A woman had written in, asking for how to build a better life. And this is what he said:
"Gee. All you asked is how to cure your loneliness and how to make new friends. And I start in with [talking about death]? Well, you are thinking of the future. When I think of the future, I go right to the death part. Maybe that's just me. But it reminds me to stop thinking about the future...
[If] you have made a great number of new friends and you have some concrete plans for how to meet new friends, then that is not your problem. Your problem is that you are anxious and fearful.
So the main thing is for you to get back into your body...
You say, 'I am mind-numbingly, heart-blisteringly lonely.'
Loneliness can mean a lot of things. Talking to somebody can alleviate loneliness.
But that's not exactly what you mean. You are concerned about being lonely in the future. So there we are again, in the future.
To control the future, we need magic. Lots of us would like to have magic. Magic would be great. But the sooner we just admit that a lot of stuff we want would require magical powers, the sooner we can set about trying to make ourselves as comfortable as possible for the time being...
[S]eriously, literally, the future does not yet exist. What exists is you thinking about things. The way you think about things is making you unhappy. The way to deal with this is to get in the sauna. Change what the brain is doing.
The brain is doing things you don't want it to do. It is producing fright scenarios. It is producing the sensation of fear. You want your brain to produce the sensation of hope and happiness...
There are many things you are going to have to do, but you can't do them right now. Right now it's just you and me talking. There are many things out in the world that you could think about and worry about, but they are not in the room with you right now. Right now, you are fine. You may not know it, but you are."
That is striking for this reason: if you had asked me today what I am feeling today, I wouldn't have said, "Fear and anxiousness." But that is exactly what it is: fear about what comes next; anxiety about what I could be doing to inadvertently jeopardize whatever it is that does come next and about what I should be doing to better prepare myself for it. I wonder if X means Y; if I incorrectly interpret J to be H when it really means K; if A would be better than B; and if L means I should do M.
I am a ball of fear and anxiousness.
But Cary Tennis breaks it down for the letter writer and for me in his own unique way. He says, "You're scared. That's okay. We all are, if we think about the future. So don't don't do it. Because making sure everything went your way in the future would require magic. And there's no such thing as magic. So back away from the ledge, stop crying, and do what you can to live in today. Get rid of the fear sensation in myriad small ways. Do something that brings you back into your body and out of your head. Trust me. You've got this. You're okay."
And I am calmed in the midst of a draining, exhausting day in which every noise I hear that isn't a noise I make drives me insane. And, as if an old friend had watched me freak out and tried to get me to snap out of it by slapping my face, I am reminded to take one step out of suffering and to take stock and give thanks. That it's all going to be okay. That I just need to get some rest. Take a hot shower. Go to the sauna. Go for a run. Eat something delicious and focus on my sense of taste.
Because there's no such thing as magic. So, I should stop worrying. For God's sake.