Making Room for Angst

I catch myself holding my breath, having to remind myself to relax my shoulders, unclench my jaw, inhale, exhale. Breathe. It is a work unto itself these days, breathing that is. There is so much bad, and so much good, and it’s hard to make sense of it all while pushing for equality, and kindness, and some decent customer service from your cable company.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Everything seems so convoluted and mixed up, like a child’s chaotic finger painting, except way less endearing. It’s all over the walls, and the carpet, and the furniture, and I’m not quite sure how to get the stains out of, well, everything.

Inhale. Exhale.

It’s a difficult thing to live with angst, especially at this age, especially when puberty and middle school are so far away. Frankly, it’s annoying. It’s annoying like the way my friends keep telling me to go deep into the angst and this is what comes before change and stop acting like a 5-year-old.

Clearly I need new friends.

Inhale. Exhale.

It’s not that I’m distraught or don’t know what to do. I do. Kind of. You put one foot in front of the other. You show up, lean in, do. You don’t rush the process–not if you really want to get somewhere. You write things down, talk them out, cry, listen, and really try to keep your blood sugar stable. You fight to get all those incongruent life-things back in order. You realize you don’t quite know what order they go in. You push. You try. You fail. You do it all again. You don’t stop. You keep breathing. You get so damn uncomfortable that you finally decide to give a few less fucks, and off you go, making the work you are supposed to do.

Sounds real fun-like, doesn’t it?

Now it might seem like I’m complaining, and I suppose I am. But more than that, I’m trying to sort out these feelings and the path, and make sense of it, and do this all before I turn 30 because, of course, that’s completely reasonable.

I realize we do not quite arrive while we’re here. That’s maybe for another time. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could? If we could get our shit together and save the earth, and be kind to our neighbors, and get a good night’s sleep, and maybe even find decent parking?

I wonder if really surrendering to the process is about holding space for the hope that we can do more, be more, change more, and get those incongruent life-things in some type of order. Maybe a good start is being honest. Saying yes, I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m going to try at it anyway.

I think we all hope we can do good work, something that is authentic and alive and true. But then we set out to do it (which is an entirely different thing) and it’s mostly shit. It’s usually a disappointment. But I think we’re supposed to fight through that, fight through the ugly finger painting mess until we finally get somewhere we sort of recognize; we look around and realize we might be on to something. And finally we’ve got that story to tell.

Change happens while we’re doing the shit-work, slowly, gradually, and then all at once. It happens while we’re uncomfortable and trying really, really hard to breathe. It begins when we make some room for the angst, and introduce hope, and keep remembering to inhale first, and exhale second.

Image via Kelsey & Nate


  • Hey Tara,

    Thanks for sharing. You’re right. It really can be exhausting. I’m glad you’re still writing… I was just on your blog the ever day. I’ve been reading a lot of Anne Lamott lately. She seems to describe where things are in a way that resonates: This life is tough one, but I’m glad we’re still here.

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