Considering Anxiety

January 21, 2015
photo by Melanie Blanchard

photo by Mel Blanchard

Three days from now, I am going to compete in the NorCal Masters competition. The heats were announced yesterday, and, along with my starting times, I have the names of the competitors in my division, Women’s Masters 55-59. The roster includes at least two CrossFit Games competitors, one of whom, April Kitagawa, placed 10th in the world. Suddenly, things are getting real.

Immediately, I felt a crushing sensation in my heart, my limbs went limp, and “butterflies in my tummy” is a description too cutesy to accurately describe the overwhelming knot in my gut. These are classic physical symptoms of a condition with which most human beings are all too familiar: anxiety.

If my quest to make it to the CrossFit Games is about anything at all, it’s the opportunity to overcome a lifelong aversion—you could call it fear—of being objectively judged among a field of my peers and receiving a rank and a score for it. I’m just as afraid of winning as of losing. Up to this point, I have lived a life in which, for whatever reason (lack of opportunity or subconscious avoidance), I have “enjoyed” few of these moments.

There are great existential philosophers (like Kierkegaard) who have written about anxiety. While I do not pretend to comprehend all that they have written on the topic, versions of their thoughts, reduced to the size of a motivational poster like this one, I DO sort-of get:

Kierkegaard

It is an expression of my humanity to be afraid: the challenge is going to hurt and it will take everything I have just to finish. But people who are courageous act in the face of their fear. I am trying to channel Henry Fleming. Rather than allowing my anxious feelings to degrade into the dead end that is dread, I am going to read them as a signal that I am on the precipice of wonderful things to come, no matter what the score may be at the end of the game.

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