Last night I had a panic attack.
I never get overly stressed. I'm known as the rock - the Stoic - the one that is brought in to moderate disagreements. A panic attack was out of my realm of possibility. I ended up asking for an ambulance. I was sure I was dying.
I could go into the onset of this feeling, work my way through the shock and denial into the worry and panic but that isn't important. What is important was the conversation I had today with the woman cutting my hair.
When I woke up this morning after a night in the ER (I was released home last night so woke in my own bed), I had a feeling of worry still. I was worried that my life had changed forever. That now, after the panic attack, this was the new normal. As much work as I'd done on mindfulness and redirecting the mind's wanderings, I was not effective here. However, through some breathing and some meditation, I got back close to my normal.
I had to keep letting go of my desire to say there was something wrong with me. To admit there was something wrong with me was an admission that this WAS the new normal. As many times as I'd been reminded that our minds create our reality, this was a great exercise in determining how true that was.
My car had to be picked up last night too. My wife went and grabbed it and in my sedative induced speech I asked her to drop it off at the mechanic. It was acting up again.
So in the morning, I checked in with the friends I had been out with the night before. They were scared for me. Lots of heart emojis were shared back and forth. I love them. Then, I got dressed and made my way out the door. I had little spikes of anxiety. I was hyper focused on any abnormalities in my balance or bodily feelings. It was as if I was looking for something to be alarmed about. Noticing this, I let that go and just accepted all sensations as what was. And is is always now and forever, temporary.
I made my way down into town and decided along the way to get a haircut first. My daughter, in the ER room the night before, asked if I could have the doctor take care of my eyebrows while I was in there. We have a little joke between us about this single crazy eyebrow hair that tends to go its own direction.
I may have 7 more identical hairs like that one too.
You may think that is a bit cold for my daughter to say that while I'm coming down from a panic attack but I thought it was perfect. She called back on something that meant a lot to me - our playfulness. I was reminded of my eyebrows last night. Now I was going to take care of them for my daughter's sake.
This removed some anxiety.
I kept stopping myself from beating myself up for putting my daughter in a situation that had her cry in front of me. This was a rare occurrence. Then I stopped myself from making a judgment call on whether crying in front of someone is good or bad. It is neither. It is crying.
I was seated immediately in the salon. I recognized the girl helping me. She had helped me before but it was really only in a transactional sense. I couldn't recall her name. We went through the routine of describing what I wanted and she got to work.
How many transactional interactions do we have with humans throughout the day? Most of us have many. Some of these transactions are such that asking a question that requires any level of thought would disrupt the flow of the transaction.
Being trained to "look good" and avoid "looking bad" we often let those moments pass without acknowledging our relationship with that other person. I knew she was to be my subject today and I knew I was going to ask her when we began the hair washing portion. I didn't want her distracted in thought with scissors near my face.
As she swiveled my chair and eased me back so that my neck was hung over the sink for the best part of the transaction (the hair wash), I said, "I write a blog. In it I talk about my encounters with strangers - people I don't know well and I ask them to share two important things in their life, that if shared with the world, would make the world a better place."
"Oh," she said with some clear interest. "Hmmm, that is a good one." She was then quiet for about 10 seconds. I have always tried to be quiet after my question because I want that other mind to really look. But the quiet was going longer than ever before. With my eyes still closed, I said, "That's great that you are giving this so much thought."
She laughed a bit. "Yeah," she said in agreement. Her hands were still swishing through my hair with suds. She rinsed out my hair and continued to add conditioner. The product they use has melaleuca oil I think. What I do know was that my scalp was tingling. Luckily I knew this sensation and couldn't panic about it being the onset of another attack.
She finished with the conditioner and sat me upright. "So, I can choose any two things to talk about?" she asked.
"Well, I ask that you avoid generalities like 'Love one another' or easy answers like 'family'. Those are so common and considered a given in society that I'd rather dive into more specifics. Something someone will read and say, "Yes. I should do that more."
She immediately offered her first one. "Kindness. There are so many rude people out there that act as if they are the center of the world. I hate that. The second one is driving better. Too many people out there cut in and out of cars and make driving more dangerous than it needs to be."
So I clarified. "So, if more people in the world were kind to one another rather than rude, and more people were kind as drivers, the world would be a better place in your eyes."
"Yes!" she said with a smile.
"Do you practice these two things day in and day out?" I asked.
"I try to. I'm not perfect but I try to be kind to everyone and drive safely," she said. I acknowledged her for always being friendly from my perspective as a repeat customer. She always has a smile on her face or lying just underneath, ready to come out.
"Ok. I will share your two important things with the world and ask them to consider taking them on as part of their identity so that the world is a better place for all of us."
Each time I end with that I feel joy. I feel that I have really heard this former stranger and have proven to them that they are understood. I feel hope that this feeling of being understood will prompt them to want to understand others. And I feel positive this will help bring world peace.
Even when the answers are answers I have heard before, I haven't heard them from this person. This person truly holds these two things important. For me to say, "I've heard that before," would be completely self-centered and unfair to them. Realizing I had the ability to hear the same thing (kindness) from another person and see something new in it helped me see my new me.
My anxiety was now gone.
I walked the two blocks over to my mechanic and picked up my car. It was just starting to rain and the cold drops collecting on my ears and cheek felt amazing and new.. I live in the Pacific Northwest. How can that be amazing much less new?
Well, it was. After last night's "brush with death" many things cleared up for me. It reminded me that my time will indeed come one day and I'd better get to work learning from others so as to eliminate strangers in this world. Knowing I have a final day actually helps me. I don't fear it. I thank it. It motivates me to be better today.
I pulled out onto the street and at my first stop sign I paid her important things forward. I was perhaps the most considerate driver ever for at least three minutes. We can only do so much, right? (wink)
This is my mind creating my reality. I hope you all enjoy what I create and I hope you create a good one for yourself and the people in your world.
I would love to hear from you. You can follow the Contact link at the bottom of the page or reach out to me on Instagram at @twoimportantthingsofficial.
Namaste and all that good stuff.