Monday night for a really long time I sat on the couch breathing deeply. I didn’t want to respond to the fairly innocuous texts waiting on my phone, I didn’t care enough about Netflix to pay attention, I couldn’t get on the mat because of an injury and I could feel that I was about to burst, so I just sat on the couch breathing. Breathe in, try to wrap my mind around the anxiety that was forming as anger in my core; breathe out and let it all go. It took a while but I finally calmed down, enough to pick up my phone and respond, press play on Arrested Development and wind down from the spike of emotions before going to sleep. Yesterday morning I went to meditate, as I do most mornings these days, and found I couldn’t sit still for anything, still agitated from the happenings of the previous day. What exactly set me off so much that I’m working through these cycles of quick anger and slow calm, even now at my desk? Nothing, really. This week I just snapped.
Anxiety is a bitch of an emotion with a lot of unpleasant physical symptoms to boot, as many people know and some know much better than others. I suffered from at-times crippling anxiety for many years; not that I couldn’t leave my apartment or had to leave my job crippling, but yelling at my friends and family for imagined indiscretions and hiding in an office bathroom crying kind of crippling. It’s one the reasons I love yoga so much. Yoga has made it really possible to calm myself down, to separate my Self from my anxiety, looking at it almost like a separate part of myself that I can subdue by not giving into its cries for attention. 9 times out of 10, that approach works for me. But sometimes all of that anxious energy builds up in me and I can’t find a way to get rid of it, and something tiny will set me off and it bursts out of me like a firework, generally in the form of anger. Recently it’s been this vicious cycle; I can stay calm in moments that used to feed into anxious energy and instead the energy stores, until I get an unwanted text or Snapchat and it explodes in rage out of my body. It’s like I’ve finally learned how to calm down my anxiety but now I’ve created a whole new beast I need to face.
Anger is a scary emotion. It’s unpredictable and empowering at the same time; it feels good to release the anger on someone or something else, whether they deserve it or not. Anger is intoxicating in its own way; where Anxiety makes you want to crawl in a hole reliving that one embarrassing moment from middle school over and over, Anger gives you the power to yell, to assert yourself and your opinion. It gives you ammunition to fight for yourself in one way other, your views or your free time or whatever else may be offended. Anger is power; Anxiety is fear. Neither one of those matter when one is in a yogic state of mind, and yet even with all my Zen AF yogi training, I still have too many moments where I’m chasing that anger high, even though I know the come down can be just as bad as the original offending emotion.
Yesterday I felt it snap again, after trying to focus on the good things like how today is my Friday and and I have family to look forward to this weekend, but a text set me off and I spent the next three hours breathing myself through a fit of anger. I left the office in a huff, walked 20 blocks up to the subway stop up from the one I normally take to blow off some steam and proceeded to wait over 20 minutes for a train. After about minute fifteen I could feel the anger I’d been suppressing percolating like mad: fucking MTA. I just want to go home. Who are all these people trying to push me to look down an empty tunnel. The train is going to be uncomfortably crowded. I could feel my frustration wanting to emerge in tears, in yelling, in cursing, in something, just something to get it out of me and release that energy onto someone else who could handle it better.
But instead I took another deep breath and paid attention to my heartbeat and my thoughts. I appreciated the moment where I was just then: I wasn’t about to leave to take a cab home so I just had to wait, knowing eventually there would be a train and eventually I would be home. I stood, leaning against the painted metal of the station, and counted every inhale, and every exhale. The anger subsided just as the train rolled in and I leaned against the doors I knew wouldn’t open till the end of my trip and I kept breathing. At that moment a large group of loud tourists packed into the train and started yelling at each other across the car, but I just turned up my headphones and focused on the song in my ears. And as I poured all my attention into the melody flowing through each ear and through me, the song crooned “Life is in love. Life is in love. Life is in love.” I smiled, and replayed the song. I may have snapped the past week, finally breaking from Zen-yogi LB who has been running the show for weeks now, but she’ll come back always if I can remember those words: life isn’t in the intoxicating pull of yelling at strangers or hiding in a corner. Life is in love. Love is life is love. I think I can breathe into that.