Somewhere on the journey of learning to live fully as someone with social anxiety, there's a new hurdle: learning to keep up emotionally with the newly active social part of yourself. As you grow more comfortable in the situations that previously provoked fear or avoidance a surprising thing can happen: you can find yourself becoming more social, more outgoing than your emotional self is prepared for. This is especially true of socially anxious folks who lean toward the introverted end of the spectrum. Suddenly there's a new, rather bombastic voice in the mix that wants to go on all those fabulous adventures the fearful self had been so good at talking you out of. And before you know it, you're burned out with trying to keep up with this newly-freed sense of creative living.
As I started driving again - contentedly, for the first time in my life - I found myself at a stopping point at my therapist's office, the farthest I'd yet driven. I didn't have an appointment, or any commitments; it was just for practice. Yet, as I sat in the parking lot, exuberant at the achievement and my comfort level with it, my adrenaline started to kick in, and I found myself antsy to go to the next destination - whatever whim might make it to be. I asked myself: can I just rest in this space for a minute? The answer, frankly, proved to be no. I couldn't.
Sometimes rest doesn't happen on command, and sometimes the treasured tools become obsolete. The affirmations are simply words once again, the resonance of your truth is frail, and your experience is imperfectly uncomfortable. But the achievement in that moment is that you can sit amid rising anxiety and just observe it. In moments like these it's frustrating, truly, because this big life outside of the comfort zone isn't as flawless or peaceful as you'd hoped. The illusion of living without anxiety fizzles into the reality of living with anxiety. But there's the living, and that's cause for a celebration even if it doesn't feel as comfortable as you expected.
There's a place between rest and action. I call it allowing. In our best-is-better world it's hard to be content with something so mediocre as acceptance, but mediocrity is the result of comparison, and comparison is, as they say, the thief of joy; comparison is an act of aggression against presence.
Can you make a home for yourself in acceptance, in allowing yourself to be valiantly imperfect? Can you stop comparing your experience with what could have been, even just for a moment? And can you finally, amid the noise and even the sorrow of this flawed place, give yourself permission to rest in the knowledge that this, too, is an achievement? That this, too, is a manifestation of peace? As the luminous Sue Monk Kidd once said, "Just to be is holy, and just to live is a gift."