Tension. It’s the greatest scourge of our times.
Not anxiety, not worry, and not fear. As destructive as these are and as frequently as we are chastised for feeling them or cautioned about employing them, they are not what’s keeping us from moving forward in our days.
What’s really upending us is tension. Tensing is our body’s answer to what ails us and confronts us. Be ready, it says, don’t get caught off guard. Be diligent, don’t be found unaware. Be clever, don’t be fooled. These “be’s” have us wound tight and ready to spring. The irony is that the chronic contraction has nearly disabled our ability to move at all.
How much better off we’d be if we all took a deep breath with a big exhale to calm ourselves enough to actually feel our physical. To attend to the inward, to go deeper, to sit and chat a while with those emotions and sensations. Why not ask their names and where they hale from? Perhaps they’ll give you a temporary pass to explore just a bit, or at least negotiate a temporary ceasefire.
It’s funny what you find when you go there and see what shakes out. I went rummaging this morning, wondering about the root of my reaction to gripping tightly, and there I discovered a small child of five or six holding fast to the string of a red balloon. She was smiling up at her mom and dad as they walked together to the car after the school fair, until she saw the treasured prize begin to float up into the air. Soon it was aloft on the wind, growing smaller and smaller. Tears. Dismay. Gone.
We hold tight to things we love. But life has a way of teaching us that no earthly thing is forever. That we’d do well to hold it loosely, give it some breathing room and see where it takes us. If we’re on speaking terms, maybe it will tell us what we need to hear or show us what we need to do. If we are lucky and we listen carefully, it may explain itself to us — it may explain ourself to us — and that is profound gift.
Did you know you had been clenching your fists? grinding your teeth? furrowing your brow? What if you were to say, Hey, it’s okay to let your guard down for a moment. Take a break from the front lines. Release the weight of responsibility you’ve been bench-pressing. Relax and let another shoulder the burden for a moment. Allow yourself to recover and regroup.
The most amazing thing happens when we step back and exhale the breath we didn’t realize we’d been holding: the collapse we were expecting doesn’t come. We straighten instead. And, in our straightening, we extend.
No need to let go completely, just loosen our grip. Look at all the options we’ve been missing. Imagine if I had seen then that all any child needed was a small weight at the end of her balloon string so she need not worry. I’d be set for life!