‘Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence’
The full text of this is hanging on my kitchen wall in the most prominent place I could find, to serve as a reminder of what is most important. Every single line of this beautiful poem carries so much weight, and so much meaning. Depending on circumstances on any given day a different part will speak more loudly to me. Today, it was the line above.
While I was having breakfast I was conscious of an anxiety that was getting rapidly more intense. I went from fine to stomach churning in the space of minutes. A year ago, that would have been a serious problem, and I likely would have let it run away with me. I would have assumed it was a borderline mood swing with no explanation, no cause, no reason. I would have gotten busy, tried to distract myself out of it, anything to avoid that gut wrenching feeling. That wouldn’t have worked though. The anxiety would have stayed, and become more insistent. I would have become more tightly wound, until I either snapped in anger, in tears, in self harm or resorted to xanax. All of these things would have given me reprieve, but none would have been a solution.
Over the last 12 months, I’ve come to learn and really deeply know that any time an intense emotion like this comes up, it’s because my mind is trying to tell me something. I badly wanted that anxiety to stop this morning, but stop in a way that eliminated it entirely rather than masking it, so I asked myself a really simple question – what am I anxious about? And then I paused, and did nothing but let my mind ponder the question.
Aside from my four furry companions and a brief trip to the shops, I spent yesterday alone and in silence. I didn’t actively do anything, but what I achieved was remarkable. I found my way to a sense of calm and stillness that I haven’t experienced in months, and actually got to the end of the day feeling more refreshed than I was immediately after I woke up yesterday morning. It’s the most incredible feeling, and one that I want as much as possible of in my life. My anxiety today is because I’m so afraid of losing that calm , that stillness, when himself and the kids get home.
Yesterday was a rare treat. I don’t expect to be able to have that much time to myself on a regular basis, for any of us with families it’s just not possible. But what I can do is carve out little pockets of space for myself every day. I used to walk my dogs with the intent of covering as much ground as possible in the fastest possible time. Dogs walked, exercise done, boom, two boxes ticked, on to the next thing. But earlier this month I had a gorgeous old man to stay, and he couldn’t walk fast, so I had no choice but to slow down to his pace (I should probably clarify that this gorgeous old man was a chocolate lab!) It definitely wasn’t exercise for me, but I discovered how powerful it is to slow down. I looked around me. I took deep breaths. Without even realising I needed it, I calmed down. This could not have happened with my standard fast walk.
My own dogs are getting on a bit now as well, and an off shoot of this slow walking with the chocolate boy was it made me look more closely at my pair, and how my littlest in particular really can’t keep up with my fast pace anymore. I slowed right down with them too, and they’re much, much happier. Now, we do a gentle stroll for about half an hour, followed by a sit under a tree by a river before we go home. By the time I get to the tree, the walking has slowed my mind down enough that my thinking is clear, or at least clearer. It’s the simplest of things, but it changes my day completely.
To come back to where I started………’go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence’. I no longer plug into headphones when I walk, and despite how alien it feels, slowing down really, really works. I’m learning to give my head space. In return, my head is giving me peace.