UPDATED: Poetry to help with anxiety

As fear and anxiety has spread across the United States, I wanted to try to give people comfort and hope through poetry.

But as I tried to dig deep for a poem of my own, or even poems by others, I realized this wasn’t something I had readily stockpiled. Because the honest truth is that I don’t experience anxiety very much.

I thought this meant I had nothing to say on the matter, until it hit me: maybe because I don’t have anxiety is why I might be able to help.

I think one of the reasons for this is because I tend to take life day by day. Sure, I have goals and plans like anyone else. But I guess the difference is that I never feel as stuck because of them. I know every day offers some new insight into the work I’m doing and the person I try to be.

I also know that we are never guaranteed another day.

I don’t wake up every morning giving thanks for the day I’ve been given; perhaps I should. But I do know every morning I wake up I have a chance to do something I’ve been planning to do, or change direction.

I try not to buy in too much to the “if you had 30 days to live” and “bucket list” kind of thinking. Because all we ever have is this one day, one moment.

I don’t worry too much about whether this day is a day for cleaning or a day of writing, because I know I can clean between my writing. And if I don’t clean, I probably won’t regret it. And if I can’t seem to write, I know forcing it will make me hate my writing.

I just think of it this way: If I knew I had only one day, would I really write a book, start a business, travel the world? Or would I gather my closest friends and family and tell them how much I loved them?

I realize none of us have that knowledge, and yes, we all still have to feed our families and make money. But to put it in perspective: Everything else is what we do in between being who we are and being with who we love.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about the freedom of building a business so that you can be with your family.

But I ask you this: Would you be willing to give it all up, lose all of it, throw it away, to be with your family?

That is true freedom. Knowing what is important, accepting the unknown, and being willing to start from scratch again.

We have created our world, just as we’ve created our problems.

If things got really bad, do you find comfort in knowing you can pay your bills?

Or that you let it go and create something completely new again.

The thing that gives me comfort in a time of anxiety is knowing two things:

  1. We’ve made it through bad times before.
  2. And we can’t do anything if we’re not supporting each other.

Renascance by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Journal of a Solitude by poet May Sarton (though not poetry, the journal entries are poetic and full of insights)

Sleepwalker by Portland poet Gwen McNeir

Change by Najwa Zebian

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