Anxiety wraps a tourniquet around my lungs, makes my breathing shallow. She drips just a bit of poison into my system, making my stomach tight and chasing away hunger. She sticks me with tiny pinpricks up and down my arms. She makes me want to burn myself to release the tension. I curl up tighter in my bed. I don’t want to get up. If I were a child, I’d tell my mom, “I don’t feel good. I don’t want to go to school.”

But I’m not a child. I have a job and responsibilities. I can’t let Anxiety run everything.

So the Wise Woman steps up. She tells Anxiety, and all the Others, “Anxiety is alerting us to real problems: the incredible workload as well as the big changes we are all facing now that we evicted Denial. She is right about those things. But her communication style can go a little overboard–sorry, Anxiety, but you know it’s true.”

Anxiety rolls her eyes. “If that’s what it takes to get you to pay attention, that’s what I’ll do.”

“Well, today we’re getting ourselves to work,” the Wise Woman continues. “Leave starts in just under three weeks. We can make it that long. Don’t forget, we like this work, just not the amount of it. So let’s approach each task as it comes and try to get the satisfaction out of that piece.”

“We can help,” say a couple of Others from the corner. I think that was Stamina and Intellectual Engagement speaking up. Stamina is looking a bit peaked these days, but she never wants to say no.

“Great,” says the Wise Woman. “And maybe a bit extra from some of the rest of you: Acceptance, bring on some of what you have learned about the unchanging nature of the world, even in the middle of a storm. Tenderness, could you read stories and play with the Wounded Girl today?”

Everyone gets their assigned role, and the Wise Woman marches me off to the shower. At this moment, all we have to do is show up for today.