Anxiety vs. Reason
Anxiety says, “Nature is fierce, brutal, and cruel, with so much death.”
Reason says, “Nature is a lovely, awe-inspiring miracle, and is truly beautiful.”
This morning, I went out to check on our second duck momma’s hatchling progress. I’ve named her Momma Two. Not wanting to disturb Momma Two, I peered over the drywall that lies vertically creating a barrier between the kitty loft and our machine shed’s main area. As I was climbing up, I could hear chirping. Yay! More babies? I looked over at the nest and there was still just one duckling. It’s the one that’d hatched a few days ago, but it was all alone. Momma Two was not in the nest.
Anxiety is the first to speak up in most situations. But, sometimes it’s the calmness of Reason speaking to me first, with that badgering Anxiety bitch immediately following. Her name must be Karen!
This is a sampling of the internal conversations I deal with regularly. Keep in mind that all this transpired in less than 20 minutes. Buckle your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!
Anxiety: Momma Two has abandoned her one and only baby and it’s going to die!!
Reason: The unhatched eggs are still covered with feathers, just as Momma has always done, so she’s probably only gone for a break.
Unable to fathom the loss of another duckling, Anxiety quickly scooped the lil guy up and went searching for Momma Two.
I cradled the fuzzy baby against my chest, gently keeping it contained in my hands. It continued to chirp and nibbled at my fingertips. It was so very soft and fragile but tried to escape my grasp, poking its head out between my fingers. I walked down to the pond to see if Momma Two was there. I see Momma One on the bank with her babies, but no Momma Two. Where in the heck could she be?
I walked back up to the shed to check the nest again. Nope. She’s not there.
Reason: The nest still has eggs in it and you haven’t seen the Momma leave it for days. And, there is no evidence of any newly hatched eggs. Give her some time to return.
Anxiety: But, what if our cats hear the baby chirping? They’ll come and eat it! You’ll see the bloody duckling remains and know YOU let that happen!
I walked down to the pond a second time to see if Momma Two was there. Maybe she’s under the dock. She wasn’t. I contemplated placing the duckling near Momma One in hopes that she’d come and take care of it. After all, she’s doing an amazing job with her own offspring.
Anxiety: But what if you release it and she rejects it leaving it all alone and defenseless in the monster pond? It will surely be eaten by turtles and you’ll have to watch it all happen! You won’t be able to swim out there and save it in time. And, it’ll be ALL YOUR FAULT!
Reason: Well, we can’t do that, can we? Momma One has already taken her brood to the other side of the pond. Let’s go back up to the house and see if Momma Two has returned to the nest.
Momma Two was still not in the nest. I looked around the house and the backyard. All the areas that the ducks regularly venture to, and nothing. I checked the nest one more time. Still no Momma.
Anxiety simply could not leave the “abandoned” duckling in the nest unprotected.
Anxiety: It’s up to YOU to save it! It’s not moving in your hands as much as it was, so you’re probably suffocating it!
Reason: No, it has merely calmed down and knows you’re keeping it safe.
I found an empty tote and frantically proceeded to create a safe place for the fuzzy baby all the while imagining how I’d keep it alive and wondering at what point I’d release it back into the wild. I gathered a little bit of straw and feathers that were near the nest, but not in it because you never want to disturb a nest in the wild. Then I lowered the duckling into the tote. I placed the tote in the house garage which is very warm. Ducklings are kept warm and protected by their mothers for their first several weeks, even in the summertime.
Anxiety: What do baby ducks eat? It’ll surely starve! It’ll be one more death to weigh heavily on your conscience. But, we can’t let it just DIE!
Reason: Start by placing a small dish of water in the tote. At least it would stay hydrated. Then, get a few feed crumbles from the chicken coop. No, it’s not duck food, but it should keep the fuzzy baby alive until you figure out what to do.
Anxiety: But, remember when you were a little girl and tried to save that injured dove? Yeah, you do. It was hunkered under the doghouse on the patio. You tried to feed it. It didn’t eat. And you remember what happened? It died!!
I completed the task of providing water and the duckling had a safe place for the time being. But that feisty lil thing tried to jump out of the tote. Those tiny things can jump surprisingly high, too! I placed the tote lid in a position to keep the duckling contained while allowing adequate airflow for the sweet, precious, fuzzy baby, then went out to the chicken coop to gather some feed crumbles.
Anxiety: Well, what are you going to do now?! Every time you try to help (interfere) with nature, you end up devastated. There is so much death in nature because it is brutal, heartless and cruel!
Reason: Remember when you read about wild ducks and that it’s best to leave the nests and the mommas alone because “they know what they’re doing”? Try that. Nature knows best.
Anxiety: But, how can I just leave them, knowing that they might not survive? That will be one more thing that I’ll feel guilty about until the day I die! And people keep asking me to move the ducklings or keep them SAFE until they are grown. I’m such a piece of shit for not doing that!
After gathering some feed crumbles, I decided to check the nest one more time to see if Momma Two had returned before returning to the duckling. To my surprise and delight, she was there! I went back to the garage, scooped up that fuzzy little duckling and raced back to the shed. I kneeled down near the nest, showing Momma Two what I held in my hands, and released the duckling.
Anxiety: What if she smells human scent on it? Rejects it? Or pecks it to death?!
The duckling resumed its place next to its mother. All was well, and this entire fiasco could have been avoided had I been patient for a few more minutes, giving Momma Two time to return to the nest. She does have to eat and drink now and then. I could’ve merely babysat the little duckling by watching it from a safe distance and keeping the cats away. But, Anxiety ran rampant this time, and I was unable to stop it.
Vonda: I understand that nature runs its course, that not all offspring will survive their birth/hatching, and that it’s humanly impossible for me to save all the creatures that are facing their demise. I am one person and that is a burden too heavy for me to bear. I must maintain a healthy respect for nature and trust that it knows best.
Reason: You are not responsible for relieving the world’s anxiety and stress. You are not required to overburden yourself with tasks that overwhelm you just to make others feel better. Start with yourself. Do what you can reasonably do, then let it go.
At times, it feels like my anxiety is trying to kill me and on occasion I kind of wished that it would have—it can be so exhausting, relentless and miserable. It’s also a very sneaky son of a bitch! I can be having a really good day, low stress and low anxiety–then, BAM!! Anxiety decides to say, “Hey, Vonda! Remember this?! Yeah, when you did that thing that you felt badly about for years but then you forgot about it? Well, let’s rehash that for a while, shall we? Here, let me start the film reel for you. Don’t worry, I’ll slow it down so you can really grasp all the worst parts.” A random, distant memory from eons ago resurfaces and it’s never a positive or happy memory. No, it’s something you did that was wrong. Or, it’s a disturbing incident that either caused you pain or a deep feeling of regret. Then, Anxiety plays it back for you in great detail so you can relive it all over again. And again.
Anxiety sucks ass!!
However, I am learning and practicing coping skills that help me survive these anxiety-ridden maniacal episodes. It is an ongoing journey/process and I’m extremely grateful to have a wonderful therapist guiding me through it.
One day at a time, Vonda.