothing planned out? No work? No education? Nothing to get me out of bed in the morning? Such a way of living sounds depressing, and I KNOW, somewhere deep down, that doing these things that bring me anxiety make me happier than doing nothing. Indeed, I’ll often get to work and the hours will fly by and I’ll happily stay past my paid hours. I’ll go to university and find the lecture really interesting and read more than the recommended amount on the subject out of pure interest.
These things make me happy. I’ve CHOSEN to do them. I just need to convince my brain. And that’s not easy.
I’ve read in many places that happiness only ever occurs in ‘The Now’. From living in the present moment. From mindfulness. And so from now on I’m committed to TRYING my best to focus on what’s in front of me, what’s happening right this minute. It won’t come easily, and it won’t work perfectly. I’m expecting it to take some time. I’m expecting to feel a deep pit of anxiety in my stomach while I force my brain to keep coming back to the present. But I do hope, that with time and practice and hard work, I’ll have more moments of thinking ‘I’m happy now.’
And I’ll be happy when I’ve mastered this skill (Just kidding- sort of!).