On Sunday I saw my favorite checkout person at Rainbow for the first time in ages, due to vacation schedules, and it was excellent, as always. I made barley-mushroom pilaf when I got home, and in the evening, David and Lisa and I chatted on the phone for a bit, always fun.
Sunday night was another horrible night of anxiety, due to certain parties not behaving precisely as desired, or, more correctly, due to my thoughts and feelings about this. It was pretty similar to the night before I left for my retreat, with a good amount of second fear—fear of the original fear, fear that I won’t be able to handle the fear, that it will spiral out of control.
I got up several times to visit the bathroom, which I persuaded myself was biologically necessary, but I could also feel the desire to run from the unpleasant experience. I left a message or two for Deborah, but that actually made things worse, because afterward I had to lie down and start again from scratch. Next time, I’ll skip that part of the program. No one else can do this for me.
Unfortunately, the most helpful thing is also the least palatable: to lie on my back in bed in the dark, like a small, terrified insect in the unimaginably vast universe, and feel the physical sensations, reminding myself over and over that they won’t last forever, that the best thing I can do is to accept the anxious feelings, that I’m doing fine. It’s seriously unpleasant. There is definitely much aversion, and I know it’s important to get to the point where it doesn’t matter if the anxiety is there or not, and I know I will get to that point sooner or later. I have to: the other option is to take Ativan every day, which I’m not going to do.
After being awake for about four hours, I went into the kitchen and had a squirt of valerian in water to encourage sleep. I used to think it was so horrible when this night fear arose—well, those were the days, because it used to happen once and then be gone. It must have happened 20 times last night, though it was probably actually a few long bouts that ebbed and flowed.
Finally I fell asleep and woke up hoping it was nearly time for the alarm to go off, but it was 3:16 a.m. and there was yet more fear. However, the next time I woke up, it was about 45 minutes before alarm time and I was still alive.
I got up about 6:45 a.m. so I could meditate before starting work at 8, the first day of my four-month assignment. I attended my first conference call. My cell phone manual says you can mute a call, but there was no sign of the mute option after I dialed into the meeting, alas. Then I tried pressing the “Call” button even though I was already in the call, and I got an error message, but it also made the mute option appear—whew! This is a necessity for phone meetings.
It was a beautiful sunny day and I took an hour for lunch and went out for my customary walk, which was splendid and cheering. I decided that rather than focus on things I’d like to eliminate from my life, maybe it would be more constructive to think about some things it would be nice to add to it. I’d like to meet some new people. I’d like to go on group bike rides. Nothing too exotic.
In the afternoon, I had a good meeting on the phone (this entire job will take place on the phone) with the person who will be directing my work day to day, a project manager. She has a low-key manner which was agreeable to my temporarily stressed nervous system.
Besides attending the meeting and talking with the project manager, there wasn’t much else I could do because the stuff I need for remote access to the company’s network hasn’t arrived yet. I knocked off at 5 to have dinner with N. before going over to Howie’s for group meditation and a dharma talk.
I was all ready to go several more rounds with anxiety last night—I told anxiety that it was welcome to show up, that I would make good use of the opportunity to confront it—but there wasn’t any. To my credit, I wasn’t vastly relieved. I wasn’t like, “Oh, thank god! I hope it never comes back.” Instead I thought, “There was no anxiety. I appreciate that, but if there had been, I would have worked with it, and I know there will be again—plenty of it—and I will work with it.”