I have an anxious mind.
This may sound strange coming from someone who claims to be a stoic but it’s a reality I face, it’s something I manage. It’s a restlessness of what if’s and maybe’s in a simmering soup of existential dread, occasionally bubbling over if I allow it to. My life is a gif on a loop of me sat watching a stew bubble in on a camping stove while the winds rage around me. In this scene, my face is expressionless, my posture relaxed but my eyes are always on the pan. The lid is made of a material comprising of philosophy and medication and meditation.
Occasionally it will whistle and hiss phrases and buzzwords such as: “the reason they don’t reply is because they’re sick of you”, “don’t even bother, you’re ideas are stupid”, “they’re looking at you”, “you look fat today“.
In reflection do you know what all of those phrases and buzzwords are? Hot air making noise. Just hot air. Like a fart and like my father says, we should never trust a fart because the moment we do: it will be shit. Lovely imagery to remember, but that’s all it is.
The answers these common buzzwords and phrases are as follows: no it’s because they’re busy, people have lives; you’re ideas are not stupid, if you don’t bother that is stupid; they’re not looking at you and if they are, say hello; you’re not fat but let’s be honest you could do with getting into shape – you’re quite skinny.
“Erase the impressions on your mind by constantly saying to yourself: ‘It is in my power now to keep this soul of mine free from any vice or passion, or any other disturbance at all: but seeing all things for what they are, I can treat them on their merits.’ Remember this power which nature gives you.” – Meditations 8.29
Marcus Aurelius is right, it is in our power to keep the mind free from this disturbance. If we need a little medication, meditation or a qualified professional to help us keep it free of such disturbance, there is no shame in that. The anxious mind, by it’s very nature is volatile and doesn’t trust itself until we are able to take it from the heat of our own overactive thoughts.
The anxious mind needs a friend. The anxious mind, paradoxically, doesn’t treat friends well. The anxious mind treats friends with suspicion and disdain. It questions why they are there and questions why they are not there. Both questions are meaningless. Both questions do nothing other than foster worry and resentment against a strawman argument.
“Grapes unripe, ripened, raisined: all changes, not into non-existence, but into not-yet existence.” – Meditations 11.35
Maybe one day those words will ring true: the people may be looking at you because you have mustard on your shirt. Your idea may be stupid because living life like Sporticus from LazyTown in a blimp is not a good idea and you should not bother with that – refer to The Hindenburg Disaster. And the truth may become because of a cloying habit of you needing to check the validity of a relationship because of the anxious mind, they will become sick of it and say that they do not have time to nurture the kind of support you need. Yet, with support and the right tools, who cares if they do? What will you care? You’ll be in your blimp eating apples, and fighting Robbie Rotten, and saving small puppet children from a life of sloth and gluttony.
The anxious mind is a hostile one but only if you leave it unattended. One day, it will simmer down but maybe it won’t. It’s hot air all the same.