Health And Wellness

I Finally Found The Secret To Resting My Anxious Mind

Photo: Zyabich / Shutterstock
projection art

Last weekend, my friend Shayla invited me to come outside and experience our town. The event included two of my favorite things: culture and food, a hard-to-resist combo.

But I was mentally tired; I really wanted to rest. Work was not going well.

Life was not going as I imagined it would at this age. I knew from experience going out would be good for me once I got into the groove of it.

Once I finish wrestling with my current physical shape, low energy levels, and my mind, enjoying the world and my friend are always nourishing.

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By the time I gave in, the event was sold out. 

Instead, we ended up going to Artechouse for Aṣẹ: Afro Frequencies.

I had previously toyed with the idea of going to this specific technology-infused art exhibit. But fear of vertigo disrupting my experience as images swirled around me kept me reluctant.

Fear and worry consistently accompany me throughout my life. They deliberate tenaciously as I try to make decisions. 

However, the choice to visit Artechouse at this moment felt serendipitous; my body charged at the invitation to participate. 

As soon as we walked into the space, we were wrapped in art. We sat at the bar and preened in front of a projector that captured and cast our likeness into spiraling vector graphics, whipping us into optical illusions. There was no looking at one canvas surrounded by white walls in silence.

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Not only could I interact with the pieces of projected art, but I also became part of the exhibit. 

In a narrow hallway, kicking my feet into a projected head made the shape explode into a meteor shower before me. Lifting my arms and twirling my body made a porcupine-like image, a creature that did not bear my likeness, but instead needed my energy to twirl on the screen. 

Standing in front of a different projector, cued up a part Yoruba, part transformer mask. Once the mask was situated on my projected image, I could nod my head and watch the superhero version of myself mirror my actions. I felt like I was playing a game with technology and art.

I felt immersed, childlike– making things move like my friend Jennifer’s toddler, who moved the office rolling chair (in their home) back and forth with one hand while steadying himself with the other. I was participating in a "look what I can make happen" type of play.

This moment at the interactive art exhibit gave me an opportunity to create childlike energy and joy. 

I have struggled for many years with my thoughts; my Generalized Anxiety Disorder spasms with regularity. In "playing" in the art-technology exhibit, my mind was resting. It entered another state, void of rumination and hurriedness.

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Worries run like a ticker reel: my weight, saying the right thing, incessant thinking about work or the safety of my children even in the midst of fun. Thoughts pile and pile and I can’t pause them as they race each other for priority status.

In this art space, my thoughts were silent. It was almost as if there was no room for them. 

I was keyed into the joy that play can bring about. The exhibit gave me space to just be, to be silly, and to move about without any purpose-driven goal.

I recently went to San Francisco with my childhood friend, Alicia. We rode the famed cable cars and hung off them for pictures. My arm was wrapped around the pole of the cable car, tightly. The photographer, or conductor who held my phone, literally said, stretch out your arm, relax it.

Once I did not fear falling or how I looked, I was hanging off a streetcar in the town I saw growing up in "Rice-a-Roni, a San Francisco treat" commercials and the opening of the television show Full House. 

I was a child again. None of the things that usually constrict me or hinder my fun mattered, including time. We threw caution into the bay wind and played on the cable car as though it were a playground structure.

I often associate play with the young. I often let my younger son go outside to play basketball with his friends, even when chores still need to be done. I believe he needs time and space to be young and play.

I am just learning that I, too, in my mid-40s, need play where I focus on an activity that brings joy, allows my body to release energy and be energized, but also gives my anxious mind, rest.

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Yvette J. Green is a memoirist and poet. Her writing has appeared in Slate and Paste Magazines and her creative work in midnight & indigo, Penumbra Online, 45th Parallel, and Critical Read, among others.