There is a nervousness within me that I have not known before. Far more than the disquiet that runs as white noise in the background of everything I do and think and say. And yet it lacks the ambiguous flush of terror that erupts from true anxiety over any one single thing. I don't know what it is.
It's hard to examine the tab I've left unpaid for decades. It's like an old bartender's pad - smudged notes on fears unconquered and so many folded carbon copy notes of reckonings I was bound to face, but escaped like a drunk who slips out of the bar unnoticed. And it's easiest for the bartender himself to leave it alone.
There is much to be nervous about - the nature of my work has bulldozers churning sometimes in three parts of the same county in the same day, and I'm the responsible party. Literally - the County permits list me as "Responsible Person." At home, my son grows older, and decisions about schooling and its cost loom large for next fall, and for every crisp September after this one for perhaps another fifteen or twenty. My wife - herself a project manager by day - struggles to connect time and money with an impossible need for both, on a daily basis. We talk about numbers, about people who are in our way. Sometimes we have little to discuss out of exhaustion and mutual anxiety for what's coming next.
But perhaps, in all of this, there is a path. I attended a leadership meeting recently where someone said, "We have been succeeding by accident for so long. It's time to start succeeding on purpose." The statement struck me, and the more I thought about it, I thought about how my changing views on mortality, God, legacy, and a purposeful life really reflect an ideal of doing nothing by accident. On my best days, I do as many things that I can, in a driven and focused way. Whether I'm focused on killing a bird or two, or finishing a critical piece of work at the office. Sometimes, the ideal amount of focus still doesn't allow me to finish everything I really wanted to do. But I sure beat it up and can feel good about it.
And then I think about how my days too often become like those of so many people I know. "I meant to do 10 things, and I did none of them, and I got distracted by this other thing which not only wasn't that important, but forced me to work late, miss dinner with my family, and now I'm somehow behind at work!"
Surprises are great, but they are not the same as distractions. Even "living in the moment" should involve a quick assessment of what's truly important at that moment. And I think that's how I'm going to attack this stress. With devotion and precision. With a positive outlook attached to concrete actions. To move forward with the intent of neither succeeding or failing by accident - to do nothing by accident.