It is true; anxiety has the capacity to sap one’s energy in much same way as insomnia and lack of rest can drain one’s stamina. One’s reserves of vitality and strength can bleed away, almost unnoticed, simply from anxiety. Both mental and physical energy are subject to anxiety’s power to siphon off vigor and intellectual acumen. We know these things from a cerebral perspective, but when we experience them, the knowledge sinks in. It tends to stick when the real world offers undeniable verification. A tangible example: last night, I began writing what would be today’s post, while the details were fresh. But instead of writing a little and then saving the draft to be finished this morning, I hit “Publish” instead of “Save Draft.” It’s a little thing, but it illustrates (for me, anyway) how anxiety or simple tiredness might lead to far more catastrophic outcomes. Think, for example, of an overtired Navy officer on a submarine, practicing responsibilities for launching retaliatory nuclear missiles in the event of an attack. That is, of course, an extreme, dramatic example, but it emphasizes how anxiety might result in horrendous unintended consequences.

As I ponder that awful scenario, another one—more plausible and more likely—comes to mind. A tired, overworked nurse, working a twelve-hour shift, administers the wrong medication or the wrong amount of the right medication to a patient. The outcome could be just as individually catastrophic, though on a smaller scale than one involving the launch of nuclear missiles.

The outcome of my simple mistake—publishing instead of saving a draft blog post—does not begin to compare to the horrible effects of my examples. But it illustrates the continuum of the impacts of anxiety (I’ll assign anxiety, more than overwork, as the cause of both awful events). I think the spectrum of anxiety is just as complex and just as long as the color spectrum. Much of human experience can be compared to the color spectrum; almost everything in our experience takes place in degrees, both in intensity of understanding and in impact.

I look back on what I’ve written and wonder if my words offer yet more evidence of the potential for anxiety to cause confusion or disorientation. Does any of what I’ve written make sense? Does it have any discernible purpose, other than to attempt to excuse my mistake in posting a draft instead of saving it? My mind is jumbled this morning. It was just as scrambled last night, as I watched an episode of Bordertown. I kept drifting off during critical scenes, springing awake after the fact, requiring me to replay several minutes of the program to get my bearings and understand what was happening. Finally, after completing the episode, I turned off the television and sat there, thinking about whether I wanted to start another one or go to bed. Ten or fifteen minutes later, I became aware that I had drifted off again while attempting to make my decision. This happened more than once. Finally, I called it a night and went to bed.

This morning, fog enshrouds my neighborhood. It’s impossible to say whether we’re simply covered with a cloud, while the air down the hills on all sides is clear, or whether it’s a foggy morning all the way around. My sister-in-law will be over shortly to borrow a stand mixer; she can tell me what the weather is like in the “lowlands.” In the meantime, I will force myself to look at online news. I do not know why I feel compelled to know what is going on in the world around me; I cannot control it. I cannot even react appropriately to it. But I think I should know. I’d rather watch the two woodpeckers outside my window; they either are engaged in battle or in a mating ritual. Whichever it is, it’s fascinating to watch. Maybe I’ll wait on the news.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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