by Christy Gualtieri
I am, by nature, an anxious person. I worry about pretty much everything; and when I am able to relax about certain favorite anxieties, I figure out something else to worry about, to fill up the space. It’s awful! But it’s something I’ve been working on how to control for years.
This might sound funny, but one of my favorite ways to relax when I get really anxious is to watch a Peanuts special. Remember those? There’s just something about Charlie Brown and Linus, Sally, and Lucy and the gang that helps me to chill out. I also love listening to Vince Guaraldi’s music, the jazz master responsible for creating the melodies that accompanied Peanuts’ animation specials.
Not too long ago, I came across David Michaelis’ biography of Charles Schulz, Peanuts’ creator, and was fascinated by the man who brought all those kids (and their idiosyncratic adventures) to life. It turns out that not only was Schulz immensely talented, but he was also incredibly anxious. He suffered from agoraphobia, and had trouble reconciling the world he lived in (which, due to his success, was very profitable) with the world he was terrified of (one in which he would never be truly loved for who he was, versus what he could create).
Quoted in an interview, Schulz once said, “It’s so complicated. I suppose I’ve always felt that way – apprehensive, anxious, that sort of thing. I have compared it sometimes to the feeling you have when you get up on the morning of a funeral.”*
There are clues of this in his characters. Charlie Brown is usually depressed (especially around the holidays), and Linus tries to work out his insecurities through philosophical discussion. Although the comic strip and the ensuing cartoons evoke feelings of happiness and joy in their viewers (they certainly do for me!), there’s still a pervasive sense of sadness to them (Charlie Brown never does get to kick that football, after all!)
But what strikes me most about Schulz is that even with all of his anxieties, even with all of his insecurities, he still created. He channeled those feelings into the characters he brought to life on the page.
We are all capable of wonderful, amazing things. What would it be like if every one of us, knowing the fears and worries we have in our own lives, were able to channel those emotions and turn them into something positive? Maybe no one else will ever know about it. Maybe it’ll be something you create just for yourself. Even if you decide you want to share your talent with the world, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll be anywhere near as profitable or as famous as Schulz was, obviously, but the satisfaction of knowing that you were able to understand your insecurities and use them for good would be a wonderful thing.
I’m going to keep trying my hardest at it, and I hope you will, too!
* Quote is from Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography, by David Michaelis, page 362.
Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at openthoseojos.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!