You have always felt the tension of its presence
Struggling
With an opposing force
An unnamed fear
With its dark ruminations
As it arises once again from an unseen place
Deep within
To, once again, take possession of your senses

You have journeyed through the frontiers of life
With your anxiety as faithful companion.
You has always felt,
Even in your childhood,
As if you were hunted by an invisible dread
You could always trust to
Erode your confidence,
Constrict your spirit,
And force you
On to that familiar terrain of longing
Where you pleaded to any god
For the slightest glimpse of relief.

And now, trapped within the crucible of a pandemic,
An invisible pathogen incites
Unimaginable suffering:
The grief of not seeing your loved ones
The risk of infection
The boredom of self-isolation
The loneliness of physical distancing
The cold blue glare of virtual communications
The unseen faces behind the masks
The reckless confusion between rights and responsibilities
The malevolence of prejudice and discrimination
The plague of lies, deception, and manipulation
The loss of the old and familiar ways
The distress of finding a new normal,
And all the haunting uncertainties
Of being trapped inside a crucible of liminality.

When your anxiety claims you,
Remember this:
You are the opposing force
It has always been that way
There is no looming threat waiting for you other than
The one you imagine.
Now is the time
To turn toward your shadow
And allow it to come home.


And then go out into the wild places
Let your spirit revel in
The feelings of awe while you hike in a forest
The majesty of the trees that delight your eyes
The stability of the rock you stand on
The energy of the lakes, rivers, and streams you approach
The wonder of the sky that soothes your imagination
And the relentless beauty of their creative presence.
Release your anxieties here
Inside the grace of nature
Let them out of you so they too can roam in this domain
Even for just a little while
And like your spirit, they too will be humbled
By the solace of a sacred embrace.

Notes

  1. The mental health consequences of the COIVD-19 pandemic are significant. People with pre-existing conditions, such as anxiety, may find it more difficult to adapt. It is too soon to know the extent of the problem: COVID-19 pandemic has worsened pre-existing mental health conditions.
  2. Creative expression cultivates mental wellbeing. A poem can offer insight, encourage deeper understanding, help alleviate inner suffering, and provide consolation. In her essay Staying Alive, found in Upstream: Selected Essays, Mary Oliver writes, “I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too.”

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