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Responsibility and anxiety

January 11, 2007

My penchant for worrying too much about the future is something I’ve come to accept in my life. It’s part of who I am and the best thing I can do is recognize it and try to minimize the effect I let it have on me. As far back as I can remember, I spent entirely too many cycles thinking about some potential future event or conflict to the point where I’ve worried myself into a corner, questioning my own ability to deal with whatever comes up. Maybe that’s why I often avoid change and try to stick with what’s familiar.

I knew that becoming a father would increase my anxiety even more. And, really, it’s what’s been the single hardest thing about parenthood for me so far. It’s not easy wrestling with the constant thoughts swirling around about the huge responsibility I have to make sure that the girl grows up safely in a healthy environment where she’s encouraged to learn, explore, and be herself.

And, oh yeah, it would be nice if she didn’t hate me when she’s a teenager.

I’m sure this is something every parent goes through to some degree. But do these sometimes overwhelming feelings of anxiety ever really dissipate? Is it something you can get past after realizing that, no, you just don’t have control over everything?

A friend of mine told me that new parents spend the first six months worrying about their parenting skills and whether they’re even fit enough to keep the baby alive. But after those first six months pass and you realize, “Wait a second, the baby’s fine…” that it makes it easier to relax and enjoy everything.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to keep up with my practice. Haven’t done a very good job, but at the very least, I’ve been sitting occasionally and listening to some dharma talks. I particularly found Gil Fronsdal’s talk on fear to be quite helpful in taking a look at anxiety from a different angle. It only makes sense that Buddhism provides some insight on the matter since restlessness/worry/anxiety is one of the Five Hindrances.

Thank goodness my wife’s well grounded. Only one of us can afford to be neurotic (well, one of us plus the dog… she’s developed a fear of her food bowl… but that’s a whole ‘nother story).

(It just struck me how disjointed this entry is… probably because it was written over the course of a week and I just couldn’t decide what to do with it. So, here it is, out of my mind… now, on to the next one.)

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