It’s early September and so it’s still technically summer but this time of year will always bring to me the sense of a new season and new beginnings. It’s a little hot today, but the sun is lower in the sky and the night was almost too cold, so the sun feels delicious on my skin, not July-oppressive. It’s been a dry summer and there are already crumbling leaves on the ground, getting tangled up in my sandals. All the while I’m walking, I’m having a therapy session with myself.
Most days I seem to be on a roller coaster of emotional twists and turns, steep climbs, glorious peaks, rapid and plunging descents, an ongoing loop in which the ride never ends. Yesterday was a good day. I felt full of gratitude for so much of the beauty and people and love in my life — until something tripped me up last night and I helped myself to a crippling cocktail of doubt, anxiety, despair, and fear, just before bed.
Sometimes it seems like keeping that anxiety wolf at bay is my other full time job. This morning I’m feeling the effects of the struggle to sleep last night, the whirling dervishes of “not enough” having done their dance in my head until close to 4:00 a.m.
So during my therapy session walk, I am reminding myself that anxiety’s only purpose is to keep me locked in a low-level state of panic and failed productivity. I remind myself to stay in the present moment and so begin to notice everything around me — the riot of green in spite of the drought, the sun speckled path, the shade and the light flirting with each other through the music of a late summer, prairie breeze. I decide to walk to the community orchard, just a short detour from the neighborhood park.
I helped plant the trees there long ago — pear and apple and plum and peach and chestnut and pawpaws and more. The orchard had a lot of promise but it’s a little neglected these days and I don’t see anything bearing fruit. The grass is tall, dry and itchy under my feet, but in the distance I notice bright red spots from a few trees, so I head that way. There is a young man there, clearly on a more specific mission than my I-wonder-if-there-is-any-fruit detour. He is tasting an apple that is rotten on one side with a worm hole on the other and he says, “oh wow, that was a really good bite.” He tells me this tree has his favorites, but that the apples aren’t quite ripe, mostly still a little tart, and so I ask him when he thinks they will be ready. He says I should probably come back in a week or two — or I could just try one from the tree.
And then he reaches up to grab one that was out of my reach and in the process inadvertently shakes another one loose. It lands perfectly, squarely in my open palms. It is tiny but as flawless as one could hope for: brilliant red giving way to speckled and mottled green, without a single dent or split or any evidence of an intrusive insect. “There you go,” he said smiling. “It’s perfect,” I said. I almost bite into it right there, but instead I decide to take it home and share it with Dennis.
And I realize as I’m walking and holding this pristine tiny apple, the skin so smooth and delightful in my hand, what a gift I have been given. I’m holding it firmly but carefully, like I have the Hope Diamond wrapped in my palm, rather than a small apple, one that’s in fact probably still a little tart.
Earlier this morning, in an attempt to alleviate my morning-after anxiety hangover, I turned to my usual tools: I meditated, I wrote in my journal, I did a little yoga. I felt a little better when I left for my walk. But it’s that pristine, brilliant apple landing so perfectly in my upturned palms that helps more than anything, because it really is that simple. That even for someone like me, whose relationship with God might best be described as “it’s complicated,” the words, “ask and you shall receive” still ring true. The blessings and the beauty and the gifts are there for the taking, if we would only stop long enough to look up, open our hands (and our hearts), and receive them.
I know this is not the end of my anxiety. We’re pretty tight, anxiety and me, and we have a long history. But I’m learning to let go, learning to trust the power of staying present, remembering that worry solves exactly zero problems, reminding myself not to fritter away the precious and present moment concerning myself with what’s around the bend. I’m learning to trust that if I ask, and I’m patient and quiet enough, I shall receive. The gift may just be an early fall apple, but there is a whole beautiful world of bounty in that tiny piece of fruit.
September 4, 2019