Good anxious and bad anxious


I don’t understand people who are calm and serene.  Truly, I don’t.

I aspire to be one of them.  I do.  But then again, I also aspire to be a size 8.  Some things are simply beyond my humble abilities.

When I spend time with those paragons of peacefulness, I am totally in awe.

I am also usually in danger of hyperventilating.

I can’t help it.  A lot of things just get me revved up.  I am blessed with a nimble mind and a vivid imagination.   I worry!

This means that when I spend a lovely day on the beach in Maine with several friends and their beautiful children, I keep an eagle eye on every little body, repeatedly counting heads while the mothers relax and smile from the beach, not at all concerned that a rogue wave will suddenly appear and drown everyone.  In my head, I know that these kids have literally grown up on this beach, that the water is barely over their heads, that it is low tide and that they can all swim.  In my crazy Mamma heart, though, I spend the entire afternoon imagining disaster and reviewing what I know of CPR.

I’m just anxious.

I can judge my levels of anxiety quite easily, too.  The cleaner the house, the more amped up I am feeling. Anxious= clean.  It’s that simple.

When my kids were little ones, Paul could come in the front door at dinner time, glance around at the immaculate living room and ask, “What’s wrong?”  If there were socks on the floor, dishes in the sink and smudges on every reflective surface, he’d give a big sigh of relief and come on in for dinner.

What makes my particular brand of craziness more difficult, though, is the fact that sometimes I am bad anxious (someone lost a job, someone is very sick, someone has been hurt or put in danger) and sometimes I am good anxious (heading off to a reunion with my oldest friends, going into a new school year, leaving on a great vacation).

It makes no difference.  I get that big old flood of adrenaline, my heart starts skipping around like an eager race horse, and before I know it, I’m cleaning everything in sight.

Let me give you an example.

My beautiful, smart, capable, mature daughter just experienced every woman’s dream proposal from the man who makes her breath catch.  They were on the coast of Ireland, and he proposed with an emerald ring in a Celtic design, followed by champagne and text messages to all who love them.

I know! Can you stand it?  Like a perfect dream!  Like every wish I ever wished for her, from the first moment that I knew she was alive. “Let her find love, let her be happy, let her have someone who gives her all of her dreams.”  I am beyond happy at her news, and Paul and I shed some tears over the whole thing last night, knowing that she is on the way to a wonderful future.

But still!

This morning I found myself swamped with “good anxious” thoughts.  What is the proper My-Daughter-Got-Engaged etiquette? What do I do now?  Followed rapidly by: “But she’s only a baby!” and “What will I wear?” and “Can I lose 20 lbs and do I care if I can’t?” and “I want to get together with his Mom, ASAP! We need to hug and cry and drink a barrel of wine together!”

I am happy, I am elated, I am facing a new and incredibly exciting adventure.  This is the most awesome news to hit our house in a long time!!! And to top if  all off, my niece, one of Kate’s closest buddies on earth, got engaged this week, too, so I get to experience this whole phenomenon with my baby sister!!  How incredibly cool is that?!

It’s all absolutely, totally positive and fabulous.

So I have to wonder why, on the only off day that I have had in weeks, I found myself cleaning out the medicine cabinet and dusting the baseboards at 10 AM, after walking the dogs, mopping the kitchen floor, writing a special-ed report that is due in October, refinishing a coffee table and trimming the hedges.

I think I might be just a tiny bit “good anxious”, don’t you?

Can you imagine what a mess I’d be if I had gotten some bad news?

My baby is engaged!

28 thoughts on “Good anxious and bad anxious

  1. Oh Karen! I know exactly how you feel! I experienced that same “anxious” when Kayla got engaged….with all the same thoughts…..”need to get together with his mother” (even though I knew her even before they dated)….”should I tell anyone or is that up to her?” (proper etiquette)…”will I find a dress I like and take off the weight I want?” (because everyone will be looking at me, right?)….”uh oh, where will the money come from to pay for this gala?” As Katie, she had the dream proposal, on the coast of Newport, RI….I was elated, and scared, because like your baby, she too, was just a baby….a 25 year old baby, but still my baby! Then, when they set the date, I thought my father was going to go through the roof….”December? It could snow in December….what about my brother and sisters…definitely not December”. I tried to calm him by pointing out that we recently had a huge hurricane in late August and a crippling snow storm in late October and there were actually people who got married those weekends. I did however, spend much time praying that it would not snow on 12/8/12. Didn’t want to hear any I told you so’s. It was an incredibly special time for us….planning, laughing, arguing, crying….and in the end, I wasn’t nuts over my dress but everyone told me they loved it, it didn’t snow, the food was wonderful, the DJ great, and everyone had a blast. Best of all, my “baby” .was beautiful and more importantly, happy. And my house is now, once again, a mess!

    Enjoy this time….and I think it’s so cool that you get to experience this with Mary! Hugs ❤

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    • Thanks a million, Cuz! You were one of the people I thought of right away, to turn to for advice! Such uncharted territory!!!
      I just have to laugh at my neurotic housecleaning thing, that only hits when I’m nervous! The rest of the women in my family are always neat freaks, go figure!!
      Hope to see you very soon; maybe you can do therapy for Mary and I?

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  2. I love reading your blog. Its great to hear your insights because they always touch a chord with me, as well as the bizarre similarities in your reactions and mine. Your insights help me know so much more about myself that you are a blessing to my sanity. 😀

    Congratulations, by the way, on your daughter’s engagement.

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  3. 30+ years of teaching is partially responsible–maybe for 30 to 40% of it. And…of course… the remaining 60-70% of ‘it’ is why you became a teacher in the first place. LOL! Is that recursive? Hmmm… I love summer!

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  4. I can relate to the cleaning frenzy, but mine is when I am angry about something so you can imagine how my family feels when our house is spotless! Congratulations to Kate and her man. Enjoy this time and may it be fun and anxiety-free!

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    • Ha!! I sort of forgot the angry cleaning thing! And we used to do angry cooking, too; “pot walloping” my sister called it!
      I remember my dad coming home when I was a teenager, and my mom and I pounding out bread dough on opposite sides of the kitchen table!
      Thanks, Beth! Its a big next step!

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  5. Oh, you are funny! At least you are productive with your anxiety. I could relate to every worry you wrote. But I don’t clean when I’m anxious. In fact, I’m the opposite. I fret and I can’t get anything done. Nothing. It’s awful. So I guess we’d make quite a pair!

    Congrats to you and your daughter and all! That is great news. Enjoy these happy times!

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  6. Wonderful news! Congratulations!

    I’m not normally like that, but I DID mop my kitchen floor the morning of my wedding.

    What’s the harm in a wee bit of good anxiety?

    I do wish I had a bit more of it!

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  7. You Anxious Types have something on us Serene Sisters – we have no mechanism for dealing with anxiety when it hits us – and it *does* hit us. Hard. I usually play an unhealthy amount of computer solitaire and stare into space… 😉
    Congrats to your girl, and to you, Mom! It’ll be fine…just let her tell you where to put that energy to work!

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    • Ah, and I don’t know how to handle myself when I am relaxed and at peace, honestly! I read, I listen to music, then I get anxious because things are too calm.
      The only place where I can totally relax is right on the ocean; if I can watch the waves roll in and out, I can let go of my angst.

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