I keep getting asked if I’m excited about my trip today. It’s a reasonable question as any but I find myself really hesitating to answer it. The polite thing is to just say “yes” but I have a terrible poker face so I’ve just been telling people “maybe” instead.
As the owner of a shiny anxiety disorder I don’t really do well with the extreme ends of any particular emotion and excited is the sharp edge of happy. Just to clarify, I find happiness and joy just as jabbing and terrifying as sadness and despair. I also, like many people with interesting lives, have a long association of the word “excitement” to really mean “chaos” as well. I know it’s very common be afraid of happiness for one reason or another but I’m not actually sure I’m afraid of it.
I just have a habit of tempering my expectations.
I experience joy and happiness and success in the moment but I assume the moment won’t come. I think pessimism can be a powerful force for protecting yourself and if you expect that things will go very poorly, you can’t be all that disappointed when they do. While my trip to Lisbon was not the worst, it also wasn’t earth shatteringly good (which is fine because life is not always going to be the best because if it was that would be ridiculous). The best parts of most exciting moments in life also are hard to translate in to words – the way that you can love something or someone that no one else seems interested in. The wait for the trip doesn’t seem to be that intangible or unknowable as all truly exciting things in my life have been.
I am excited about the idea of traveling in the abstract but overall I feel mostly the same way I do about everything under the sun: anxious, nervous, scared, a little confused. It’s not to say I’m not also excited on some level, just to say that my feelings about everything are very predictable. I don’t even think of them as negative most of the time. Like how a person would (hopefully) not admonish people for grief after someone has passed know that the emotion simply exists to inform you that something is happening and they’re reacting to it.
I have been attempting these past two weeks to take the time to try and contextualize my thoughts and feelings of fear and anxiety as if they are some type of excitement that I just can’t put my finger on. This failed miserably because I spend a lot of time with my feelings. At the end of the day, I have no problem being happy or thinking I deserve happiness or any of the other meaningless dribble that gets peddled around but just that my anxiety is such a beast it mows down all other feelings. Maybe underneath all of this I am very excited but my anxiety is like background radiation or static from a radio. You can tune it out but it’s still there. Still interrupting the normal flow of things.
Even though I recognize that the type of anxiety I have is totally useless, I’m still worried about all the things and nothing at the same time. Sometimes I have inane, funny anxieties. I feel anxious when I get separated from my luggage even though that’s a normal thing that happens over the course of a flight or I worry the stewardess on the plane can hear my thoughts and hates me. Most of the time though I just feel abstractly anxious. Thinking on it isn’t exactly helpful and naming it or naming the thoughts that are causing it can be even worse. Isolating down to the thing you’re worrying about clears a lot of space in your mind to focus in on one single worry until it feels more real.
So questions like “are you excited?” accidentally focus me and lead me around in circles. I’ve been thinking about it for almost a full two weeks. Am I excited? If I’m not excited, should I be excited? What if I’m never excited? Is it normal not to be excited? Is it normal to be excited? Should I be more excited? Did I somehow use up all my excitement? Will I never be excited again? Am I capable of being excited?
In the end I can really only be how I am. It seems to be working okay as I am going to go on vacation regardless of the feelings I have about excitement. But I like to think that even if I’m not excited right now, I’m still open to making the space in my anxiety pit to feel excited soon.