Sometimes I struggle. We all do. And I probably struggle with many of the same things as everyone else. But I don’t see it that way. I don’t give myself the space. I once read an interview with a writer where she said that harsh judgments didn’t cut too deep because, usually, she’d already heaped them upon herself ten times over. She was her toughest critic. Her own worst enemy.

I am no different.

The loops that run through my head on any given day are self-critical. I can’t remember a time when they were anything else. Even though I know logically that time existed.

These loops are hard to break, though I try and have for years. I try to rerecord the tape, to change the outgoing message but for some reason the default is always the same and it isn’t always kind but it is always comfortable.

Lately, though, these loops bring me less and less comfort and I’m inclined to throw the whole system out the window, start over in the digital age, replace the tapes with sound clips of symphonies, the birds outside my window on summer mornings, my children’s laughter.

But that would be a brave move and some days I don’t feel that brave. To toss out my whole way of moving through the world would, well… what would it really do? Open a terrible chasm into which I might fall and never return? Open up something beautiful? I’m not sure.

And I suppose that’s what it all comes down to.

White hot panic. Deep purple veins of worry. Red-worn fire in my chest. Most of the time my anxiety sits in a quiet corner and lets me be. We’ve established some boundaries, she and I, we’ve dug deep trying to figure each other out and we’ve found an acceptable cohabitating relationship. I understand that while I’d love for her to pack her bags and take her buddies fear and self doubt with her, that that’s probably not going to happen. She understands she’s one of many characters in this story and she’s not the lead. Most of the time.

But when change or, heaven forbid, trauma come knocking, she’s the first one through the door, shouting and obnoxious, about how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other. I try to shut the door but change and trauma must come in, sometimes bearing unforeseen gifts, and, so too, must she.

She’s uninvited, though, and she knows it.

I look forward to the day when I look up from my daughters’ faces and realize it’s been a really long while since the last middle-of-the-night, crash-the-party visit from my old anxious friend. On that day I’ll look far down the road and won’t be able to make out her silhouette on the horizon. Until then I’ll keep listening to clips of laughter, becoming with each day, a little more brave.