Challenger School

An Anxious Mind


I recently read a book called Monkey Mind, and it put my whole life in perspective.

You see, I always thought the way I viewed the world was normal. The book helped me see the error of my ways.

I have always been a nervous person. My anxiety has often determined how much of life I will partake of and how much of it I shy away from.

I was sharing with my partner the other day that I used to sit in the car, when my mom went into the grocery store, and watch the doors. I was watching to make sure that my mom would not be smuggled out of the store by a kidnapper. This was in the day when kidnapping was on the news a lot. I translated the kidnapping of kids to the kidnapping of my mom. I was just a child at the time, probably the age of my son now.

As an adult, I have a fear of gifts. Birthdays and the holidays should be times of showing the people we love how much they are loved. We often do this in the form of gifts. The gift matters less than the act, right? Yet, I have a fear that my gift, when I am giving one, will not be well-received. I also have a fear that the gift I am opening will not be well-received. Recently, at a birthday dinner for a friend, I broke out in a ridiculous sweat because my gift was being opened by the birthday boy. What if he hated it? What if it wasn’t intellectual enough?

I share all of this because I wonder when my anxieties will begin to affect my son. He can be anxious as well, especially about making friends. I have tried to shelter him from my anxieties. Even so, I think that the anxieties I experience are more than just the way my brain is hardwired. I think that my mom was fairly anxious. So was my grandmother. Their anxieties, at times, seemed somewhat ridiculous to me. But I think they may have rubbed off on me nevertheless.

I now understand, since reading Monkey Mind, that my anxiety is not normal. It is normal for me, but not everyone experiences anxiety in social situations as I do. I worry that I have missed things as I’ve tried to calm my nerves.

And yet, things that make others anxious, like public speaking or performing, do not rattle me quite as much as meeting and carrying on a one-on-one conversation with someone new.

I tell my son that he can only ride his bike on our street. I think my anxieties keep him safe some of the time—I require him to wear a helmet whenever he gets on his bike. But is it reasonable for me to expect him to only ride back and forth on our street? There’s a lot more to see and experience that lies outside of Brentford Court. My son has recently taken to attaching a playing card to his bike, to make it sound like a dirt bike. He rides up and down driveways imagining that he is traversing dangerous and thrilling hills. He’s got to do something to liven up his boring one-street-only bike ride, right?

Similarly, Jadden walks down the street to visit a friend quite frequently. I have started to worry about whether or not he has actually made it there. How would I know? When would I know if there was a problem? I’ve considered having him call me when he gets there, but I’m concerned that this might be a tad unhealthy—for both of us.

I am in the process of trying to sort my rational fears from my irrational ones. I am finding that my anxieties tend to be my own—they tend to be created and maintained in my own head. Perhaps I need to get out of my head more and live more in the emotion-filled moment, without the anxiety that comes from anticipation of what might happen next.

I am even more invested in making this happen, now that I have Jadden. I would hate for him to miss out on important parts of life because he is afraid.

About author

Dr. Jim Martin

Dr. Jim Martin

Jim Martin is a principal in the Salt Lake City School District and foster dad to two boys. He is graduate of Westminster College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education. He then went on to get a Masters degree in Teaching and Learning and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy. Jim has taught kindergarten, first, fourth, and fifth grades. This is his tenth year as a public school administrator. In his spare time, Jim loves theatre and has acted in over 30 productions. He is the artistic director of a local theatre company.

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