On Anxiety and Foreboding

“Stop being so negative,” I’ve heard countless times. Also “why do you want to believe the worst of people” and “what’s the worst that could happen.” “Why do you try so hard to be a pessimist” might be a personal favorite.

It would be quite a bit easier to deal with my anxiety if I would stop being correct about the outcome of situations that I thought might go rather poorly.

I don’t live a life which has been hallmarked by great amounts of luck, you see. It’s gotten to the point that when I read a pamphlet on a new medicine and I see the line that begins with “in rare cases, this medicine might cause…” I just stop reading to avoid spoilers.

Despite my luck, there are in fact many things in my life that I love. And most are things I hoped for at one time. So when I see things coming at me that cause me to worry, I don’t see a problem in assuming they might happen the way that I fear, and then plan accordingly. After all, I’m often right… about both my worries and my hopes.

But sometimes I’m entirely wrong in my worries, and those are the best times.

I’m currently working on figuring out how to publish a book. I made my life harder by creating a book that blends the two most difficult genres in which to get published. My poetic memoir is called Instead of Dying, I Wrote This Book. The work began shortly after being told that I might be dying, and then told that I wasn’t but would feel like I was.

I was recently asked to be a contributing writer for the upcoming edition of Nashville Skyline, an online journal with a rotating cast of contributors, on the subject of anxiety. Of course that’s the theme of the edition, I thought to myself during the contributor meeting. Is there anything I’m more qualified to write about than anxiety?

To accompany the piece I wrote for Skyline, “Anxiety About Cancelling an Afternoon Interment” I created two images. The first is a stark, abstract lily on a black background. In the second, I intentionally overworked it.

I began by noticing the moment when I thought the piece was done, and then I continued adding layers and layers of ink until I changed the texture of the paper. I took a photo of the result before the last layer of ink dried. I captured a state of the piece that I cannot recreate, no matter how much I might regret losing its earlier structure. You can see in the image that the paper was beginning to warp.

Two side-by-side images of a flower. The original illustration, on the right, is of a pristine abstract lily. The image on the left was intentionally overworked (in a fashion not unlike most of the 90s).
“Flower” After, and Before

The piece itself is an exploration of another layer of my blog post on what to do when you realize you were shutting down your entire life in response to illness. What to do when you realize you need to cancel your plans for your own impending funeral? 

The tone is a tad wry. I often cajole myself out of downward spirals in such a manner. You should know that I’m this sarcastic to anyone I truly love; it’s not self-disparaging humor. It’s a wink and a nod to the part of me that was trying to hope the whole time, because I was right to hope. After all, I’m still here.

Why would I be anxious about such a thing as cancelling my own interment? Well, I hate rescheduling things, for one…

Read my Nashville Skyline post here, and don’t forget to check out all of the other pieces in this issue!

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