Lindsay / Nica 65 / EEP
It was a Friday afternoon and the sun was at its peak. It had been at least a month since it last rained so everything was extremely dry and dusty. I was sitting in my room trying to move as little as possible in order to avoid working up a sweat. It was hot, and normally that doesn’t bother me too much, but this day I started to feel a sense of panic. We hadn’t had water for the past two days and nobody knew when it was going to come back. I wanted to shower to cool myself off, I wanted to do my laundry that had been piling up over the past week and I wanted to fill up my water bottle to quench my thirst, but I couldn’t do any of that. I felt like I had no control because I couldn’t do a single one of these simple tasks. I had a bucket with some water reserved for days like these, but it was starting to run low and I was starting to think how conservative I needed to be with the water that was left and how many days I could make it last me.
Gradually the panic was starting to escalate and the more I thought about all of it the more anxious I became. I saw how these thoughts were making me feel progressively worse and worse and I suddenly realized how it could go in either two directions: one a complete downward spiral into a possible panic attack (maybe slightly exaggerated, but that’s what it felt like in the moment) or two I could pull myself out of it and relax about the whole situation. All I had to do was change the story I was telling myself. Instead of worrying about all the potential things that could happen, I started to focus on the present and just be aware of the precise moment I was living. I was healthy, hydrated, not dying of heat exhaustion, had clean clothes to last me several days still, and could go across the street to the pulperia to buy drinking water at any moment. From this different perspective there was absolutely no problem (and no foreseeable problem in the minutes or even hours to follow) so why was I allowing myself to freak out so much?
This experience made me reflect on some of the other stories I have told myself during my Peace Corps service and how so many times I have let a simple thought spark in my mind and spread like wildfire causing me to feel either anxious, upset, annoyed, let down, discouraged, etcetera, etcetera. For example, binge watching Modern Family has sparked this story that I am lazy, unproductive, not integrating enough, and then before you know it the simple act of watching a show suddenly makes me a horrible volunteer. Without all the stories though I am just a human being watching a few episodes of Modern Family.
For some reason I, and many others, have the tendency to build up these stories in our heads that provoke so many negative emotions. Instead of putting so much energy into them though, I’ve realized that I need to focus rather on the present and enjoy each moment for what it’s worth. The second I do that life doesn’t feel so over whelming. The spiritual teacher Adyashanti once said, “All is always well even when it seems unbelievably unwell.”