Stories Against Anxiety

I have been feeling a bit anxious lately. My financial and professional situation recently changed dramatically, and I am no longer young enough to go the usual route of job-hunting. Even spring chickens are having trouble finding work in this economy. I know spring chickens. And I am no spring chicken.

Then, in the past six weeks, I had an amazingly fortunate promotional coup that has brought in a lot of work for the coming year. (More about that in a later post.) Given that situation, one would have thought that the anxiety would have tamped down a lot. One would have thought.

Instead, I still lie awake at 3 a.m. worrying. Not about this year’s financial prospects. I worry about NEXT year. Why should the same people and organizations hire me again? Are there going to be MORE who will want to hire me? And, worst of all, what happens when I actually have to fulfill all the obligations I’ve taken on thanks to that PR coup? Am I going to be overextended and overwhelmed? Am I going to be able to handle it all? As they say in the financial world, past performance is no guarantee of future….

Then, fortunately, I recalled my storytelling training. I remembered that the step-by-step, sense detail-by-sense detail nature of storytelling teaches us mindfulness, aka living in the moment. I remembered that in the present, which is all I know for sure, I am well-fed and well-clothed (okay, sometimes my husband questions this assumption, but that, again, is for another post). I have my health and more-than-adequate shelter. Storytelling also tells us that anything can happen to anyone: the youngest, most foolish son always gets the treasure and the girl—eventually. Storytelling reminds us that tomorrow, as that great philosopher Scarlett O’Hara once said, is another day.

We storytellers are always touting the psychological benefits of our art form, but like any professionals, we can fall into the physician-heal-thyself, shoemaker-whose-children-have-no-shoes trap. We sometimes forget that we and our listeners are reminded every time we hear a story not that all will necessarily be well, but that endings are not usually foreseeable, and that conflict is often the seed of the most beautiful flowers.

Again, stories do not tell us that everything is always going to be all right. But there is at least an even chance that it will. We can never, ever know the story’s end until it’s over. Even with the help of the imagination that stories help us exercise, we can’t possibly imagine what that end will be. As another great philosopher once said, it ain’t over till it’s over.

Whenever I forget this, even for a moment, I will go back to this post. I hope you will, too.


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  • Carrie Sue Ayvar  On August 17, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Well said and an excellent reminder when our “what if’s” hijack our thoughts!

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