30 Mins Late meeting the Vice President of PBS: Staying in the Present as a Cure for Anxiety

QUESTION: What if you had the cure for your own anxiety?

Jully 2012- It’s 2:53 p.m. The meeting started at 2:30. I’m jumping out of my driver seat, cursing the world, praying for this agonizingly long red light to turn green! It refuses. I blow past it and into the parking garage at 40 mph. No Spots! Crap. I drive further, “handicapped only”, “reserved parking”. I’ll never make it to this meeting. Finally, I see an opening and slam the car in. I jump out and run for my life to PBS headquarters.
I’m in Crystal City, VA to meet the Vice President of PBS to discuss how we can turn Bridge the Gap into a prime time television series. But how did I get here? Let’s back up one week.
Friday night, 8 p.m. I’ve spent the better part of 2 days thinking, plotting, researching and stressing myself out to the point of near exhaustion for my meeting with PBS. In my living room my mother asks me, “Is everything OK?”. “Yes mom, I’m fine.” Liar! I’m so stressed I literally cannot keep my eyes open. I hop on my moped and cruise home for clarity….none is available.
The next morning I wake up in a frenzy. “I need to relax for my PBS meeting!”. What can I do? Where can I go? I scour the internet. Maybe the Jersey Shore? No….there’s a 50% chance of rain. How about Delaware? Nope, too much $ for gas. My doctor told me about this Indian temple in Pennsylvania….that should calm me. My mind races as I plan every possible aspect of each potential trip to the “t”. How will I microwave my food? How long will I read my book? Will it rain? Will there be traffic? Living in the FUTURE is a great way to drive yourself crazy!!!
The next 4 days leading up to the meeting are no different. I try to decipher every possible variable on my way to Virginia before it happens. How can I be in the best possible mood? I know. I’ll leave the afternoon before, stay at my friend’s house in Maryland, wake up early, go for a walk, go to the gym, and arrive at PBS HQ with time to spare! Ha! We make plans and the universe laughs.
Of course on Tuesday, the day I’m supposed to leave, my air conditioner breaks down. My apartment is 80 degrees and I’m sweating like a wildebeest. A headache ensues as I’ve neglected to drink enough gatorade and have been working all day. I plan to leave at 4 p.m and sure enough, by 7:30 p.m. I’m well on my way.
Arriving at my friend’s well after midnight on Tuesday I sleep until 10 a.m. the next day. I sit on his couch, pet his dog for about an hour (a silly attempt at meditation), and by 12:30 p.m. I’m at the gym….but there is a fee, so I spend some time negotiating with the manager. I rush through my workout and by 1 p.m. I’m out looking for the closest source of protein. I hit up a nearby Pakistani diner, but there’s a huge line! It’s 1:15 p.m. They’ve run out of chicken so I’ve got wait for it to be cooked. Finally I finish stuffing my face and rush back to my friend’s house. PBS is 45 minutes away. It’s 145 p.m. The meeting starts at 2:30 p.m.
Leaving in a frenzy I enter the address into my blackberry. Within 2 minutes I’m lost beyond belief. One wrong turn puts me on a highway going the complete opposite direction I need to be….I call PBS and ask for directions….”What do you see? Get off that highway. Turn around.” I blast Alright Now by Free, but it does nothing to calm me down. I nearly double the speed limit, hit traffic several times, and finally, 78 mind numbing minutes later, arrive at PBS a sweaty mess. Exactly 33 minutes late.
So Often we try to plan every aspect of our lives, down to the most minute detail. We plan for the future. And when it turns out slightly different than we had hoped, we’re upset. I tried to plan every aspect of my day prior to that meeting so I could be in the best possible state of mind. The problem is not in the planning, but in the “holding onto” the results. I cancelled a meeting with National Geographic, delayed a meeting with the Jane Goodall Institute, and wasted almost one week of my life. I say “wasted” because I was not living in the present. I wanted to control every single variable so that in that moment when I was with PBS, I would be my best self. Crazy yah?
What about this? What about if rather than planning for the future we live in the present. What if we could take things as they come, not plotting the entirety of our days, weeks and lives in advance? One of the reasons I was so late to my PBS meeting is because I was not present….I was living in fear of a future that had not yet happened….I did not want to arrive too early at PBS, because I thought if I did, my mind would have had too much free time to think about the future… the meeting.
Takeaways for Me:
– “Anxiety is the space between now and then”, according to Bruce Lee. If we stay in the now, we can avoid much anxiety.
– No Goal is so Important that we need be anxious about it…because no achieved “goal” can bring us lasting satisfaction. I was anxious because I thought if I had a show on PBS I would be content….but I’m still living in the future. I will only be content if I live in the now.
– It’s about How we Spend our Time, not how much time we spend doing something. I could have done all my prep work for the PBS meeting in 20 focused minutes. But instead, I thought that since the meeting was “so important”, I needed to deliberate on it for days.
I know this to be true because my best moments of connection during that meeting were the times when I was most present. When I threw away my planning of how I thought things should be and listened to them in real time…a real connection was made.

TO PONDER- What is making you anxious this second? Try living in the now and see what happens.

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