Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.

Ashley Smith

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


My friend Anna, who is uber-awesome, is writing a poem a day as her 2014 challenge.  That is 365 poems, for any of my numerically challenged readers, and that is a shit-pile of poems.  Here is the link to her blog, in case you are a poemaholic. Ingenious Torture (cool name, no?)

I am not a poemaholic and I have confessed to dear Anna that I prefer her prose on each blog post to her poems.  That does not mean her poetry is bad or that poetry in anyway is inferior to prose, my mind just works better in straight lines. No jazz, no abstract paintings, no chaotic juxtaposition of words or images for this linear, science brain.  It may be why I love weaving with its straight, logical sequence of events.

This?  YES

This? Not so much. (Rod Seeley)

This logical, sequential way of experiencing the world definitely has its advantages- project follow through, detail oriented task mongering, solving math problems...  it does, however, have its drawbacks- free flowing creativity is not my strong suit, I don't get to hang out in dark, smoke-filled rooms talking philosophy with beautiful, long haired, flowing shirt beatniks because jazz music makes my head want to explode.  All in all, having a linear brain is not nearly as cool as having a poem brain... although, I do appreciate my way of being and tax time doesn't really stress me out, so that's a bonus.  It also means, however, that I have to strike while the iron is hot- if I get an inspiration, I need to go with it immediately or it gets left in the stream- BACK THERE.

I had not intended to write about my linear way of being, I intended to write about angst (thus the title).  The idea came to me from reading Anna's poem Incantation - well, let's be honest, from reading her prose surrounding the poem.  So to come full circle (which is still linear, if you go slow enough) here are my thoughts about her thoughts.

 Anna writes about stress.  How ubiquitous it is and how we use that word to describe every feeling we have that we don't like.  I agree.  And I love her description of our students' relationship with it.  She  discusses how stress evolved to keep our bodies safe, but has turned on us in modern life and started attacking us, much like a feral dog that bites you because you have trapped it in a corner.  I believe we have trapped our stress response in a figurative corner and this is causing a lot of modern day issues, health and mental.  One most pressing and obvious- Angst.

Angst- (From the online version of the Merriam Webster dictionary): a strong feeling of being worried or nervous : a feeling of anxiety about your life or situation.

Anna's musings about stress made me think about angst.  Anxiety.  Worry, nerves, fear. My husband and I have ongoing discussions about this.  It seems to be an ever increasing issue.  Not so much for us.  I mean we have the regular worries about money, our animals, our health, but nothing overwhelming.  Nothing that stops our lives.  Yet, we hear others talking about this debilitating level of anxiousness. About having to take medication for anxiety.  While I have no problem with people taking the medication they need to live their lives to the fullest, I do wonder where all this anxiety is coming from.

I blame modern society.

OH! that is a broad, sweeping accusation, is it not?  But look at it this way: our nervous system evolved to deal with a certain amount of struggle (avoiding saber-toothed tigers and finding food and shelter).  We are chemically primed for fight or flight.  What happens to those chemicals when your biggest daily struggle is picking out which shoes to wear?  They are still there, ready to do their job, but without real, physical struggle all they manifest is worry and anxiety. 

If one had to spend all day physically working to get fuel for a fire, meat to cook, hauling water (you get the picture) one would not have a lot of energy left to worry about, let's say... whether your mother in law thinks you keep the house clean enough.  Which causes you stress, which causes your body to secrete the fight or flight chemicals which you can't really use, because honestly you can't out run or fight a thought.  Now you have this chemical storm going on and no real resolution (if you were trying to out run that tiger, you either would or you would get eaten.  Either way- situation resolved.  With thoughts, not so much.)

Modern society has made our lives so ultra convenient that instead of burning up physical energy doing something productive and useful, instead of building confidence and strength with struggle, we are left watching TV and worrying whether our electronic device is as good as the one in the commercial.

What's the solution?  Obviously, physical struggle.  And I am not joking about that.  I feel pretty well grounded, grateful, mostly balanced, happy.  I believe that is because I work hard, physically, when I am able.  I tote hay and water, shovel shit, dig in the dirt, ride horses - all these sorts of primitive things. Because the reward is in the struggle.

Sweat is good!

I believe if, as a society, we moved back towards doing things with our hands and bodies, as much as we are able, a lot of the angst would fade away.  We could un-corner our stress, let the feral dog run free.  Use our stress hormones to produce something useful, instead of slowly killing us.

I dare you to try it.  When you are feeling stressed or anxious do something physical- walk around the block, jump rope, wrestle with your dog (or kid if you have one), dance till you are gasping.  Do enough physical activity to make you tired, panting for breath tired, and see what happens with your anxiety.  I bet that saber-toothed tiger can't catch you.


  1. I love this! And not just because you mention my plog (poem blog=plog?). But, you write beautifully and clearly and I think your ideas are spot on.

    1. Thank you Anna!! I tried to post a comment on your "plog" yesterday, but I think it disappeared... Luckily, being who I am, I copied and pasted it into a word document so that I could try again!!1


“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” -Albert Einstein