I walked to a coffee shop near my office recently. The young barista asked how my day was going so far. Usually I say what most of us say, ‘fine,’ or ‘sick of wearing my winter hat,’ or whatever banality comes to mind. But in my amped-up state I answered her straight up. ” Honestly,” I said. “I’m feeling sort of anxious.” We talked for a moment then she said earnestly, sweetly. “I’ll pray for you.” And I ordered my coffee.
I walked fast, confidently, back to the office, trying to dissipate that carbonated feeling in my blood and nerves. What makes me despair at times, well, a lot, is my inability to calm myself down, to talk to myself in a way that feels soothing enough to have my sparkling blood be still. Every anxiety-provoking thing hits the same spike on the needle no matter how seemingly smart I’ve become about what’s causing it. You’d think my neck was being measured for the noose.
Back at the Hancock elevators, I smiled at people I would have otherwise passed, kidded a middle-aged stranger on the elevator who was carrying an empty coffee cup up one floor. “Long way to go for a refill,” I said, sounding almost giddy. “I would’ve taken the stairs,” he said laughing, “but I’ve got bad knees.” As the doors closed I said something like, “well, in that case you’re forgiven!” Anxiety is a private torture. But my anxiety can get mouthy. I was experiencing a weird kind of openness, vulnerability.
So what does all this have to do with water?
Like last week, my office today has a view of Lake Michigan. (I don’t have a permanent office yet so I’m a bit of a gypsy here). When I walked in and saw the water, I felt calmer. There is something about water. I never feel alone when I am near it. My desk faces the door so I’ve been writing looking out the window, laptop on my thighs, feet up on the air vents. The water is calm with dappled waves. It is overcast. spittles of water on the window come and vanish. Two boats out on the water. I’m looking out over rooftops, mostly modern buildings, mostly commercial though a few have stacks of empty balconies and a few rooftop gardens, The Navy Pier carousel wheel to the south. A crow sails past the window and disappears.
I could sit here for the rest of the day and just watch the world and the water. I can feel my heart beat slowing down, my head quieting to exhaustion.There’s something about the uninterrupted clouded blue that goes to the horizon. My mind relaxes, meditates on the stillness of things, the solid buildings, the water rippling, a regular beat, just enough to be a good distraction. Like a lot of lonely, essentially motherless kids, nature has always soothed me, been my friend.
Light is trying to break through. The boats have come and gone. I’ll just sit here until I head home in a few hours, looking out the window, and try to remind myself I can feel this calm again.