I realized the other day that I can no longer recognize the feeling of being at peace. The feeling of calm. The feeling of a lack of chaos. I just don’t get it anymore. I have, on various occasions, cocked my head like a confused puppy and asked, “What do you do with your brain if you aren’t thinking with it?” Complete with wide-eyed blinking. Because, seriously, I rarely have a time when there are not thoughts in my head. When the cacophony of rushing, rapid, twisting, chaotic, worrysome, planning, evaluating, considering, understanding, thoughts quiets down, I feel lost. It’s like I’m in a haze, wading through mud… where are my thoughts? Where are they?!
I have had anxiety for my entire life, but I used to have peace, too. In my late teens I studied Zen Buddhism and my spirit was calm. I described myself as the nature-baby of a flower-child as I channeled the peaceful hippie vibe of my pot smoking, musician father. All I ever wanted was to be like him. I had him for just thirteen short years of my life, but in that time I never saw him stressed. I never saw him angry. Even his “upset” was calm. He always had a smile and a joke on his lips. He sang as he walked through the grocery store. And this peacefulness was so much a part of him that it never wavered. Even when he was sick and in pain, he was abundantly calm. All I ever wanted to be was someone who could carry on that part of him. Someone who would invoke comments of, “You remind me of your father.”
And back then, I was like him. I was relaxed, zen, happy. I read books about peacefulness, about nature, about meditation. I had drama in my life, but I didn’t cling to it. I allowed things to come and go in my life, trusting the universe to keep the balance.
Then life happened. Hard, real, painful life. My life had never been easy, but the next few years were filled with a trauma so intense that my brain is still recovering. And somewhere in that mess, I forgot what peace was.
A month or so ago, I had the opportunity to walk around my favorite town, by myself. I was not rushed, not worried. I was able to take a little money to spend on myself without guilt. And as I walked through the quaint general store, my attention was drawn to the song playing over the sound system. It was a cover I had never heard, of a song that my father used to sing. The music he loved always reminds me of him, and I smiled as I browsed, quietly singing under my breath. Singing while I shopped, just like he used to. When I reached the checkout I was calmer than I’ve been in years.
But I didn’t recognize it as calm.
I wandered outside feeling odd and disoriented. I found a bench and sat, trying to find the hurricane of thoughts that I was so used to. Unable to latch onto some obscure worry, I tried to read the book I’d brought. Eventually, it was time for my family to return, and my anxiety over not missing their return brought me back to the familiar.
I ended up downloading that cover song. Every time I listen to it, that same calm descends over me. It took me a while to realize what that feeling was.
I literally could not recognize what relaxation felt like. Let that sink in. It felt so foreign to me that I felt odd and confused. I felt out of place in my own mind.
I keep listening to that song. And today, I sat by a picturesque lake, while my children played, and my mind quieted. This time I didn’t fight it. I had no thoughts, no worries, and I didn’t chase any down. I realized that I had gotten so far away from myself that I didn’t remember how to be relaxed. But I am remembering. I am remembering. And that’s huge. I may reach peace once again, and hold onto it. I have hope. And I thank my Daddy for reminding me.