the mercer weave

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Archive for the tag “fretter”

Victim of Routine

I had every intention to sit this morning and then I did something I never do; I forgot to set my alarm. Aside from being annoying and jarring, forgetting to do something I routinely do every night before I get into bed, had the potential to set my day off on the wrong foot. Routine saves me. It gives me a sense of control over those things that we do mindlessly every day. I put my keys, my watch, my badge, my ID card, my gun, in the same place every day. Nothing is going to move without human intervention. And in the morning, I pick them up like I do every day and head to work. But I often find that if I leave one little thing out of the order of things, something else will fall out.

The lesson I take from this is that I have replaced mindfulness with routine. Instead of being present when I set down my keys or set my alarm, I’ve counted on my subconscious to kick in and do it for me. It’s a little daunting to step outside that frame of reference, to thumb my nose at doing things the same way day in and day out. But it’s necessary. Without mindfulness, our lives become mindless. We become complacent and lose the ability to find joy in the uncommon place. I’m going to try and be less routine and more spontaneous. Let’s see where that takes me.

What do you do ‘routinely’ that you can try to change and replace with mindful action?


High Anxiety

Today I read a wonderful post by Marguerite Manteau-Rao at her blog MindDeep about the nature of anxiety. She quoted and linked to an interview on NPR with teacher Sylvia Boorstein. This really resonated with me:

Actually, the Buddha said we have one of five genetic fallback glitches when we’re challenged. He said some people fret, some people get angry, some people lose heart and all their energy goes and they don’t know what to do with themselves, some people think, “Uh-oh, it’s me. I didn’t do things right. It’s always my fault. I messed things up.” And some people need to be sensually soothed. They think, “Where’s a donut shop? Where’s the pizza?” People have different tendencies. It was very, very helpful for me as an adult to learn that because it completely comes without a judgment. I don’t have to say I am a chronic fretter. I could say, you know, when I’m challenged, fretting arises in my mind and it’s not a moral flaw. It’s very good for people who have a short fuse to be able to think, “You know, I have this unusual neurological glitch.

I tell it to people that my glitch is that “when in doubt, worry.” It came with the equipment. I’m also short and I have brown eyes. If I could see that in the same neutral, it just came with the equipment, then I don’t have to feel bad about it, but I can work with it wisely. That’s really the important part, when we see as adults what it is that our fallback glitch is. You can say, “Uh-oh.” And I think, in a certain way, that’s a sign of wisdom when a person begins to be able to delineate this is what happens to me under tension.”

I’m a master fretter. I own it. The interesting thing for me is that I don’t always know when I’m fretting and I don’t generally talk about what is vexing me. My anxiety comes out in a habit I have had since I was a child – I bite my cuticles (or what is left of them.) It is such an unconscious behavior that most of time, I’m not even aware that I am doing it until my partner (invariably) says, “Stop eating your fingers!”  I always thought this was just an annoying habit until a doctor friend pointed out years ago that it was related to anxiety and I was incredulous. I was incredulous because I didn’t feel anxious. I tried putting awful tasting stuff on my nails as a way to deter the behavior. That just meant I had an awful taste in my mouth most of the time, because I didn’t know I was doing it. I would bet that most of my friends wouldn’t describe me as an anxious person. But that’s a testament to how good I’ve become at masking it.

Learning to sit with silence and in the moment has allowed me to connect with that feeling of anxiety. It has given me the chance to be more mindful about what I do in response to anxiety even when I don’t feel anxious. Slowly but surely I am learning to ‘work with it wisely.’

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