I hate earthquakes.

Like hate hate them.

They terrify me.  And yes, I've been in a few.  Not big ones, because we generally don't get big earthquakes here, even though the experts say that the Northwest is due for a whopper like the one that hit Japan. Land-earthquake-earth-58633-l

And so I, like so many others, have been on edge since the events of last week. 

It didn't help that there were tsunami warnings on my beloved Oregon coast.  Or that the nuclear power plants in Japan were in danger of meltdown.  Or that some yeehaw "scientist" predicted that a huge earthquake might hit the West Coast.  Or that we started bombing the hell out of Libya.

All of these things, and earthquakes in the lives of so many friends, have lodged themselves inside of me and wrapped themselves into a ridiculously big ball of fear.

It culminated the other night.  We went out to Happy Hour with friends and, while I only consumed two glasses of wine, it didn't occur to me until later that the pours that night were huge.  Like nearly double size.  I think.  Don't really remember. But what I do remember is that an excess of wine is not good for my sleeping habits.

And that night I awoke in the middle of the night and I could not get back to sleep.  This is unusual for me.  While I often wake in the middle of the night, I generally go back to sleep easily and quickly.  Not Friday night.  Of course, the moon was nearly full and the sky bright.  And that didn't help either.  Because it just made me think more about the Super Moon which was supposedly going to trigger the above-mentioned earthquake.

And then, in the way that fear has, thinking about the earthquake made me think about other problems in my personal life.  (Which, let me just note, pale in comparison to what the people of Japan face.  In the light of day, I know that.  In the dark of night, fear makes me forget it.)  I tossed and turned, unable to switch my brain off and get back to sleep.

Finally, in desperation, I started counting my blessings.  You know, like that old song, the lyrics of which go something along the lines of "Just count your blessings instead of sheep, and you'll fall asleep counting your blessings."  Nowadays we call our blessings gratitude, and the word is overused and the act often made fun of, probably because Oprah promotes it and people make fun of everything she does.

But I have to admit that it helped.  I lay there and thought of all the things that I feel grateful for, from the fat cats that were hogging the bottom of the bed to my writing career.  And pretty soon I fell asleep. 

So why do I mention all this on a blog devoted to writing?  Because I imagine quite a few of us are feeling fearful these days.  Or if not fearful, then on edge.  Anxious.  Nervous for no reason.  And none of these feelings, not a single one, are compatible with writing.  I think that counting your blessings, or making a gratitude list, works because it helps us to remember.  When we're fearful, anxious and on edge, we don't remember how lucky we are.  We don't remember our true selves.  And most of all, we don't remember that we can write ourselves back to ourselves.  All we have to do is pick up the pen.  Which is what I did the next morning, as I do every morning. 

And then I felt better.

What do you do when you get anxious or fearful?  Please feel free to share in the comments.  Because what works for you might well be useful for someone else.  Thanks.

And remember, if things get too out of whack for you, contact me.  I can help with a Get Your Writing in Gear session, or good old fashioned coaching. 

***And please, remember to come back to this site on Friday because I have an amazing interview that will inspire the hell out of you lined up.  


Photo by runrunrun from Everystockphoto.

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10 Responses to Fear

  1. David Paine 03/21/2011 at 07:22 #

    An excellent discipline. I’ve used it many times to get my crazy-brain to shut the hell up and leave me alone – in the middle of the night and other times of day, too.

  2. Suzanne 03/21/2011 at 09:15 #

    Doing something distracting helps sometimes, although of course it doesn’t help you deal with any roots of the fear. I’m talking about mindless TV (also a bad habit, but sometimes it works) or reading something interesting in the bathtub. If your fear is based in something that may fix itself — like when someone is late getting home and your imagination runs wild about all the things that could’ve happened — breathe deep and use my mother’s remedy: Set the oven timer for 30 minutes (works in a variety of possible panic situations). When it goes off, the problem has usually resolved (the person is usually home). If not, THEN you may freak out. :-)

  3. Zan Marie 03/21/2011 at 09:31 #

    I have trouble sleeping and it helps to remember the blessings, large and small. I heard the old hymn with the phrase and it doesn’t hurt to sing a few bars of that one either. Good post, Charlotte

  4. Leisa A. Hammett 03/21/2011 at 10:51 #

    Thank you.

  5. Patrick Ross 03/21/2011 at 13:37 #

    What have I done to cope with anxiety? Once, in a job that was killing me, I took anti-anxiety medication. It helped, but that’s hardly a good long-term solution. The doctor prescribing it had a chat with me, and figured out quickly my anxiety stemmed from a lack of control in my job. There would always be things I couldn’t control, but she taught me to control fully what I could, embrace that, and prepare the best I can for what I couldn’t control, recognizing that I never could control it. I think I had heard that advice many times over the years, but at that moment I finally HEARD it.

    I remember those tsunami warning signs they have in Oregon, with the little stick figure about to be crushed by a wave. I sympathize with your anxiety about earthquakes (lived through a few in LA) and tsunamis and lots of other things. You seem someone who rises above anxiety, though, with embrace of gratitude and with expressing through this blog. Kudos for that.

    I’ll be back Friday, because I would welcome the opportunity to have any hell that is in me inspired right out. :)

  6. Charlotte Dixon 03/21/2011 at 20:11 #

    David, I get so busy during the day that sometimes I forget to use gratitude to wrench myself out of myself. I’ll remember to try it.

    Suzanne, your mother’s remedy is great!

    Zan Marie, when I was younger I remember thinking that song was silly. Ha! That was back when I slept better.

    Leisa, you’re welcome, thank you for coming by.

    Patrick, yeah, about those little stick figure tsunami signs, my sister and I were just calculating how the places they say are safe would be anything but, if the Japanese experience holds true. Lots of places on the Oregon coast where there is the water and then mountains. And do come back on Friday, I promise you’ll be happy to get all that hell out of you!

  7. Charlotte,
    You are a writers writer for sure! Always great advice. I was so upset about the earthquake too. I found it hard to concentrate on my writing, but it has now subsided. I feel for the Japanese people a great deal and sent my prayers and donations. I’m off for a nice vacation and I’m so looking forward to it.

  8. Charlotte Dixon 03/22/2011 at 16:13 #

    Oh Angela, enjoy your vacation! You deserve it. Travel and vacations are always a time of receiving rich ideas for me, so I hope the same holds true for you. And I look forward to hearing about it on your blog.

  9. Trisha 03/22/2011 at 18:11 #

    I generally get anxious if something sucky happens at work. Mostly the rest of my life is pretty stable, but if I have some unfortunate event at work, like an unhappy client or an indication that I’ve done something majorly wrong in my job, I get anxious, feel the tightness in my chest, etc.

  10. Charlotte Dixon 03/22/2011 at 21:31 #

    Trisha, I know that feeling. And I hate it! Agreed that often work fear is awful.

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