Would relaxing help?
Yesterday was one of those days. In my life-coaching mode I always tell people those days aren’t happening to them, but for them. “One day,” I assure them, “you’ll look back and think, “Oh, thank God the car broke down and the dog barfed on me and I had a gruesome argument and got food poisoning right after Voldemort was elected president! I learned SO MUCH from that!”
People thank me for telling them this. They pay me for it. And every time I myself have a day like yesterday, I realize that they’re probably really thinking a phrase that rhymes with “Duck poo,” but is much more bitter.
It wasn’t a truly catastrophic day, but it — comment se dit? — sucked donkey balls. In addition to the “Voldemort is president” thing, I had I had about twenty writing assignments due, which (in case you’ve never experienced it) feels like being crushed under a truckload of dead octopuses preserved in mucus. Then I showed up to do a live Internet broadcast just as the power went out. Then I talked to a friend who has cancer and is undergoing chemo so hellacious it may kill her before the disease does. Then another friend called for a pep talk because she was dealing with being sexually abused. Then two more loved ones, who were supposed to return today from a Completely Different Continent, called to say they were having bizarre visa issues and may never return to this country, especially since (did I mention this?) Voldemort is president.
I’m prone to anxiety on a good day, and this parade of problems brought on such high anxiety I could barely stay in my skin. Just as I was about to eat an entire pan of brownies (don’t judge me; I have no access to horse tranquilizers and must forage from the land), my brain burped up a little memory.
The memory was from the movie Bridge of Spies, in which Tom Hanks plays a lawyer who’s defending a Russian spy during the Cold War. The spy, played by Mark Rylance, is a phlegmatic Irishman married to a Russian woman. When Tom Hanks explains there’s an excellent chance he’ll die in the electric chair, Rylance just shrugs.
“You don’t seem alarmed,” says Hanks.
Rylance calmly replies, “Would it help?”
Throughout the movie, Hanks repeatedly suggests to Rylance that he should be very, very concerned. Finally he asks him, “Do you never worry?”
The response is always the same: “Would it help?”
Remembering this line brought me back to myself a bit, at least enough to remember something I learned long ago from my karate teacher, something I want to pass along: There is virtually no situation in life — including being jumped in an alley — which can’t be improved by relaxing.
With Mark Rylance in mind, I deliberately and persistently, made myself relax. Which didn’t mean forging an upper lip of steel. It meant breathing deeply and letting myself feel bad for all my friends, and a little bit for myself. It meant sitting in a puddle of unfathomable electronics and not trying to figure them out. It meant telling some friends (the ones not stranded in a Completely Different Continent) what was happening and how I felt.
As I’ve learned a thousand times but keep forgetting, relaxation led me to solutions for all my problems — though not necessarily the solutions I’d thought I wanted. Because I relaxed, I could soak in some comfort from my calm friends. Because I stopped trying to force myself to write and listened to an audio book instead, the well of words in my brain began to fill up. In fact, relaxed listening gave me access to my creative mind.
And that’s when things got a little weird.
You see, I believe my mindset tunes me into flows of energy that run through the entire universe. As I moved from helplessness into creativity, I could feel how anxiety had put me on a frequency where every problem became overwhelming. My brain tuned into a whole new broadcast: the energy of problem-solving generated by a whole world full of curious, resourceful, determined sentient beings. That energy is always asking, “Would it help?” and it won’t stop until it has answers.
Worrying just doesn’t help, folks. Not ever. Relaxation and creative problem-solving do. In Bridge of Spies, Mark Rylance’s calm brings calm to his lawyer, who’s able to do some near-magical bartering between the USA and the USSR. As each world power worries itself sick over aggression from the other, Hanks is able to hold the energy of peace for people on both sides, and avert an international catastrophe.
Today I’m averting an internal catastrophe by asking myself “Would relaxation help?” Would it help if I found deep calm in a country where everyone is terrified? Would relaxation help me write better? Would relaxing help me console my friends who are in pain, and those who’ve lost their visas? Would this consolation help them relax, and would their relaxing help them heal their bodies, quiet their minds, make it easier to navigate bureaucracy? Yes. If anything can help with all these situations, relaxation is it.
I think I can feel the frequency of calm creativity growing stronger, coexisting with all the anxiety, as the global brain becomes more and more tightly woven. I can tap into it just by relaxing, and then “download” creative solutions from the energetic “cloud.” Of course this could all be my imagination. I could tell myself to get up, get real, and get worried. But I’ve tried that, tried it more times than you would believe. Guys, I promise you, it never, ever helps.