“Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.” — Marcus Aurelius
Today my son got a bloody nose for the first time. I saw it in the car as I was driving, knowing that we did not have any tissue in the car, I said nothing. When my son complained that his nose was running, I told him to go ahead and wipe it on his shirt and that we would change clothes when we got home. He rubbed his hands all over his face and then his shirt and then proclaimed he was better. He didn’t see the blood and apparently his nose bleed had ceased.
Once home, we cleaned up. I didn’t see much blood on his shirt and concluded his nose bleed must have been minor. The rest of the evening passed with ease, and it wasn’t until bedtime that the topic of nose pain came up again.
After more than an hour of attempted sleep, my son told his dad that his nose hurt and that he was scared. They talked about it a bit before I became involved. I took my son’s concerned seriously and listened to his worries. Then I put some Vicks on his chest and coconut oil on his dry nose. I turned off the fan and told him that I saw his nose bleed in the car earlier that day and that it passed without him knowing it.
The idea that there was blood coming out of his nose without him knowing it was mind boggling for my son and it prompted an in-depth conversation about nose bleeds and nose pain. I told him that when I was his age, I sometimes got a bloody nose from the dry air caused by air conditioning and that I thought that was what had happened to him. He thought about it for a minute and then said he felt better. He then laid down and was asleep within minutes.
Children don’t know how to change their perceptions. They must rely on adults to offer an alternative view when they get stuck on something that causes them anxiety. The problem is it is tough to tell what will provoke anxiety in a child as they’re perspectives are limited by experience.
The outcome of today’s experience could have looked very different. I’m sure that every parent has at least one good story of when they tried to lessen the anxiety about something only to make it worse.
As a parent, it is not always intuitive that the truth will bring comfort. It is tempting to shield our little ones from the woes of the world. But the problem with that strategy is that they are a part of the same world that we are and pick up on more than we can fully comprehend. It was tempting to not mention my son’s nosebleed to him as I thought that might provoke more anxiety, but it turned out that it gave him the context he needed to shift his perspective from unknown scary nose pain to the air conditioner made my nose bleed.
In my own life, I understand it is within my power to shift my perspective, I just don’t always do it. Anxiety is a good reminder. Sometimes I don’t know when I am anxious, or I can set it aside without changing my perspective. But this generally doesn’t have a lasting effect. To completely discard my anxiety, my perspective must be changed about whatever sparked the anxiety in the first place. Relieving anxiety is always an inside job.
Today I find my mind oscillating between rage and fear about the women in my country losing autonomy over their own bodies. I have plenty of context on to why this happened and predicted this very outcome years ago, but that isn’t enough to discard my anxiety. If anything, it makes it worse as it validates my anxious mind.
What does bring me some comfort and hopefully enough enlightenment to shift my perspective and discard my anxiety is to know that I will meet the problems of tomorrow with the tools and soundness of mind that I have today. I don’t need to have all the answers, I just need to focus on what is in front of me and act within the bounds of my ethics.
Perhaps, the missing piece in my puzzle of discontentment is the difficulty I’m encountering trying to love my fellows or at the very least, tolerate them. Rage is fear going outward, so the answer is the same for both, but the willingness to look past unwelcomed opinions of law and life, is something I’m currently lacking.
This reflection is not my finest, but it doesn’t need to be. I am angry. I wish to discard my anxiety as Marcus Aurelius. Tomorrow is another day.