Anxiety Incarnate

by Tom Swift

Like a window shutting in front of your face. That is what it is like.

A window you didn’t know was there.

That you did not shut.

Not wittingly anyway.

You just could tell the view was being … skid, skid, skid … reframed.


After this window closes you see as you did before but now everything is colored anew — colored with a new feeling.

The lens of perception senses more urgency to every word, every thought. This urgency is not necessarily tied to anything real.

It happened to me yesterday. I had not experienced this palpable, abrupt shift in sensation in a long time. A year? Maybe more than a year. I think maybe two or three years.

The feeling is unmistakable.

You don’t forget this feeling.

As it is happening it is, occurs to me now, the memory of a feeling.

This time I could tell what was happening right off. I felt the change before the shift in perspective had fully arrived. I felt it as it was coming to me.

The window slid down before my eyes. My heart pumped faster.

To the extent I recognized that it was happening at all, in the past, I used to fight it. This time I did not fight it.

I remember the conscious thought yesterday: allow.

My belly. The nerve endings in the belly vibrated.

I let it be. All of it.

I let myself feel the sliding down. The shift.

I let my mind go into hyperdrive while I told my body to remain still.

I backed off from my day for a moment.

No one in my sphere could have sensed what was happening. Even if they did, I did fear that they were.

I do not like the feeling. Make no mistake. But this time I did not fear the feeling.

This time, I regarded it curiously.

Like an interesting stranger with an abrasive personality. He interrupts your day but it’s really not about you.

I know now that the feeling, like all feelings, passes.

I see now that I tried to be a witness to my own experience.

I want to say it passed in the usual 90 seconds or so. No, not that fast. The intensity ratcheted up, then plateaued for some hours.

It was manageable. I breathed. In order for the feeling to have arrived I must have shortened my breath. Before or at the beginning. So just then I corralled it, slowed it. The breath is the ultimate mitigator.

I was revved, more or less, for hours later. A functional nervousness.

Like a pitcher in baseball, sometimes you have to try to win without your best stuff.

A day later, I see now that it took a longer time than I realized after the intensity of the thing passed for me to return to baseline.

Probably why I stayed up so late last night. I was still settling down.

I am writing again so I think we are there.