I’m an anxious person. It’s odd that my demeanor is typically that of a calming presence because underneath that smooth facade is some serious duck-paddling.
I struggle with what you’d call high functioning anxiety. It isn’t debilitating – it is, however, exhausting. At my worst, I avoid thought-provoking down time by busying myself to heroic levels. At my best, I exercise or take naps. In all cases, my anxiety feeds on the aloneness I find myself in during this single/COVID time in life. When I’m alone, my thoughts lead me to unanswerable questions.
It seems to me, as I listen to every American anchorperson on TV tonight discuss the outcome of today’s election in speculative terms, that speculation is the root of worry and anxiety. When we can’t know something, we fill in the gaps with speculation. We tell ourselves stories based on speculation – many of which are absolutely untrue – and we believe those lies we’ve developed.
If you’ve practiced this form of self-torture for any length of time, then you know how hard it is to undo. At the same time, once you learn to recognize the destructive pattern, you begin to see it more and more, making it possible to undo.
Anxiety has been and continues to be fed during this season of elections-wrapped-in-a-pandemic. Folks who aren’t typically bothered by anxiety are affected. Folks who suffer with it are manifesting some of their worst symptoms. So, how do we manage?
For me, it begins with making peace with the unknowable. Do I still imagine the worst case scenario? Absolutely – it’s how I’m wired. Rather than holding my scenarios as prophetic truth, though, I look at them as manifestations of my anxious worrying. I can set them aside. (I actually imagine the quantum theory range of possibilities and realize how arrogant it is to believe in my ability to accurately predict future outcomes. Please.)
Even more broadly, I believe in a loving and faithful God. I have questioned how to reconcile that love with some of the dreadful ways I’ve suffered in this life. But, when I remember the darkest times, I also remember being most certain of God’s love and presence when life was most uncertain. Awareness of the presence of God in Christ has been the hallmark of the most un-anxious times in my life.
As events unfold, I encourage you to see speculation for what it is and not to seize any of it as truth or fully predictive of outcomes. Feed what is good; talk about what is hopeful; live in a way that enacts love. Love wins while speculation predicts loss.