I have a beast living within me. It has been with me from my earliest memory. I tried to suppress it and pretended it wasn’t there but at times when it was least expected, it would rear its ugly head and cause havoc inside of me. I had never named the beast, as I always tried to pretend it didn’t exist, but several years ago, once I realized what it was, I decided to call it out by its name.
With my realization of the cause … and with the calming of age, I seem to have the beast under control. That wasn’t always the case.
As a younger businessman, most would have called me an over-achiever. I was rarely the smartest guy in the room, but I was always the most determined. Once something entered my imagination and turned into a dream … then goal … then passion … I began to move heaven and earth to make it my reality. What I lacked in smarts, I made up through sheer determination — at a price.
When I was working on a goal, which was (still is) virtually always, the beast came to life. Slowly but deliberately it began gnawing and eating me from the inside. I felt it happening but worked to suppress my awareness of what was occurring inside, to continue my pursuit of what it was in my sights. If I didn’t address what was happening deep inside, at some point, it would erupt like a super volcano and spewed molten lava on everyone within range. The eruptions were brief, rarely more than thirty seconds, but what I gained in shortness was made up by intensity.
Then the apologies began ...
I would apologize for weeks because of my thirty seconds of volatility, but there were no apologies or acts of forgiveness that could ever erase that moment from the memories of the witnesses, usually those I loved the most.
That was the past.
Once I understood that the beast residing inside was anxiety, I was able to get on the path of a calmer life. I realized that my anxiety was self-induced, largely by what I believed was the truth about achievement.
The lies I told myself.
“I don’t avoid stress, I seek it” or “I don’t have stress, I’m a carrier” or my favorite, “If I can, I must!” I really believed that if I could accomplish something, I was required to do so. Nonsense. Complete silliness. All of it. I spent so much time in pursuit of goals, I rarely enjoyed the moment of achievement. I paid a heavy price for success.
The past has passed.
Most people who have only known me for ten years will have trouble believing what I have just shared. Is the anxiety gone? It's reduced, but what is left, is recognized for what it is and managed. As with all things in life, we can’t change the past, but we are in control of our future.
I’m writing this while Arlene and I are sitting at Midway International Airport in Chicago, awaiting a flight to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. We are traveling to what we’ve begun calling “siblings’ weekend.” We are headed to a weekend of catching up and fun with my sisters, Debra and Kim and their husbands, Keith and Roger, and my niece Brittany and her husband Devin. We have not boarded the flight, but I find myself already smiling and giggling, anticipating what is to come. My sisters are hilarious, fun-loving people. In other words … they are nuts!
My sister Kim sent me a song a few years ago, “Quiet Your Mind,” by The Zach Brown Band. It's now one of my favorite songs and has a profound calming effect on me. The melody, the instruments and the message of the song combine as a reminder that my anxiety no longer rules me. I have the beast under control.
Another of the songs that I find calming is “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber. When I listen to it, I feel the stress melt away. To me, music is more than entertainment. Music is my therapy.
Music calms. Music heals.
Last week I wrote about the positive impact playing an instrument has on your IQ and that music is important to your life. Music also has a calming and healing effect on your mind and body. British neuroscientists have found a song that they claim shows a 65% reduction in anxiety levels, so the old adage that “music soothes the savage beast” appears to now be backed up with scientific evidence.
What is your song?
Gary W. Moore is a syndicated columnist, speaker and author of three books including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at www.garywmoore.com