We’re all Anxious People, all Idiots. A story by Fredrik Backman

I bought it because it said Anxious people, and I’m an anxious person.

‘This book is about idiots’, says the author, and he’s right it is. This post is not a review of the book but more my reaction to the story itself.

Books like this make me reflect on my own life. The lives of the characters are intertwined, but they live them ignorant, feeling alone.

For most of my life, I kept people away. What I thought feared was people, but it’s more feeling overwhelmed.

I see married couples with homes and kids. I never had those; it made me reflect on how my life has turned out.

What I fear is not death but not having a story to tell. That is what it’s like anxious and alone; there is no reason to go out and no one who cares enough about me to ask me why I’m at home all the time.

The characters in the book lived, worried and twisted themselves into knots to live up to some standard of living. Along the way, they got lost. It’s a book about idiots, but I’ve already said that, so now I seem like an idiot.

The players in the book are trying to do their best and never feel it’s enough. My fear is I never tried to do my best, never felt good enough or worthy to be noticed.

I guess it’s why I do what I do, art and writing. It’s a test, a measure, a way to prove I’m worthy of a life worthy of talking about.

That’s the worst thing, being anxious and alone, you have no stories to tell. I was lost for words when I was younger because I had nothing to say about myself. I lived in my world. I dared not let others enter because it was too scary, too overwhelmed, too afraid of what they might think of me.

The world drove me inwards, and I stayed there; I’m an anxious person now trying to work out of his shell.

I’ve been an idiot for a long time, not for making mistakes, but not of even trying at all.

I didn’t chase after my dreams because I never had them. I didn’t know what I wanted, and what I did was so fanciful it was fiction, a flight of fancy. Dreams of a good life I couldn’t imagine because it seemed too mundane or too fantastical.

I want to be an idiot now, for all the right reasons; I want a full and rich life because I took risks, not because I didn’t.

That’s what I see in these anxious people; they saw perhaps for the first time in their life understood that life is risky and messy, and we’re all doing our best.

We can’t do it perfectly, but we can be enough, be there for each other, and realise our flaws are not such a big deal.

I want a life as I always dreamt of it, full of passion, desire, work, and love. A ‘passionate timidity’ is what I read in another book on Paul Cezzane, the artist. That’s me—afraid yet full of desire.

The passion can be scary at times, and fear has won that battle more times than the passion. That’s an account I’m trying to reverse.

Anxious People is a story that nervous types can relate to more—ordinary people, who the fates thrust together. I like the story because it is more down to earth; it’s not about a grand gesture like moving to another country (Eat, Pray, Love) or an adventure into the outdoors (Into the wild or Wild).

These stories always seem a little too far fetched, even if they are based on true stories. I never dared to travel, to venture far from home; I never had the courage.

That’s the fear getting in the way again.

Fear does that; it’s an enemy that affects you even when you do notice.

The excuses we make are more due to fear than good reason; we hold ourselves back.

We are so afraid of looking foolish we don’t take the job, avoid the party, say no, and not yes.

Showing our hopes, fears, mishaps, and feelings is too much sharing, too great a risk of shame and embarrassment.

Anxious people reminded me were all the same, all afraid, all hopeful, all making mistakes and all doing our best. A heart-warming tale of fear, hope, and realising it’s all going to be okay.

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