Even when life is the best it’s ever been, old traumas, anxieties, fears still muscle their way in. Of course.
Yesterday morning, when my stomach was in knots before my first coffee, I knew I had work to do. I had the day off, alone.
First thing I did was ask for help; anxiety and fear often manifest for me as feeling cripplingly unsafe, so I rang my bestie, an unfailing safety hotline.
We talked, laughed at ourselves, swore at our humanness, ruminated over how important it is not to take our thoughts too seriously, and reflected on hard-fought lessons we’ve learned together.
After we hung up the sense of unsafety had eased, but I still had to bear the company of my own thoughts. So I did one thing at a time, responding to instinct.
Wanted a crown nothing could topple = made one of my hair. Crown needed jewels = added butterflies. Took a bath with the window open = listened to the wind in the wattle trees. Meditated, and stayed with the discomfort and frustration of noticing how wildly scattered my mind was = after 25 minutes of practising mindfulness and some self-compassion, the anguished thoughts started to settle. Took a gratitude walk with my squad; noticed flowers, leaves, trees, and felt the wind on our skin and fur. Cut some lavender and bougainvillea for my Ikebana ring, a wearable vase sent to me as a surprise from one of my dearest friends. Made a turmeric, lemon juice and honey tea = drinkable sunshine.
Later, went for a run on the treadmill and listened to the rain on the shed’s tin roof = e.n.d.o.r.p.h.i.n.s. Made a frittata. Hugged my mum. Put on favourite pjs.
By bedtime, anxiety and fear had released their fangs, and I had a bit more practice at self-care, and a bit more wisdom about how to deal with such beastly emotions. I stayed with myself through their attack, but maybe even more meaningful than that, I didn’t tear myself apart for feeling them, for being a perfectly imperfect human. We spend our whole lives in our minds, as the saying goes; it’s up to us to do whatever we can to make it as kind as possible in there.
If you’re struggling today, please ask for help, and/or please give yourself compassion. You are not alone.
HOLLY RINGLAND grew up barefoot and wild in her mother's tropical garden on the east coast of Australia. Her interest in cultures and stories was sparked by a two-year journey her family took in North America when she was nine years old, living in a camper van and travelling from one national park to another. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert. Moving to England in 2009, Holly obtained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. Her essays and short fiction have been published in various anthologies and literary journals. She now lives between the UK and Australia. To any question ever asked of Holly about growing up, writing has always been the answer.