Angst is a German word that is used as a synonym for anxiety. Kierkegaard used it, however, to describe a deeper concept than just anxiety; more like a general sense of dread about the human condition plus a desire to overcome it. He associated it with free will, our ability as humans to make choices, within the context of faith in an omnipotent God. Which sometimes seems contradictory.
I kinda love the word. Because I live with lots of it. Like E.B. White, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
The season from Thanksgiving to Christmas is usually extra angst-ridden. On one hand it is my favorite time of the year. I love time off with family, decorating, baking, celebrating, pausing to be mindful of and thankful for all of the good in my life. On the other hand I find myself more mindful than usual that life, like the old year, is fleeting. I feel this most poignantly as I remember holidays past. I love and hate different changes, but it doesn’t matter. I am powerless with respect to them.
And then there’s all of the suffering in the world. I can’t thank God for my blessings without questioning the lack I see around me–in my classes, my community, my state and country, and around the world. This lack and my inability to make a dent in it is overwhelming. I feel guilty, and then I become paralyzed. It is easy to become paralyzed in a state of angst. But I don’t want to live my life that way. I want to improve the world and enjoy it--as much as one person can. Click To Tweet
A wise woman once told me that the best investment she ever made in changing the world was raising her children. Another time when I was in an angst-ridden state about work and writing she gave me this advice: “You can touch people’s lives teaching school, working at church, volunteering, even writing books. But the people you will affect most–for good or for ill–is your children.” This advice has become a sort of anchor for my soul, a thing I come back to for de-paralyzation.
So I worked hard till school was out, and I gave all I could to church and food drives, and I volunteered and tried to improve the world as much as I could. And over Thanksgiving break I also seized the day with my children. I didn’t work or write; I packed all of the fun I possibly could into our days. I said yes every time it was feasible. I looked into their eyes. I listened, I learned, and I enjoyed the heck out of them. It was a happy Thanksgiving. I hope your was, too.